UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS
Wine pairing may seem tricky to master, but the basic principles are actually easy to learn. From crisp dry white wines to full-bodied red wines and everything in-between, or from New World to Old World, the options are limitless! If you’re confused about how to pair your food to your drink, don’t fret. We’ve laid out all the most widely used wine terms for you so you can make more informed choices:
- Acidity: present in all grapes, it plays a big role in the preservation of the wine. Wines that have a more crispor sharp taste tend to have higher levels of acidity.
- Body: this term is used to describe the flavour profile of a wine. For example, a full-bodied wine is one which has a powerful, strong flavor and lingering after-taste.
- Dry: a wine that contains very little to no sugars.
- Tannin: a chemical compound found in the skin, seeds, and stems of grapes, which can be incorporated in the aging of the wood barrels.
WHAT SHOULD YOU KNOW ABOUT WINE PAIRING?
Now that you know all the essential lingo, let’s dive into wine pairing. The good news is that a few simple guidelines can help you make successful wine-and-food pairings. Read on to find out which tried-and-true methods always produce great pairings.
First, keep in mind that because every dish always has more than just one component, you have to choose which part of the dish you want to enhance, and then match the wine to that specific feature.
One of the secrets behind many classic wine-and-food matches is simply: balance. Consider the body — or weight, or richness—of both the food and the wine. The wine and the dish should be equal partners, with neither overwhelming the other. If you balance the two, you increase the chances of a successful pairing.
For instance, Cabernet Sauvignon complements grilled red meat really well because it’s equally strong and deep in flavour; whereas a light white wine is the perfect drink to wash down a subtly flavoured poached fish because they are both very delicate.
But how do you determine ‘body’ or ‘weight’? For food, fat is the main indicator. This doesn’t only mean the fat naturally contained in the ingredient, but also the fat that comes from the cooking method and the sauce — i.e., sauces or dressings that contain creamy elements such as butter or cheese feel heavier than those which are citrus-based.
For wine, you can rely on the color, grape variety and alcohol level, along with the winemaking techniques and the region’s climate. Generally, wines with less than 12 percent alcohol tend to be lighter-bodied, while those with more than 14 percent of alcohol are considered heavier.
In order to fine-tune a wine pairing, one easy trick is to try to match the wine to the most prominent element in the dish. This requires a bit of thought because sometimes, the dominant character in the dish is the sauce, seasoning or cooking method, rather than the main ingredient. A great pairing strikes a harmonious balance between the characteristics of a wine and the components of a dish. When in doubt, just follow these key points:
- If the same adjective can be applied to describe both the food and wine, it is most likely a pairing that will work. For instance, hearty food needs a hearty wine and sweet wines go great with sweet food or fruity desserts.
- Red wines pair best with bold-flavoured meats (e.g. red meat), because of the wine’s ability to soften the proteins in the meat and to enhance the flavours of the fat. The softening of the meat occurs because of the tannin found in red wine.
- White wines pair best with light-intensity meats (e.g. fish or chicken), because the acids in the wine make the white meat or fish taste fresher, in the same way that lemon is often squeezed over fish to enhance its taste thanks to its acidity.
- Bitter wines (e.g. red wines) are best balanced with fat.
- Match the wine with the sauce of the dish, rather than with the type of meat.
- Last but not least, enjoy the process and don’t take wine pairing too seriously! Just drink what you enjoy and be open to exploring.
These are some of the favourite combinations from our team:
Eylyn Ferrer Pedron – Operations Manager at Scarlett Bangkok
I am very simple person, I don’t do complicated so for me the ideal pairing would be: a cheese board and any kind of medium-bodied red wine. I think it’s the simplest thing in the world, but it always makes me happy. Basically, if I could only eat cheese, bread and wine, I would! We’ve got a great selection of cheese and cold cuts here at Scarlett, you can even make your own board.
