WSET Pocket Guide to Food & Wine Pairing

New research from Wine Intelligence shows that Dutch and Belgian consumers are most likely to choose a wine depending on how it matches with food and drinking wine when dining out has become increasingly popular.

Stats from Wine Intelligence Belgium Landscape Report June 2018 show that compared to last year, wine that matches food has intensified as a driver with 75% of Belgian regular wine drinkers stating it is an important choice cue for them when buying wine, significantly higher than last year. The trade has noticed an increase in the number of regular wine drinkers consuming wine at a restaurant since last year and drinkers are choosing to spend significantly more on a bottle!

Stats from Wine Intelligence Netherlands Landscape Report May 2018 show that 63% of wine drinkers now state wine matching with food as a key influencer on choice, significantly higher than previous years. Informal and dining occasions on-trade have become more popular occasions at which to drink wine in the past year and there has been a significant increase in the number of Dutch wine drinkers who consider wine to be important to their lifestyle. Experts say there is a desire amongst Dutch wine drinkers to try things beyond the ‘big five’ grape varietals and people are becoming more interested in wine and more of a mind to spend money on it.

Founded in 1969, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) is the largest global provider of wine and spirits qualifications for beginner enthusiasts to expert professionals. Courses are available in more than 15 languages and over 70 countries and are open both to industry professionals and interested enthusiasts. In the last academic year (2017/18) 94,822 candidates sat for a WSET qualification, and since 1969, WSET has awarded more than half a million individuals a qualification.

We are absolute wine lovers, but certainly no wine experts. Because we at Hungry for More are so eager to learn about the interesting world of wine and because we always appreciate a succesful food & wine pairing, this autumn we’re going to get submerged into the marvellous world of WSET. With that knowledge it will be impossible for us to not enjoy a fine and decent wine. 🙂

The basis: WSET Guide to Food and Wine Pairing

While basic rules like ‘red with meat, white with fish’ give you a starting point with pairing food and wine, what should we really be looking for when choosing the perfect bottle to accompany a dish?

The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) explores the flavour interactions between food and wine in detail in its globally renowned courses, assessing how the base flavours in food influence perception of various wines. Here, WSET Certified Educator Joseph Hallam, shares tips to help you pick a pairing that will bring out the best in any bottle.  

The first thing to acknowledge is we all have different tastes. That means different sensitivities but also different responses to those reactions. For lots of us, a hot curry plus alcohol heat is too much and masks wine’s fruity flavours, but some diners have high tolerance levels and others will love the burn and seek it out! So perfect pairings are a matter of taste. However, there are some good general rules to follow when picking a bottle off the shelf or off the wine list.

Balance Acidity: Acidic foods, such as tomatoes and vinaigrettes in your salad, will reduce the perception of acidity in the wine and will enhance the fruitiness and sweetness. So light wines from cool climates like Italian Pinot Grigio and Muscadet will seem more flavoursome, smoother, and less acidic. Try pairing these with seafood dashed with lemon juice or light pasta dishes with a tomato sauce.

Turn Down the Heat: As I said, most of us should beware of chilli when pairing wines! The heat in spicy meals can increase the alcohol burn of wine and heighten the perception of bitterness and acidity. Lighter reds with less bitter tannin like Pinot Noir and Valpolicella can be the answer.  White wines that are low in alcohol often also have some sweetness and that sugar can act as a soothing syrup against the chilli. Look for off-dry Riesling from Germany or Vouvray from France.

Add a Sprinkle of Salt: Salt is a wine-friendly flavour that enables you to go big and bold when picking a bottle. Like acidic foods, salt enhances body in a wine whilst decreasing the perception of bitterness and acidity. Cured or smoked seafood, meats and hard cheeses can pair with even the most powerful of wines, such as a high tannin Cabernet Sauvignon or oak-aged Chardonnay.

Serve Sweet with Sweet: Sweetness in food can make a dry wine lose its fruit flavour and become unpleasantly acidic and bitter. A good law to live by is to choose a wine with a higher level of sweetness than the food so it retains its body in the mouth. Look for a bottle labelled from ‘medium-dry’ to ‘sweet’ (or test your French with ‘demi-sec’ and ‘doux’) depending on the sweetness of your dish. But you don’t always need pudding to enjoy a bottle of the sweet stuff. If you’re a fan of salted caramel, repeat the trick with salty cheese and dessert wine – stilton and Tokaj is a personal favourite!

Trust the Classics: Some things are just made for each other. Juicy steak with a punchy Argentinian Malbec or smoked salmon and oysters with a crisp Champagne are tried and tested pairings that will always please their audience. These work for good reasons, so you can often trust your instincts. If in doubt, a simple, unoaked wine with a little residual sugar will go with just about anything!

In the WSET Pocket Guide to Food and Wine Pairing there are some handy guidelines listed just for you:

Practical information

Interested in following a course at WSET? Take a look on their website for more information about the possibilities or get yourself inspired on the WSET-pages on Facebook and Instagram. Or check the article we already wrote about WSET-educations.

For the coming weeks and months we will have some fun wine tips for you, thanks to WSET. Also we would like to share our experience of following a course at WineWise. Stay tuned for a good chunk of wine news!

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