Wine pairing

Whenever we talk about wine pairing we find ourselves embroiled in a certain controversy. Let’s say that it’s hard for us to agree on the perfect way to pair this or that dish. And the first thing we have to think about is that the wine pairing is not an exact science. This is not mathematics. There is no magic formula that always works in exactly the same way for everyone.

We can summarize wine pairing as an attempt to seek a good combination between a dish and the wine that accompanies it. Some talk about establishing a marriage between food and wine.
But here lies the first dilemma: what does combine mean? What kind of marriage are we talking about? Does combining mean harmonizing? Does combining mean contrasting? Because there are marriages that harmonize, but there are also others that are pure contrast … Well, perhaps we should leave this topic and focus on wines.


The first thing we have to think about when pairing our dishes is to establish a logical order. In the same way that we tend to eat something lighter than the main course as a starter, and then finish with the dessert, we should do something similar with wines. To understand what we mean, it wouldn’t make any sense to start with a full-bodied red wine and end up with a fresh and light white wine. The reason is obvious. It would be very hard for us to perceive the qualities of the second wine.
We should therefore start our meal with a light wine and finish off with something more full-bodied. As for dessert, we can talk about that later.
A generic order, from lighter wine to more full-bodied wine, based on aging, might be: young white or rosé wines, white or rosé wines with some barrel, young red wines, Crianzas, Reservas and Gran Reservas.
If we take climate into account, from wines from a cooler climate to wines from a warmer climate and therefore more mature.

Ok, we now have a clear logical order when it comes to what kind of wines to serve. And now, which wines should we select? This brings us fully into the pairing game. What is it that we want to do? To try and harmonize with the food? To complement? To contrast?
The first thing that most likely comes to mind is to harmonize the dish and the wine. A clear example: seafood such as oysters, prawns or shrimps are perfect with a dry white wine, perhaps with a salty touch such as Albariños or some other white wines from Galicia. We recommend something classic like Mar de Frades, or if you prefer to try something new Leirana Albariño, a wine from old vineyards that expresses all the character of this variety.
We can also try a good Fino or a Manzanilla, with that classic pungent and salty flavor that combines perfectly with seafood. Valdespino Fino Inocente or the classic Manzanilla La Güita can be good examples.

Fish can work very well with whites that are a bit more complex, with some barrel, or with sparkling wines that also have some aging. If the fish is cooked on the grill, we should look for a simpler white, and a young white will work well for us. If the dish is complicated with sauces or with other ingredients, we will have to look for something more complex. Here whites or sparkling wines aged in the barrel come into play. We recommend you try Ossian, a Verdejo that works for us due to its complexity, or Dido Blanc, a white from the Priorat with an excellent aging in fudres. If you prefer a sparkling wine, try Recaredo Terrers, an excellent Brut Nature that will work perfectly.
And can’t I pair a fish with a red wine? Yes, of course, if what you like are reds, you can also choose this option. Of course, look for a fresh wine, without too much body, structure or complexity. A Pinot Noir, a Grenache planted at an altitude or a Galician or Canary Island red with the influence of the Atlantic. Very light and fresh wines that won’t compete with the fish, such as this La Bruja de Rozas.
If you like, you can take another look this entry from some time ago in which we gave you some ideas for pairing sushi and wine.

If we’re talking about meats, the first thing is to differentiate between white meats and red meats. For white meat, a white or a rosé with a certain complexity can work for us. You can try it with Flor de Muga Rosado, an elegant and delicate wine which complements a white meat very well.
As the intensity of the meat rises, so should the intensity of the wine. For grilled red meat we can pair a Ribera de Duero barrel red wine very well, such as Aalto, or Muga Selección Especial Reserva if we prefer a Rioja wine. Two elegant but powerful wines that will tolerate the taste of the meat perfectly.
If we’re talking about more complex meat casseroles, with a certain amount of spices and reduced sauces, stews or game meat, we should be looking for a wine with elegance, but one that is complex and full-bodied. It has to be a wine with a personality capable of standing out in the presence of a dish that is already forceful. You could try a Priorat wine like Les Terrasses, or Victorino, a wine with all the power of Toro, but with great finesse. If you are one of those who dare to try new things, you could try to pair it with an Amontillado like Fernando de Castilla Antique Amontillado, one of those gems that can only be found in Jerez. It will definitely impress you.

Let’s move on to the desserts. It’s time to finish off the meal, and we usually do so with some fruit if we need to refresh ourselves, or with something sweet, like some good cakes, or with an item which is the undisputed king of desserts: chocolate.
If the dessert is fruit-based, we suggest you pair it with a good sparkling wine to help cleanse the acidity of the fruit. If you opt for cakes, you can choose a good sweet wine, which matches perfectly with cream cakes or even those with fresh cream. You could opt for a sweet Lustau wine: East India Solera, a long and complex wine or Victoria Número 2, a sweet wine from the Sierra de Málaga. If you’re not too fond of sweet wines though, we suggest you try the Ximénez-Spinola Old Harvest, a sweet wine but one that is surprisingly dry at the same time.
And if your meal ends with a good dark chocolate, our recommendation would be to look for a complex wine. A good example might be Palo Cortado Peninsula, a fine yet powerful wine, with a very interesting pungent acidity.

We’ll finish off by providing you with a little trick: geographical pairing. If you want to play it safe, it makes all the sense in the world to combine a meal and a wine that come from the same area. In the past there was less freight transport available, and the products that were consumed were the products from the area. All those years of history can’t be wrong.

Anyway, all these are just suggestions. The most important thing is that you understand the different concepts and start trying them out. As we said at the beginning, there is no golden rule in wine pairing. You yourself will discover how you like to pair your dishes. You’ll see what works and what doesn’t work for you. The best thing is that you encourage yourself to start!

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