Imagine this… you’ve planned an amazing meal with your significant other in an elegant restaurant in Malta and you really want to impress them with your knowledge of fine wine. Only, you’re a little rusty in the area, and don’t quite know what it entails when choosing the perfect bottle of vino to complement that meal you’ve just ordered. Marina Club decided to let you in on a few secrets to keep in mind when choosing the best bottle of wine.
Red wines are usually served with robust meals that can stand up to the stronger taste and aroma of a dry, red wine. Such meals include beef, lamb, veal, pastas with red sauces or anything rich and hearty. Some people drink red wine with other foods, as they prefer the taste over white, but this is the standard. Some red wines are more bitter than others.
White wines are usually crisper and fruitier and pair best with lightly seasoned foods. Chicken, fish, pork, and foods with light sauces will usually taste better with a white wine. Sweeter whites can be served with fruits and salads while a drier type might taste best with something that has a bit more spice. Some may choose to have red wine with a chicken or fish course, even though this is not the standard, due to the fact that so many people enjoy the flavour of a good red wine. In this case, stick to lighter reds and veer away from heavier varieties such as Bordeaux.
Simplicity is Key
If flavours of the food are too complex, it will be difficult to match it with any wine, because the food becomes so dominant. If you have a predominantly complex or rich food dish, we recommend that you don’t try matching your high-quality wines but rely on cheaper, more readily available wines in case the match is unpleasant or even poor.
Discover your Taste Buds
- Saltiness: is the easiest to recognize and it lingers. It brings out sweetness, and increases bitterness. Sweet dessert wines or very fruity reds go well with such foods.
- Acidity: acidic foods aren’t ideal with wine because they tend to cancel out its flavour. Thus, we advise you to use vinegars, vinaigrettes, and dressings sparingly. Since acidity lingers, it can hide bitterness and make wine seem sweeter. An acidic wine should be paired with a dish that is of lower acidity to prevent flattening the wine.
- Bitterness: foods with this taste include radicchio, olives and rocket. Bitterness is able to cover up acidity in a wine and brings out its sweetness. Young red wines work well with bitter greens, wild herbs, and olives.
- Sweetness: doesn’t last long as a taste. It minimizes bitterness and acidity in a wine. Try to partner sweet wine with food that isn’t overly sweet; to have both components as sweet will cancel out the wine.
Start pairing wine and food
- Beef and lamb: Usually a full-bodied red such as a shiraz or cabernet/shiraz blend works. Suitable wines include Barbera, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel.
- Chicken: White wine is the traditional pick. For grilled or roasted, try a Chardonnay. If cooked in a rich sauce, a Shiraz or a medium-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon is great.
- Duck or Quail: Why not go for a Pinot Noir or a Shiraz?
- Fish and Seafood: A white wine including Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer would pair perfectly. Grilled firm-flesh fish goes well with Chardonnay or an aged Semillon, whereas a wholesome fish stew is excellent accompanied by Pinot Noir. We recommend a dry Riesling or a Chardonnay for flaky fish.
- Spicy Foods: If your meal is spicy, opt for a sweet wine that can be drunk quickly to offset the spiciness of the food. Choosing a Riesling or a sweet Gewürztraminer is a safe bet.
- Cheese: For hard cheeses like cheddar, go for a full-bodied wine like a Shiraz. Whereas for soft cheeses, dry Riesling, Marsanne, or Viognier pairs well with them. On the other hand, a sweet wine is a seamless match for blue cheese.
- Dessert: Sweet wines are a good choice, as long as the dessert is not as sweet as the wine.
Indubitably, incorporating wine into your meal plays a major role in your dining experience as it’s not just another alcoholic beverage. Whether you go for red, white or even a sweet wine like sherry or port, it can be an integral part dish.
Marina Club wanted to take away some of the guesswork for you when matching food and wine, just until you’re comfortable enough to rely on your own tastes and preferences, of course! Ultimately, over time you’ll start learning how to tune into your own palate and decide which wine complements each food best. A certain degree of trial and error is normal, especially if you tend to have a finicky palate, but starting with the fundamentals will point you towards the right direction.
As wine enthusiasts ourselves, we encourage you to come and explore the inner sommelier in you! For anyone who appreciates a great glass of wine with their meal or platter, we recommend you to come and sample one of our bottles. So book a table at Marina Club, situated at the gorgeous Valletta Waterfront, without any further ado.