Category Question: Pairings

A sommelier’s job is to suggest wines and foods to ensure that the guests enjoy their dining experience–both the food and the wine–as much as possible, as well as to increase sales and the success of the restaurant.

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Wine, like the dishes served in the course of the meal, should begin with the lightest element and move toward the most robust–each at its correct serving temperature, of course.

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Whether as an Aperitif or on the patio with a light dish, light white wines served cool (around 9 ºC) and dry rosés (around 13 ºC) are the best way to welcome the summer and enjoy it throughout the season.

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Bridge ingredients that help tie the knot between a robust Syrah and a dish repeat the list of its aromas: black pepper and smoked bacon, along with toasted almonds, black olives, mint, and rosemary.

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Robust Syrah finds harmony with intensely flavored, fatty red meats, such as its classic partner–roasted lamb with rosemary.

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Fish and shellfish. Cabernet Sauvignon’s tannic character and flavors of red and black fruits make it an enemy of light-textured and delicate dishes, such as seafood and other white meats.

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The classic ceviche made with white fish and a touch of lemon and onion is an excellent partner to Sauvignon Blanc due to the similarity in citrus flavors and light body.

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A simple but wonderful pairing for late harvest wines is fresh fruit such as apples, pears, peaches, and mangoes.

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Varietal (unoaked) Chardonnays demand dishes that are equally delicate with soft textures, such as fish on the grill or light salads.

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Flavor bridges are ingredients or seasonings that heighten the alliance between food and wine, because they have aromas or flavors that are similar to the wine we want to serve. A good example is using a red wine sauce with fish.

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Sweet wines should be sweeter than the desserts they accompany.

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A simple but wonderful pairing for late harvest wines is fresh fruit such as apples, pears, peaches, and mangoes.

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With more concentrated fruit, lightly oaked Chardonnays are ideal with flavorful, firm-textured seafood such as crab, scallops, shrimp, and lobster.

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Delicate dishes just can’t stand up to the boundless energy of a big red wine; these wines need hearty, flavorful fare with more body on the palate, such as fatty red meats.

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Sweet late harvest wines are traditionally served at less than 7 ºC and paired with desserts made with tart fruits or foie gras (goose or duck liver).

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The key to finding the right match between food and wine is to heighten the qualities of each and never allow one to overshadow the other. This occurs by finding either harmony or contrast in their aromas and flavors.

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Sweet white wines, or late harvest wines, should be served very cool, at around 7 ºC and never above 10 ºC, in order to emphasize their freshness over their warm, cloying sweetness.

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Correct wine service begins with those that are lighter and fresher and gradually leads up to those that are more complex and robust, in other words, whites first, then rosés, and finally reds.

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The order does matter because the dining experience should always go from less to more. Light and simple varietal wines should be served before medium-bodied reserve wines, which come before bigger-bodied grand reservas.

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Food and wine pairing is the art of finding harmony between wine and food. It is not a quirk or whim; just a bit of food with a sip of the wrong wine–such as oysters with Cabernet Sauvignon–is enough to make us frown and understand the idea.

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Finding the perfect pairing for wine and food through similarities consists of matching similar textures and flavors, such as full-bodied fish with voluptuous white wines or light and citrusy wines with light white fish seasoned with a bit of fresh lemon.

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The search for the perfect pairing between wine and food by contrast consists of offering wines and dishes with opposing textures and flavors, such as hearty fried fish with fresh and citrusy white wines, or blue cheeses with a late harvest wine.

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Sauvignon Blanc pairs beautifully with lean fish and grilled shellfish, green salads, and classic ceviches. It will also compliment the flavor of fresh sheeps milk cheese, fresh cheese, Mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, yogurt, and oven-roasted vegetables.

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Regional pairing arises naturally when the food and the wine are produced in the same area because both are influenced by the climate and soil. An example is fine Jerez wines (sherry) and Andalusian tapas.

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The elements that accompany pastas, pizzas and risottos, such as sauces and seasonings, will determine the perfect pairing. Linguini with shellfish is clearly very different from spaghetti with tomato sauce.

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The ideal food and wine pairing can be found by seeking similarities in intensities and flavors (such as citrusy wines with fresh dishes) or by seeking out contrasts of flavors and textures (such as ripe cheeses with sweet wines).

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To accompany the flavor and texture of fatty fish, the best options are white wines with good body, such as Viognier and Chardonnay, as well as oak-aged Sauvignon Blanc.

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For spicy dish such as Mongolian beef, we need an equally spicy light red wine with plenty of fruity and very little oak, such as a varietal or reserva Carmenere with very soft tannins.

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