How to understand wine and what food to pair it with. Expert explanation

Anastasia PolskyLS Food
Wine expert Yevheniia Nikolaychuk explains how to choose and drink red and white wine correctly

The situation is as old as time: you're sitting in a restaurant, you've already ordered a number of delicious dishes, but when you're handed the wine list, you're lost. The list of foreign names is confusing, and you'll probably ask the waiter for advice.

But choosing the right and delicious wine right away is a whole science. There are many important nuances, in addition to knowing that white goes with fish and red with meat.

Wine expert, a teacher at the Ukrainian sommelier school, and the first Ukrainian woman to receive the prestigious international wine qualification (WSET Level 4), Yevheniia Nikolaychuk helped OBOZREVATEL readers to understand this complex topic.

The main principles of matching wine with food

According to Yevheniia, there are several principles of wine and food pairing.

  • One of them is called the principle of scales – when you match a light wine with a light dish, and a dense, rich, intense wine with the same dense, rich food.
  • The second is the regional principle. For example, Italian wines should be paired with the regional cuisine of Italy or French wines with the regional cuisine of France.
  • The most reliable way is to combine wine and food in terms of primary flavors.

The latter point is worth explaining in more detail.

Yevheniia Nikolaychuk explains that in addition to the tastes familiar to everyone (sour, sweet, salty, and bitter), there is a fifth one – umami. This is the taste of protein.

In addition to the familiar flavors, there is another one - umami

"The interesting thing is that many people have never heard of it and don't know what it is. And it is one of the first flavors we identify because it is the taste of breast milk," she says.

The wine expert believes that umami, along with sweet and bitter flavors, is the enemy of wine, as it emphasizes some of the drink's qualities more strongly.

''Flat'' wine can be lost against food with high acidity

"If the wine has excessive acidity, these three flavors will emphasize its acidity. If the wine is quite flat on its own, these three flavors will kill the wine as such," says Nikolaychuk.

"Umami in its purest form is just oysters. And if you combine mollusks, for example, with red wine, which has a large amount of tannins, it will be even more bitter and sour against their background.

It should be noted that in wine, tannins are an element of the so-called "structure" of the taste. They make the drink seem dry and t art. For comparison, strong black tea without sugar is almost a pure taste of tannins dissolved in water.

The presence of tannins makes red wine taste tart

What are the main differences between white and red wines?

Nikolaychuk advises not to neglect the first principle, and to remember that wine should be light and as weightless as possible with fruit, white meat, and seafood.

Wine with fruit, white meat and seafood should be light and as weightless as possible

"It's white and not even aged in oak, not in anything at all, young, as light and as neutral as possible," explains the qualified expert.

It is also important that the white wine for light food has high acidity.

It is important that the white wine for light food is high in acidity

"Our receptors react in such a way that sweet or semi-sweet wine will seem flat against the background of food with high acidity," says Yevheniia Nikolaychuk, advising to choose sparkling wines or light dry wines from cooler climates for fruit and seafood.

According to her, the most ideal combination of oysters is with sparkling wine, either French Chablis or Pinot Grigio. These drinks are as neutral as possible and will not "kill" the unique taste of umami.

The most ideal combination of oysters is with sparkling wine

The expert also explained that white dry wines are great with fish, white poultry, and rabbit meat. But with red dry wine, you need to eat heavy foods: fatty pork, beef, and other high-calorie dishes, as red wine improves metabolism.

Interestingly, thanks to a special method of making red wine, it turns out to be more extractive and full-bodied. This is due to fermentation together with the pulp and skin. It is from the skin that all the nutrients get into the juice, which then becomes wine.

Due to the special way of making red wine, it is more extractive and full-bodied

"Red wines are higher in calories because they are made from grapes that have almost everything harvested from them – skin, pulp, and juice. But for white wines, only the juice is extracted from the berries," Nikolaychuk shares his knowledge.

That's why red wines are considered almost a medicine. Doctors often recommend them to those who are prone to cholesterol plaques or people with cardiovascular problems.

Red wines are high in calories, but also healthier than white wines

How long can wine be stored?

The expert says that despite the shelf life indicated on the bottle, wine can last much longer. Fortified wine can even be stored for centuries.

The number on the label by which the drink should be consumed does not mean that the wine will immediately go bad after that date. This is the date after which sediment may fall. And if sediment appears at the bottom of the bottle, it means that it is natural.

Fortified wine can be stored for centuries

Further, depending on how long the wine is aged in the lees, it will acquire certain specific flavors – autolysis tones.

"These are the flavors associated with the smells of bread, butter, nuts, and so on. And the structure of the wine becomes denser and more oily due to the long aging on the lees," says the sommelier.

Long aging on the lees makes the wine denser and more oily

According to Yevheniia, under the right conditions, wine can be aged for a very long time – from several years to decades or more.

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