Done right, wine and food pairing can enhance any meal by creating a whole new dimension of flavour and enjoyment.
That’s the message in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine and Food Pairing by certified sommelier Jaclyn Stuart and food writer Jeanette Hurt (Alpha Books, $21, paperback).
The pair, from Milwaukee, Wis., have collaborated on the guide to demystify food and wine pairings, which have eluded so many people.
“First, I suggest people not take wine pairing too seriously as it is not rocket science,” says Stuart. “If it does go well it’s a wonderful awe-inspiring experience.”
She adds that by learning to pair wine and food “we hope those who drink wine at home but not with food will find it a better way of consuming wine.”
Stuart, who gives classes in wine and food pairing, says she tries to explain the science behind perfect matches, such as intensity, acidity and sweetness.
“You are either going to complement or contrast using different puzzles in the pieces of wine, the tannins, acids, the body, the structure and what becomes the intensity of wine,” she says.
Often when discussing wines we hear the terms Old World and New World, Stuart says.
“Anything from Europe is considered Old World, and wine from Canada, the U.S., South America, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand falls into the category of New World,” she explains.
The two have very different styles. New World wine “tends to be more vibrant and fruity and it’s considered a fruit-driven wine.”
On the other hand, Old World is more rustic and more terroir driven, which describes the geography, weather, soil type and other conditions where a wine grape is grown and that influences a wine’s taste and aroma, Stuart explains.
“A Chardonnay grown in California tastes of tropical fruit flavours such as pineapple and melon, while French Chardonnays are more citrusy and minerally.”
The guide provides tips on the best wines to serve at parties and how to stage a “pairing party.”
It also shows how to apply wine-pairing principles to beer, spirits, coffee and tea.
And most important is the segment on understanding how the wine glass, decanter and other gadgets enhance the tasting experience.
Stuart also touches on the versatility of icewines, which are a Canadian specialty.
“A lot of people think that icewine is syrupy and sweet that you can only drink with desserts,” she says. “I have done wine dinners where every single course has been paired with icewine or a late harvest wine.”