Clément Folcher – Operations Manager at Scarlett Café & Wine Bar Hong Kong
I’m a red wine lover and with a good glass of red I would definitely choose a nice cut of beef such as prime rib for sharing with friends, or just a generous ribeye for myself. Red meat with a strong and complex red wine is the perfect pairing for me. We’ve got a great choice of succulent beef cuts at Scarlett and if you join us for a meaty treat on Wednesdays from 6pm onwards, you’ll get a bottle of French red wine for just $150+ when you order any dish from the selection of Scarlett Signatures. I highly recommend ‘La Côte de Boeuf’!
Erick Raygoza – Director of Food & Beverage at The Beach Club Pattaya
Grilled seafood would be my top choice of pairing for a glass of Matua Valley, the fresh citrus notes of the white wine go perfectly with any seafood and also complement Thai flavours very well. If you’re also a seafood lover like me, don’t miss our international seafood buffet every Friday and Saturday!
Ramon Susany – Operations Manager, Babett Eatery & Bar Yangon
I’m very happy with a glass of good red wine and a grilled beef steak. A classic combination that always satisfies!
THE TEAM’S TIPS
We spoke to a few of our key team members at R&B Lab so that they can share some of their own insights on wine and tell us more about their personal favourites.
What’s your favourite label from Ginett Singapore’s wine list?
My wine preferences vary according to different factors such as my mood, what food I’m having, or even the weather. But I have to say that one of my absolute favourites is Domaine Raimbault Sancerre Blanc – perfect for the hot and humid Singapore weather.
What would you recommend for those who want to try some wines but are not sure where to start?
A specially curated wine flight is available at Ginett for those who would like to try different labels. It allows you to taste 3 varieties of red or white wine for only $15++, exclusively from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays at Ginett Singapore.
What’s your favourite label from Scarlett Bangkok’s wine list and why?
Definitely the E. Guigal Crozes-Hermitage Rouge AOC – It’s a structured tannic red wine which has aromas of red fruits and berries, such as cherry, strawberry, blackcurrant, with delicate notes of oak and vanilla. It’s just so easy to drink with everything… I drink it even as an apéritif.
What would you recommend to those who are new to the world of wine and not sure where to start?
Often times, Thai customers ask me: ‘What kind of red wine would you recommend for my girlfriend/wife?’ Usually, I tell them to go with a Côtes du Rhône (Crozes-Hermitage) as it’s easy to drink, like I mentioned before. Especially for women, as in my experience not many women like strong wines or Grave wines.
What’s your favourite label from your Scarlett Hong Kong’s wine list and why?
It’s a very difficult choice to make because there are so many labels that I love, but if I had to name just one, I would choose the Volnay-Clos des Chênes 1er Cru 2008 from Jean-Michel Gaunoux. It’s a beautiful Bourgogne red wine made from Pinot Noir, with a complex minerality and deep taste. Personally, I love to drink Pinot Noir, and this one has a good aging which really demonstrates the benefits of keeping keep Pinot noir in time.
What wines best suit tropical, hot Asian weather?
In this climate, go for a classic rosé wine from Provence or else for a fruity and refreshing white wine like Château Roubine in their White Cuvée, which is a wine made with 100 % Vermentino. These Italian grapes are grown in Provence, which bring even more fruitiness and acidity, much needed in this kind of weather.
What’s your favourite label from your The Beach Club Pattaya’s wine list and why?
Personally I love Matua Valley, which is a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, it does perfectly match the weather and tropical vibes of Pattaya!
What would you recommend to those who are new to the world of wine and not sure where to start?
I would tell wine novices to experiment with different grapes and gradually discover and build their own preferences, without only sticking to the most typical and commonly found grapes. People shouldn’t hesitate to go out and try something unique. It’s always good to surprise yourself and don’t abide by the rules, because every palate is different.
What’s your favourite label from your Babett Yangon’s wine list and why?
If I had to pick a bottle of wine from Babett’s list, from our selection of red wine I would choose one from Bordeaux or from Spain, as I have a penchant for more full-bodied wines with red fruit notes and a hint ofspice. For white wines, I like fruity and fresh wines like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
What is your favourite celebration wine for special occasions?
I believe that every day is worth celebrating so I do not have any specific celebration wine. It depends on many things… the food you’re having, what mood you’re in, the people around you… drinking wine doesn’t need to be reserved for special occasions.