Malta Food and Wine

Where and what to eat and drink in Malta

Matching Food and Wine

What better to drink with food than wine? As a matter of fact, most wines are designed to be accompanied by food. When matching food and wine there are very few rules and one of the old rules is white wine with fish and red wine with meat. This normally works quite well but, as with everything, people like different things and different combinations.

At the moment the rule is “Anything goes”. But the main issue is really how well the food and wine taste together and therefor it is nice to have some guidelines. Something to keep in mind is where the dish originates. A dish from Provance for example, normally goes very well with wines from the same area.

Food and Wine Principles

The like with like principle
One simple concept is to match the style of food with the style of wine – light, delicately flavoured dishes with light, delicate wine, and rich, full flavoured dishes with rich, full flavoured wines. Sweet wines with sweet dishes and acidic wines for sour dishes. A fine wine with delicate aromas and flavours for examples should not be served with a spicy and flavourful dish, because the strong flavours of the food will overpower the wine.

So, how do you detect the texture and the style of wine without having to open it? A light wine is usually one that has not been aged in oak, and is young and fresh. Another parameter that determines the texture of the wine is its level of alcohol. If a wine has a high level of alcohol it will be full bodied; a lower alcohol content usually indicates a lighter wine. With regards to sweet wine, the label will indicate if it is dry or sweet. If in doubt consult the sommelier or the wine merchant.

Deceive your palate
Our tongues can detect four different types of tastes: Bitterness, Sourness, Saltiness and Sweetness. When matching food and wine it is good to keep in mind that these tastes, as well as texture can quite easily be manipulated.

Dishes high in Acid - Sourness
Sour ingredients can ruin the taste of a wine. One of the most difficult ones is vinegar used in salad dressings. However, a highly acidic wine can negate the sourness of the dressing making it a good match with a salad. Tomatoes, are also tricky ingredients that need a highly acidic wine to match. This explains why Barolos and Chiante go so well with Italian tomato sauces.

Effects of Bubbles and Acidity
Sparkling wine has a tendency to give a sensation of lightness, and when served with deep-fried foods, the bubbles cut through the oiliness wonderfully, making the food seem lighter. Acidity in wine has a very similar effect cutting through cream sauces and oily fish dishes very well.

Fat and Salt to Tame Harch Tannins
Tannins (the chemical substances found naturally in the stalks, pips and skin of the grapes which is extracted during the making of red wine) gives a drying feel in the mouth. Fat in food has a tendency to soften the effect of tannin, probably because the fat coats the inside of the mouth and protect it from the astringent attack. Sometimes the tannins can appear to have a bitter flavour; adding salt to the food can combat this. This might explain why beef (with a dash of salt) and red wine is such a good match.

The Effect of Sweetness
Throughout the meal the like-with-like principle applies. When it is time for dessert it is usually desired to serve a sweet wine. Sweet food make wine taste less sweet and to ensure that the dessert wine does not appear like lemon juice, it is important that the wine is sweeter than the dish it is served with. As an experiment try a semi-dry German wine with a plain fish dish – the wine appears very sweet. Now try it with a shortcrust biscuit – the wine appears dry.

Experiment to Find Your Perfect match
In the search for the perfect match, the best thing is to experiment and try different combinations. Try for exaple your favourite wine with your favourite dish. Do they go? Consult your wine merchant when shopping for wine. The good ones should be able to give sound suggestions. When going to the restaurant the sommelier (if there is one) is always happy to suggest wines to go with the food. Other good ways of learning is to attend wine tastings and food and wine matching sessions.