Sweet foods make a wine taste stronger, Sour foods make a wine taste milder has been the mantra of this site over the last decade. I have conveyed this concept based on the information that was publicly available but there was no where to go to find out all the effects of flavour balancing attempts on food and wine.
Recently I have had the opportunity to learn about all the effects and now I will give my take on it.
Before doing that, I just want to say that these are "generally established" principles and is not a guarantee that every person will experience the same thing in every instance. It would be fair to say that most people will experience most of the same effects most of the time.
Generally food will impact the taste of wine more than the other way around and the result will more often than not be negative.
Sweetness in Food
A taster will realize an increase in acidity and bitterness. They may also experience an increase in "alcohol burn". The fruit in a dry wine can be decreased and become unpleasantly acid. Generally a wine with a higher level of sweetness can prevent this.
A taster will realize a decrease in body, fruitiness and sweetness in a wine.
This is a delectable taste that is hard to isolate. It's distinct from other tastes. It is a Glutamate and found in Monosodium Glutamate (this is mixed with salt though). Foods that contain high amounts of it include asparagus, eggs, mushrooms, soft ripe cheeses and aged beef. Cooking methods can offset the Umami effect (ie cooking in salt water).
The effect on wine is exactly the same as sweetness, a taster will realize an increase in bitterness and acidity and alcohol burn and realize a decrease in sweetness body and fruitiness.
A taster will realize and increase in fruitiness body and sweetness and a decrease in acidity. Foods with some acidity can balance a high acid wine and increase it's fruitiness. On the other hand low acid wines and high acid foods will put the wine out of balance and make it too sweet for a lot of people.
Salt in Food
A taster will realize an increase in the body of the wine and a decrease in the bitterness and acidity
Bitterness in Food
When bitterness exists in just the food or wine then the potential exists to balance it with salt or acidity. When it exists in both then all it does is build on each other to multiply the unpleasant effect.
Heat from Peppers (Chemesthesis)
A taster will realize an increase in bitterness, acidity and alcohol burn and a decrease in richness, body, sweetness and fruitiness.
The higher the alcohol in the wine the greater the reaction. Some people may actually
enjoy this and is similar in brain reaction to orgasm. (I am not kidding).
Sweetness: Wine should have as much sweetness as the dish.
Umami: Highly fruity wines should be used with minimum tannin. Otherwise the tannins will become extenuated and a hindrance to the enjoyment of the wine unless salt and acidity can be used without changing the character of the dish.
Heat from Peppers: Wines that have higher sweetness. fruitiness, low tannin and alcohol give the best chance for success.
Flavour Intensity: Balancing wine and food with similar flavour intensity is preferable but sometimes exceptions happen such as light intensity desserts going with intensely flavoured wine (like Ice Wine).
Acid and Fat: A high acid wine cutting through a dish high in oil or fat can provide many with a pleasurable cleansing experience on the palate.
Sweet and Salty: A lot of people also like the combination of salt and sweetness (blue cheese and sweet wine).
Foods that are high in salt and acidity have a much higher success rate with wine in general however there should be caution when high acid food and low acid wines are put together.
Wines that are high in oak and skin tannins with complex flavors and high alcohol can be the most difficult to serve with food. This might not be so much with a Tolerant Taster but could be extremely so for a Sweet Taster.
The exact opposite can be said for unoaked whites that are very dry. If you can identify
a wine food match that you enjoy and then analyze why it succeeds with these principles, then you can find other wines that can bring the same enjoyment.
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