There are few people that do not love a good glass of wine. But many wine lovers will readily admit they are not always at ease when it comes to pairing food with the right wine.
If you recognize yourself in that description (I certainly do), a fantastic way to develop a better understanding how to pair wine and food is to attend tastings where you learn about the flavours in wines and how these change when a wine is paired with a specific food.
Many wineries around the world now offer such experiences, and there are also lots of wine classes addressing this topic.
But the good news it, you can easily obtain a good basic understanding in wine and food pairing creating your own wine tasting experience based on the five taste sensations: Acidity, saltiness, bitterness, sweetness and umami.
So the next time you invite your friends over, why not surprise them with a special wine tasting session based on the five taste sensations. It’s actually easy to set up. All you need are a few ingredients and a bottle (several bottles) of wine.
What will you learn from a wine tasting based on the five taste sensations?
You have likely heard and maybe follow some traditional rule pairing wine and food. Namely, to pair red wine with red meat, and white wine with fish and poultry.
And this is probably a good start if you are unsure what works together. However, the most important message I have learned over the course of several wine and food pairing classes is this: We all perceive wine differently, and we also perceive the impact a particular taste sensation has on a wine differently. Thus it is up to your own taste and liking which wine you will ultimately pair to a particular food.
Attending (or hosting your own) wine tasting based on the five taste sensations is a great way to find out which type of wine you like best with a specific leading ingredient and get more confident in finding the perfect combinations.
What do you need to create a wine sensation tasting
Since this specific wine tasting is centred around the five taste sensations, all you need are specific ingredients that reflect the five different taste sensations. No need to spend time in the kitchen to prepare any food.
Ingredients that reflect the taste sensations can be for example:
Acidity: Citrus juice, citrus fruits or vinegar
Saltiness: You can simple use salt of course but if that sounds a bit too extreme, a specific salty food like feta cheese also works well.
Bitterness: Green vegetables or herbs with a particular bitter flavour like arugula or watercress
Sweetness: You could of course go with a cake or chocolate, but a sweet tasting apple or mange would probably work even better for this exercise.
Umami: This Japanese word is used for a taste sensation that reflect savouriness in foods. It can be created with a soy sauce for example, which is used for a umami seasoning in Asia since ancient times.
To understand how these different taste sensations work with a specific wine and how the taste of that specific wine changes when adding a different taste sensation, you now need to chose a wine.
If you do this tasting experience for the first time, I suggest to go with only one wine. This way you will learn how the particular taste of a particular wine will change based on the different food sensation.
You can do this with any type of wine, white or red, but again for your first session I suggest you go with a good bottle of Chardonnay. Whilst Chardonnay can be tricky to pair with a specific food, it still works actually fine with all five taste sensations, although obviously reacting differently to each of them.
In addition, Chardonnay grapes are grown nearly everywhere in the world where wine is produced. Therefore, you should be able to find a good quality Chardonnay fairly easily at a wine shop near you without breaking the bank.
How to set out the tasting
Start by tasting the wine on its own. Take notes of the flavours and style you detect in the wine, and how you like it.
Now continue by tasting the wine with the first of the five taste sensations and again take notes of the flavours and how you now like the wine. You will certainly detect a difference to the first time you tasted the wine without the impact of a specific ingredient. And you might be surprised that you know like the wine better or you might like it less than before.
Cleanse your palate with water or some bread and then continue with the next taste sensation.
Repeat until you have gone through all five taste sensations.
It certainly takes more than one tasting to getting confident in choosing the wine that you like best with a specific food.
However, with a bit of exercise, you will certainly become more accomplished matching the flavour of your food to the flavour of your wine.