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WINE & FOOD IN BALANCE

INTRODUCTION
This module is all about FWEA's food and wine pairing philosophy. You will learn to recognize how food changes the way wine tastes. Using the FWEA Progressive Food Menu as a tool, you will also learn how the dominant taste in food (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and the protein taste “umami”) will change all wines the same way. Finally, you will be able to confidently recognize the dominant taste in a dish, whether it is sweet, sour, etc., and choose a wine that will taste delicious with it.

MODULE OBJECTIVES
In this module you will learn: •How food and wine pairing has traditionally been based on two primary ideas. On the pages that follow, you will learn to recognize how food changes the way wine tastes. •How to use the FWEA Progressive Food Menu as a tool, and how the dominant taste in food (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and the protein taste “umami”) will change all wines the same way. •To recognize the dominant taste in a dish, whether it is sweet, sour, etc., and choose a wine that will taste delicious with it.

FWEA’S PROGRESSIVE FOOD MENU
We look at wine and food pairing a little differently at FWEA, which is what the FWEA Progressive Food Menu is all about. But before we get into that it helps to understand how wine and food is traditionally paired.

TRADITIONAL FOOD & WINE PAIRING I
The first method is to try to copy the food and wine pairings of a wine producing region such as pasta marinara with Chianti, beef with Burgundy, lamb with Bordeaux, oysters with Champagne, or smoked salmon with Riesling. These pairings can work but there is no explanation why or how. The common answer, they grow together so they go together still does not address the how. When they do not work, you do not know how to fix the dish. It is the “hit-or-miss” school of wine and food pairing.

TRADITIONAL FOOD & WINE PAIRING II
The second method is the “mirroring method,” which is to mirror the color, flavors, and the so called “weight” of the wine with the ingredients in the food.

In its simplest form, this is color coding; the white-wine-with-fish and red-wine-with-meat mentality. We often complicate it much further trying to match aromas or flavors in the wine with similar characteristics in food (berries, brown spices, etc.). These may sound good together, look good together, and smell good together but what happens when they do not taste good together? You are stuck again.
In the end, both these traditional methods do not always work — and they are certainly not tools.

WINE & FOOD IN BALANCE THEORY
To understand how to use the FWEA Progressive Food Menu, we need to start with the basics which are best explained with FWEA’s Wine & Food in Balance. Over the past 14 years, Jerry Comfort, Director of Education at FWEA, has helped create and evolve this unique approach to wine and food pairing by exploring how wine and food interact on the palate.

CLASSIFYING WINE: FWEA’S PROGRESSIVE WINE LIST
One of the biggest hurdles in wine and food pairing is the vast selection of wines available to us today. The variables are endless when you consider the different grape varieties, countries, winemakers, and wine styles. However, wine can be “categorized” by focusing on taste profile and style. In the simplest form of this system, which we call FWEA’s Progressive Wine List, we can place wines in one of five categories.

THE PROGRESSIVE WINE LIST
What is the The Progressive Wine List? The Progressive Wine List is a communication tool. It communicates a great deal about the wine and about wine and food pairing. • It is a Training tool • It is a wine list management tool • It is a Wine and Food pairing tool

THE FIVE CATEGORIES OF WINE
Level 1: Off-dry to very sweet wines (includes dessert wines) Level 2: Dry light-intensity white wines, with little or no oak (includes most sparkling wines) Level 3: Dry white wines with oak barrel influence

Level 4: Light-intensity red wines without much tannin
Level 5: Strong-intensity red wines with medium-to-strong tannins

WINE CATEGORY CHARACTERISTICS
Within each of these categories, there are several levels corresponding to the intensity of the characteristics, such as oak, tannin, sweetness, etc.

Keep in mind that even within a specific varietal a wine’s profile can be very different. For example, a Sauvignon Blanc can be sweet, dry with little or no oak, or dry with oak flavors.
The Progressive Wine List has 5 different levels which are applied to the 4 numbered categories of food styles. For example, food category #4 is desserts which pair with Level 1 wines (off-dry to very sweet).

CLASSIFYING FOOD
To understand how wine interacts with food, we need to look at the food in terms of the simple elements of taste. Any specific dish will contain one or more of the five basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and protein/umami.* These dominant tastes in the food will have a profound effect on the taste of the wine. FWEA’s Wine and Food in Balance theory explains the result of these reactions.

WHAT IS UMAMI?
You may not have heard of Umami, the fifth taste. Do not feel alone — many people have not. Umami, which translates as “deliciousness” in Japanese, was discovered and isolated in 1908 by Japanese food specialist Kikunae Ikeda. Umami is actually glutamic acid (a protein), the most common amino acid. Umami makes food taste savory and the purest form of umami is MSG. Shitake mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes also have very high levels of umami. In 1997 researchers at the University of Miami isolated taste buds that are receptive to umami.

