The Unsophisticated Approach to Pairing Wine and Food

The Unsophisticated Approach to Pairing Wine and Food

Lowbrow Know-How: 
The Unsophisticated Approach to Pairing Wine and Food

 Many of you have met Allyson Yund. Apart from working at the Wine Gallery, she is a full time civil engineering student focusing on bio-resources at MSU. She also likes to write and has submitted the following article on wine and food pairing: 

"Everyone remembers their first time--that is, the first time they encountered a combination of wine and food that stopped them in their tracks. After such an event, it's easy to obsess over making the "correct" food and wine pairings, and to be fair, some are utterly transcendent, capable of whisking you off to sensory la-la land without so much
as a "how d'you do." 

For some creating these combinations appears effortless, while for others the pursuit becomes a white whale, slipping off into the deep unknown on a tumultuous sea of frustration. Before you start getting excited about discovering the Holy Grail of perfect wine pairings in this article (SPOILER ALERT: The internet and your favorite wine merchant are always there for you), let me get you excited about embarking on a voyage of your own.
The secret of getting good at pairing wine and food? Taking chances, making mistakes and getting messy. 

For example, last week I was craving Mango Habañero flavored chicken wings, as well as a glass or two of wine to go with them. I'd never paired chicken wings with anything before, but I knew I wanted a white wine with some good acids and nice body or fruit. I ended up picking a Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, and the combination was as spectacular
as it was unsophisticated. 

Now there are some general guidelines I took into consideration, such as pairing like flavors (fruit with fruit), opposing wine weight and spice, and the old standby "white wine with poultry." I'd even heard that Oregon Pinot Gris in particular was especially suited to handle spicy foods. So I took the plunge. 

I realize that I'm overthinking chicken wings, but the effort paid off. Still, it's usually better to follow the K.I.S.S. method, and in that spirit here's a simplified approach to becoming a better hedonist: 

Taste Mindfully

 Literally, stop and smell the rosés. Or Violets. Or cigar box. Or ripe red fruits. Get to know the smells, flavors and textures of whatever is swirling inside your glass. Don't limit yourself to wine either. What flavors are your beer? What does that overripe piece of fruit remind you of? How do these leftovers taste different from when this dish was served fresh? Does this lychee remind you of anything? Ask yourself questions about what you're sensing, especially if it's new, strange, or unconventional.... 

Remember what you like

 ...and what you don't like. When you have a library of experiences stored up, it's easier to describe new things. When you discover favorite wines, it's easier to find new foods to go with them. When you find pairings that clash, keep that in mind too and see what you can learn from the experience. 

Trust your instincts

 If you think a wine and a food will go great together, chances are you're right. You don't have to always be able to describe what you're experiencing to have an intuition about what you want to eat or drink with it. Take a risk, even the pros don't bat a thousand.

Hopefully this will set you on track to experience new and exciting things. To get you inspired, I'll share with you my first memorable low-brow wine and food experience:
Buffalo Bleu Kettle Chips and a Washington Syrah.