Tango and the Art of Wine Pairing

Trying to dance partnerless with just one left foot is like appreciating good food without wine. To get the most out of the multifaceted delicious food we eat today, a marriage with wine is essential— think dance—be it the slinky, exhilarating tango; sexy, slithering samba or just plain ol’ twisting in a ’60’s dance hall, a partner is needed, paid or unpaid.

Think aromas!

Delicate sweet tissue-thin eighteen month old mountain Parma ham twisted round a dry breadstick. On its own delicious but sipped with a glass of cold freshly popped Prosecco makes all the difference. Smokey, briny, whisky barrel chip smoked wild salmon carefully laced over a buttery panfried yeasty Russian blini with a dollop of smetana needs a glass of French Pouilly Fumé or a chilled Burgundian white Chardonnay—ranging from a mere few pounds to an expensive bank breaking bottle—will make that morsel so different. On the other hand, a plate of freshly sliced white truffles over buttery spaghetti needs no more than a glass of chilled Arneis, allowing the arousingly pungent pheromone-filled truffle to play King on the plate.

Think balance!

A wine needs to balance the flavours of a dish. So with a spicy dish, pick a spicy number like a Taurasi from Campaniain Italy, Syrah from Rhone in France or Shiraz from antipodean Australia. A zingy lemon, crab and chilli linguine would require a more complexed mouth puckering citrusy Italian Gavi, a wine with delicate balance of acidity and fruit, produced in the restricted province of Alessandria in Piemonte. Chomping into a thick hunk of juicy Chorizo de Bife (ribeye steak), full of flavour, needs a full bodied wine—think Argentinian Malbec and dream of riding into the pampas, poncho clad with gaucho knife stuck round your waist!

There are hundreds of wines available and at least one WILL fit the bill, be the dish oily, fatty, salty or particularly rich.

Think complement!

Lime is squeezed over crispy deep fried calamari rings to cut the oil. Grilled mackerel with gooseberry sauce. Roast lamb with a vinegary mint sauce. Citrusy, green apple Sauvignon Blanc with fish. Lamb with a morello cherry nosed Pinot Noir from Burgundy. It works!

Never fear, there are wines to pair with foods from around the world. Chenin Blanc is fabulous with thai green chicken curry. The aromatic lychee scent of a great Alsatian Gewurztraminer to pair with Cantonese yumCha or dim sum. Even a glass of sparkling Omar Khayyam with the humble onion bhaji would work.

Working your way down to puddings where the range of fabulously sweet, sticky, luscious dessert wines are now so readily available. Sauternes, Vin Santo, Vino Passito, Tokaji Aszu, Ice Wine, Port, Pedro Ximenez, the list goes on …

If all else fails, think Michael Jackson, Michael Flatley and the Whirling Dervish. You will not be alone; try different combinations and let your nose, tastebuds and eyes explore the wonderful world of wine.

Enjoy the music even if the dancing is only mediocre. Make life interesting—it’s worth it.

This article updates an earlier version originally posted in 2011.