Umami is a very important element in food and wine pairing because it creates a noticeable reaction in wine.

FOOD & WINE REACTIVITY

Sweet and protein/umami dominated foods reduce wine aromas and make wine textures (acidity, bitterness, astringency and tannins) stronger. Sour and salt dominated foods make wine textures milder (richer, smoother, sweeter) and can accentuate aromas.

THE PROGRESSIVE FOOD MENU
Now that you have read about FWEA’s Progressive Wine List and Wine & Food in Balance, we will apply the same philosophy to determine the “taste profiles” of completed dishes. The Progressive Food Menu is divided into categories of foods grouped by the same dominant tastes. Included are specific examples of dishes from each category and a list of recommended white and red wines from The Progressive Wine List.

WINE & FOOD IN BALANCE

In the following pages you will also find the FWEA Progressive Wine List applied to the four categories of foods grouped by their dominant tastes.
In each category the dominant taste is defined followed by a description of how these tastes react with wine. Finally, there is a recommended style or category of wine that pairs best with these types of foods.

CATEGORY # 1: SWEET, SPICY, OR PROTEIN DOMINATED FOODS
Dishes that are sweet, spicy, or protein-dominant and low in salt will make a wine’s texture stronger and all wines will become more acidic or crisp.

In addition, if the wine has been in oak barrels it will become more bitter. And red wines will also become more tannic. The recommended styles of wines for these dishes are off-dry and light styles of wines because they have no oak or tannins that would become more bitter. And their fruitiness or sweetness buffers the rise in acidity.

CATEGORY # 1: WINES

Off-dry or fruity white wines and low-tannin wines pair well with sweet, spicy or protein dominant (umami) foods:
Off-dry or fruity whites: off-dry Sparkling Wine, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Viognier. Low-tannin reds: dry Rosé, Nouveau, Beaujolais, lighter Shiraz and Zinfandel.

CATEGORY #2: ACID & PROTEIN DOMINANT FOOD
Dishes that are acid dominant will make a wine milder or softer. The acidity in the dish will lower your perception of the acid in the wine, which makes it taste milder and sometimes more aromatic or fruity. Since these foods are low in salt, the wines should not have much oak influence or tannins. Crisp, light-intensity wines (wines with little or no oak) will pair the best since they tend to be relatively high in acidity. Protein-dominant foods that are low in salt will also pair well with these styles of wines. Bitterness, such as in endive, arugula, or smoked foods, often bonds with the bitterness in oak and tannins — so these crisp light intensity wines will pair well with those foods too.

CATEGORY # 2: WINE
Crisp, light-intensity wines pair well with acid and protein dominant foods. Wines: Sparkling Wine/Champagne, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, un-oaked Chardonnay, Semillon, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, dry rosé, Beaujolais, Pinot Noir

CATEGORY #3: BALANCED FOODS
Dishes that are seasoned properly/balanced with salt will develop more complex flavor in the food and will pair with the widest variety of wines.

If a dish is high in sweetness and/or protein (umami), the addition of some acidity is quite common in many cuisines (think of tomato sauces with wine or vinegar, or adding lemon juice to seafood). Besides enhancing the flavor, the acidity also balances the dish so that it does not react with the wine’s acid balance as much.
Dishes with this balance between salt seasoning and acidity will pair well with all wine categories.

CATEGORY #3: WINES
Strong-intensity, oaked whites, light to medium intensity reds, and medium-to-strong intensity reds pair well with balanced/properly seasoned foods:

Oaked whites: oaked Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Blanc, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc
Lighter intensity reds: Rosé, Nouveau/Beaujolais, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Shiraz/Syrah, Merlot, Zinfandel Stronger intensity reds: Merlot, Sangiovese, Shiraz/Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon

CATEGORY #4: DESSERT
Desserts: these are an extreme extension of the sweetness described in Category #1. Virtually all desserts are sweet and low in salt. Even lemon and rhubarb’s tartness is balanced by adding more sugar. A general rule of thumb is to serve dessert wines that are sweeter than the dessert so the wine’s acidity will not be pronounced.

CATEGORY #4: WINES
Sweet to very sweet wines pair best with sweet desserts: Wines: sweet Madeira, sweet Sherry, Port, lateharvest Riesling, Vin Santo, Sauternes, Tokaji

REVIEW
You should now have a good understanding of: •How food and wine pairing has traditionally been based on two primary ideas. •The FWEA Progressive Food Menu as a tool, and how the dominant taste in food (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and the protein taste “umami”) will change all wines the same way. •Recognizing the dominant taste in a dish, whether it’s sweet, sour, etc., and choose a wine that will taste delicious with it.