I’ve been a professional chef for nine years and I can proudly tell you that I have great taste for cuisines. I love to see perfect food combinations, arrange my appetizer, main dish and dessert in such a compelling manner that a visitor immediately begins to feel famished once he sights the food and one taste of it confirms everything – I’m such a great cook (no bragging)!
I loved what I did until two years ago when I began to feel it wasn’t enough. I was beginning to derive pleasure in something more than pure food combinations and it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with it – food and wine pairing.
I went to learn how to be a sommelier and though it was a long process, it was an enjoyable one, because I love what I do.
Lots of times, people have asked me, “how do I pair food and wine perfectly?”, “do I have to be a sommelier to be able to pair food and wine properly?”, “what are the best tips for pairing food and wine?”.
Honestly, the answers to these questions can be a little bit technical and despite my experience, I have to pause a beat before I can answer these questions. However, I have compiled my thoughts in this post. So let’s dive in.
The first thing I usually go ahead to do is to explain the subtle distinction between food and wine pairing and someone who is a sommelier.
What Is Food And Wine Pairing?
This is the procedure of blending food dishes and wine to promote the dining experience. In the past years, there was no need for special food and wine combinations, local food cuisine was simply combined with local wines. You know how it is, this food is wonderfully locally made and this time it is a staple local wine, so they should go together right? Why shouldn’t they?
But modernization has changed a lot, the modern ‘art’ of food and wine pairing has become a somewhat recent sensation, with different guidelines and tips from books and media to help the new experience. Food and wine pairing now looks more complicated, and sometimes, you are blank, you don’t even know what to combine with what.
Who Is A Sommelier?
Simply a wine steward. He is an educated, trained and informed wine professional with a high degree of proficiency, normally working in a restaurant or a food industry, with a specialization in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food pairing.
The role of a sommelier in modern society is much more defined and complex than that of a waiter even though they both appear to be interrelated. A sommelier is assigned with the task of developing wine lists and books (or magazines) for wine service delivery and training of other waiters. They work with the culinary team, pairing and suggesting wines that will best complement each food menu. The job of a professional sommelier is more than that of wine service, modernization has made it broader. It now includes focusing on spirits, soft drinks, cocktails, tobaccos, beers and mineral waters.
It’s something I always wondered about too. Why sommeliers when there are waiters? I mean what’s the special duty? Waiters are very much different from sommeliers. While a waiter doesn’t need much work experience and valuation, a sommelier has to be certified. This means he or she has to go to a school to acquire the certificate that enables him or her to become a professional sommelier.
How much is a Sommelier’s Salary?
A sommelier’s salary is quite attractive. As a sommelier, I’ve earned much more than a waiter with an average yearly salary of about $62,000.
Are There Schools In The USA That Can Make Me A Certified Sommelier?
Yes. Although Sommelier is of French origin, there are professional wine schools here in the USA that produce certified and professional Sommeliers.
Major Tips For Pairing Food And Wine
If you’re a beginner, you’ll find these processes that I have over time tried and tested and proven to be true as a direct link to produce consistently great pairings. These tips will help you become familiar with pairing food and wine, and avoid lots of trial and error in helpful ways. Let’s give it a go.
- When combining food and wine, ensure that the wine is more acidic than the food on a P.H scale.
- The Wine must be sweeter than the food except in cases where bitter wines are demanded for.
- Make sure the food contains the same intensity and flavor as the wine. It is always better to match wines with sauce or stew rather than meat.
- There are various kinds of wine, red, white and even blue. Red wines pair more with bold flavored meats such as the red meats, while white wines pair more with meats that are less intense such as fish or chicken.
- Red wines and other bitter wines are more balanced with fat or fatty meats such as turkey.
Categories Of Wine And Food Pairings
I know how to pair wine and food, I already mentioned that it’s something I love to do. Every kind of wine and food pairing fall under two categories, congruent pairings and complementary pairings.
When I’m pairing wines in this manner, I make sure that the food and wine chosen all share several combinations or zest. The major point here however is that the wine is not dominated by the food flavors.
When I’m pairing wine and food in a complementary manner, I make sure I combine foods and wine with different flavors but combine them in such a way that they complement each other. For example, I would pair sweet white wine with spicy dishes so there can be a balance. The wine balances the spiciness in the dish and helps to cool down.
One of my other favorite methods is complementing white wine with salty dishes to create a perfect balance.
Food and wine pairing is a great way of creating dish balance. Though it may sound technical, it’s not hard. Simply follow my tips and try to put something together. I hope you try it out and let me know how you fared. See you next time.