We all know intuitively that some matches are made in heaven. Each of us know some food matches that make our taste buds grateful to be alive including combinations that remain in our memories like ham and cheese; or are discoveries of sophisticated experiences exemplified by black truffles in scrambled eggs. In making wine-and-food pairings, each component of the pair brings something special and when you get it right, the resulting combination will be magical. A classic example is fresh raw oysters with a crisp, cold Muscadet wine; or rack of young lamb paired with a rich Pauillac (Bordeaux) wine. The pairing gives greater pleasure than each of the components alone.
When we put wine or food in our mouths we are putting some 10,000 taste buds to work. Separate the taste at the tip of your tongue from that at its center and back. Wine appreciators make wine flow over all parts of the mouth, aerating the wine by causing it to ripple like a brook over stones, bringing out the flavors. Food tasters also move the food around in the mouth, chewing it and passing it over all areas of taste buds. Human taste buds can only distinguish four tastes: sourness (acidity) at the upper edge of the tongue; sweetness at the tip of the tongue; bitterness at the back of the tongue; and saltiness at the front edge of the tongue.
A modern wine lover uses the principle of complimentary tastes, rather than simply choosing white wine for fish and poultry and red wine for meat and game. What is especially important is the way the food is prepared and any sauces that accompany it, not just the main ingredient.
Why not try "complementarity" this year when you plan wines for your holiday dinners. Consider a roast turkey dinner with stuffing and mushroom gravy: there is a somewhat bland turkey enhanced with stuffing and gravy that add spiciness, saltiness and richness. Imagine the pleasure of a crisp wine, with a little fruitiness or sweetness, whether red or white, to complement these tastes in the dish. You might choose a white wine that has a little sweetness, fruit and acidity like a white Cotes de Gascogne (we love one called Colombelle from Vinissimo). If you prefer, or also want to offer red wine, find one with sweetness and richness, like a varietal Merlot; or the crisp fruitiness of a Beaujolais. Serving salty ham with a raisin sauce, uses the sauce's sweetness to complement the ham's saltiness. Use the same idea in choosing a sweet-fruity, spicy wine to match the ham such as a Gewurtztraminer from Alsace. In choosing a wine for dessert, the wine will be more enjoyable if it is sweeter than the dessert. You may appreciate discovering a fortified, sweet wine from the south of France called Maury Mas Amiel which is memorable with chocolate desserts.
While many wines are food-friendly, in another article we'll discuss foods that are wine enemies and how to solve that problem. We suggest when planning a wine and food match, write out your menu including the sauces and tastes, take it to a reputable wine boutique and ask their trained professional, called sommelier in French, for help in match-making to make your traditional holiday dinner more memorable by the perfect pairing of wine with your menu. The right wine match need not be expensive, and will make your dinner an event.
Vinissimo Boutique, 1 Rue de Low Town, Marigot tel/fax 00590-590-87-70-78
Vini's Vino Wine & Spirits Boutique, #105 Puerta Del Sol, Simpson Bay, St. Maarten
Contributor Author Jean Rich has lived in Sint Maarten for over 20 years since she retired from cancer research. She explores her passion for wine, dining and people at Bel Mar Restaurant & Wine Bar on Pelican Key; and Vinissimo's wine stores in St. Maarten, St. Martin and St. Barth's. The newest Vinissimo location, Vini’s Vino Wine & Spirits,is located at Puerto del Sol across from the Dolphin Casino in Cole Bay, St. Maarten. Its wine bar features wine experiences and offers for sale the benefits of the Vinissimo Sommelier's efforts to bring fine wine values to its clientele.