What combinations of food and wine, from theory to practice, to avoid making mistakes?

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Written By Gilberto Mattei

There are a few highways already mapped out by armies of wolverines that can be followed with good confidence.

And likewise there are certain foods (such as raw artichokes or chocolate, just to give a couple of examples) that almost completely reject any combination with wine.

Below we therefore illustrate the most common food-wine pairings, together with an indication of those foods with which wine just cannot go.

Vinegar

Vinegar is the antithesis of wine. When a dish tastes too much like vinegar, a red light goes off in the cellar: food and wine pairing is forbidden. No vinegar salads, therefore, when you want to drink a good glass of wine.

However, there are exceptions, such as certain typical sweet and sour recipes, in which the dishes achieve such a balance of flavours that the wine is readmitted with full honours.

Sweet and sour

Sweet and sour fish belongs to the great tradition of Italian cuisine. In particular, there are numerous sweet and sour fish recipes: the most famous is perhaps that of the Venetian saor, combining the fried sardines to a marinade of vinegar, onion and sultanas. The presence of the vinegar should logically rule out pairing with any wine.

In reality, this type of dish has such well-balanced flavours that it is well suited to highly satisfying wine marriages. So with the Venetian saor, choose white wines that taste of flowers and fruit (Soave in the Veneto or Sauvignon del Collio in Friuli, for example), or in summer, young reds served chilled (e.g. a Bardolinoremaining in the Veneto region).

Traditional southern sardines a scapecesweet and sour but also spicy, make one definitely opt for a light redfruity and not very tannic, but also served chilled: a Vesuvio Rosso, for example.

Citrus fruits

Like vinegar, citrus fruits also belong to the world of the foods hostile to wine. Lemons, oranges, mandarins, citrons, grapefruits used even in a very light manner exclude the use of any wine.

Appetisers

Speaking generically about food and wine pairing for starters is a gamble. There are, in fact, an infinite number of types of hors d'oeuvres: from vol-au-vents to slices of homemade salami, from canapés with mayonnaise to fried vegetables, from croutons with game to shrimp cocktail, from fish in sauce to vegetable pies.

Already with this set of proposals there would be practically an infinite number of white, red and rosé wines.

However, there is a general rule that should not be forgotten: the starter is only the opening of a meal and therefore the wine that accompanies it must be light, preferably white (even sparkling) or at most rosé, to then leave the door open to more demanding wines and the crescendo of alcoholic content, structure and 'colour'.

Starting with a particularly structured white or red wine is certainly not forbidden, but it must be taken into account that this means precluding many pairing possibilities in subsequent courses.

In several restaurants, a sparkling wine flutes or in any case of sparkling white wine: a suggestion might be not to drink it immediately and to save it for the starter, ordering instead a bottle of some other wine according to the courses to follow.

Asparagus

The bitterish flavour of the asparagus is such that it makes pairing it with wine rather difficult. Passing the test are the aromatic whites with a strong floral or even herbaceous bouquet. A Sauvignon generally represents an optimal solution.

Brasati

Braised meats are prepared using wine during cooking. In this case, matching the right bottle on the table is quite easy: just serve the same wine used for cooking.

Enthusiasts of this kind of preparation, however, are not satisfied, and since cooking obviously changes the flavour of the wine, there are those who argue that a good rule of thumb would be to serve the same wine on the table, but from a different vintage than the one used in the preparation of the dish.

The problem at this point is how to use the different vintages: should we put the younger or the older wine in the pot? The answer is of course entirely subjective and in any case depends on the characteristics of the individual bottles (in reds it often happens that there are big differences between one vintage and another).

Artichokes

The artichoke is to be counted among the wine 'enemies' and therefore precludes any oenological combination. This is according to the opinion of wine purists.

The ban must absolutely be observed with raw artichokesare capable of devastating the taste of any wine. The discourse is different for cooked artichokes, since the other ingredients can substantially modify the impact of this vegetable on taste. In this case the combination may not be easy, but this does not mean that it is impossible.

Local customs can come to our aid, which have created happy marriages between wines and artichoke recipes. In Rome, for example, the typical artichokes alla giudìa are paired with Frascati or Marino, local white wines served very young. Generally speaking, the Roman choice of a low-commitment white appears to be the optimal one for those who still want a bottle on the table even when the menu includes artichoke dishes.

Meat

With fish white wine, with meat red wine: How many times have we heard this? In principle, this rule is valid, but woe betide if it always works.

Because if it is true that red wines generally go well with meat (taking care however that as the savouriness of the dish increases so does the importance and robustness of the wine), it is equally true that there are meat recipes that go well with white wines.

We take poultry. wine and meatWith roast chicken, reds are goodbut there is no doubt that with a good cold chicken salad a delicate, aromatic white would be better.

The same applies to the roast-beef When it is served hot, rare, it wants a nice red, but when it is cold, especially in summer, it seeks the company of a very fresh white such as Tocai Friulano or Chardonnay del Trentino, just to give a couple of examples.

There is therefore a distinction to be made to the well-known general rule: generally with hot meats a red is fine, but with some cold meats a white is better.

And even this distinction is not always valid, because with the boiled poultry that served hot, you can't necessarily marry with more satisfaction a nice robust whiteperhaps honed in wood.

But back to the meat-red combo

With a simple grilled steak we can serve a young but elegant red wine (Chianti and Valpolicella, for example), with T-bone steak we need an important Tuscan red wine (Brunello, Chianti Riserva), with grilled chicken we go back to light but good acidity reds (a young Barbera), with stew we need a red body not excessive, but also not too light (a Rosso (onero), with the mixed boiled meat of young, even lively reds (a Bardolino or a Barbera, but also a Bonarda or a Lambrusco).

The lamb wants some full-bodied redsdiscreetly aged: from Chianti to Taurasi, from Barbaresco to Aglianico del Vulture...

Caviar

You may have seen it in some film set in the court of the Tsar of all the Russias: noblemen and officers feasting on caviar accompanied by glasses of iced vodka.

Yes: the right combination is just that. Caviar does not want any wine. And given how much it costs, one cannot afford the luxury of making mistakes.

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