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Wine and Food

A Pairing Made Easy

unWined is all about pairing painting and wine. Enjoyment has been found in sharing a love of art and wine with friends, family, and patrons in a comfortable, relaxing, and entertaining setting. Much like pairing wine and painting, pairing food and wine should also be comfortable, relaxing and entertaining!

Pairing wine and food may considered an art this day in age but it hasn’t always been that way. It doesn’t need to be complicated or stressful! History goes, pairing wine with food happened because it was easy, close, and tasted good. Really, in the end, that’s all you need for a successful wine and food pairing.

Taking a little time to learn some about pairing food and wine, whether that be through historical information or “hands-on” testing and sampling, the learning will certainly help to make the wine pairing process even that much more enjoyable. Some fun stuff to help anyone get started includes interesting wine and food history, facts, guides, and Q & A’s!

What are the origins of pairing wine and food?

Many pairings that are frequently seen today, ones that may be considered classic or traditional, have their roots within centuries old relationships between between regional cuisine and regionally produced wine and drink! It is common thought that originally common wine pairings seen today resulted from beverage styles originally being produced a specific way because it complimented food that was common. 

The modern “art” of food pairings is a relatively recent phenomenon, fostering an industry of books and media with guidelines for pairings of particular foods and wine.

For example, pairing lamb and wine is Europe is quite common. For a long time lamb was a staple meat of the diet in many of the areas that are now considered leading wine producers. Hence, lamb seems to pair rather pleasantly with the region’s wine. Another historical regional pairing includes wine and a specific cheese. The French Brie region has long been noted for its Brie cheese production, as well as many tannic wine varietals such as Beaujolais. This is considered a classic wine and cheese pairing.

As is commonplace among Italian diners they rarely dine without wine. Many of Italy’s wines are crafted to be “food friendly” often with bright acidity. Some Italian wines may seem tannic or tart by themselves they often will show a very different profile when paired with boldly flavored Italian foods! 

The origins of this recent phenomenon can be traced to the United States in the 1980s when Neo-Prohibitionists prompted the wine industry to reexamine the context of wine-drinking as a component of dining rather than as just an alcoholic beverage meant for consumption and intoxication. Winemakers started to emphasize the kind of food dishes that their wines would go well with, some even printing pairing suggestions on back wine labels.

Why do some foods go better with wine than others?

One group of food scientists for the National Institutes of Health conducted a study in 2012 indicated the concept of mouthfeel played a crucial role when it came to how people interpreted and conveyed feelings about food and drink pairings.

“Mouthfeel” refers to the way foods feel in the mouth. The scientists believe foods that sit on opposite ends of the spectrum of taste often create a pleasant taste sensation, triggering a good match in the mind. This is true for wine and cheese as well as many other food and drink combinations.

Fat is oily and therefor eating it lubricates the mouth making it feel slick or slimy. On the other side of the mouthfeel spectrum chemical compounds know as astringents, such as the tannins in wine and green tea, make the mouth feel dry and rough. This happens because the astringents chemically bind with lubricant proteins present in saliva, causing the proteins to clump together and solidify. The proteins leave the surface of the tongue and gums without their usual coating of lubrication. The study showed that astringents reduce the lubricants in the mouth during a fatty meal and return balance.

What is wine weight and how does is affect pairing?

In food and wine pairings the most basic element considered is “weight”. Weight in this sense refers to the balance between the weight of the food (a heavy, red sauce pasta versus a more delicate salad) and the weight or “body” of the wine (a heavy Cabernet Sauvignon versus a more delicate Pinot grigio).

In wine tasting, body is determined primarily by the alcohol level of the wine and can be influenced by the ability to perceive the tannins (from the grape skins or oak) and extract (the dissolved solids in the wine derived from winemaking processes like extended maceration and sur lie aging).

Wine weight made super easy! Compliments of

Wine weight made super easy!

What kind of foods go well with different types of wines?

Sparkling Wines- Salty foods are best! try crackers, french fries, sushi, popcorn, fish, and chicken. 

Dry White- Dry white is often balanced by vegetables dishes of different nature. Some suggestions include salads, roasted or sautéed veggies, fish, and chicken.

Sweet White- The best wine for balancing out spicy foods! Thai and Chinese are often favorites, but once again chicken and fish are safe bets. 

Rich White- Rich white wines actually pair quite pleasantly with rich foods. A little dryness in the wine really helps to balance of the heavy fats and creams that are often the prominent in creamy dishes. Soup, quiche, lasagne, creamy pastas, and cheese sauces all hit the mark with rich white wines. Shellfish is often a winner when it comes to pairing with rich white wines. 

Rose- Rose tends to help balance deep and rich flavored dished. Moroccan, indian, and heavily spice foods are all complimented very nicely. Pork and shellfish are often found to be served along side Rose wines. 

Light Red- Slightly earthy tastes and inspiration (such as mushrooms, cedar plank salmon, pizza, french foods, and anything smoked) are good suggestions for this style of wine. 

Medium Red- Give a medium red wine a try with roasted or grilled items. Duck, lamb, meats, sausages, roasted vegetables, and wood-fired pizza are all favorites. 

Bold Red- Most highly recommended to be pair with rich meats. Venison, cured and dried meats, duck, rabbit, and pheasant are all unique and safe choices. 

Dessert Wine- Expect a very sweet wine that can be balanced off with mild, slightly fatty foods. Try a dry-ish sweet such as biscotti or cake, cured meats, and soft cheese.

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What about some local pairing specials?

Unfortunately, if you don’t live in Denver this list might be a little far off. However, many restaurants have people trained and knowledgeable in wine and food pairing that could provide suggestions, recommendation, and industry tips and tricks. Also included are some popular restaurant guides to local pairing specialists.

If your around the Denver area, be sure to stop at a few of these places!

Coohills (1400 Wewatta St.  Denver, CO 80202)

  • “Located in the hip Lower Downtown (LoDo) Denver neighborhood, we invite you to pull up to the community table, tuck in at your own intimate table for two or more, or enjoy our outdoor terrace for a spirited drink with one of Denver’s only beautiful views of the mountain sunset.”

Mizuna (225 EAST 7th Avenue  Denver, CO 80203

  • “Tiny Mizuna, with her linen-draped tables and soft yellow dining room has earned a reputation as a special place among food lovers and critics of all sorts. Mizuna is where the service is understated and exemplary. It is an artist’s studio, a culinary think-tank, a food laboratory.”

1515 Restaurant (1515 Market Street  Denver, CO 80202)

  • “Using modern cooking techniques, such as sous vide and molecular gastronomy, 1515 offers an unforgettable fine dining experience. Our seasonal menus provide new tastes to tempt your palate, and our sommelier will help you help pair the perfect wine selections from our expansive wine list with your meal.”

Denver Eater’s Guide to Denver’s Best Tasting Menus

Zagats Guide to Denver Best Wine Pairings Colorado Wine & Colorado Restaurants: The Perfect Pairing Wine and Food Events for Denver

Throughout the process of finding your perfect wine and pairing favorites remember to relax and have fun! Much as we look at painting as a release and relaxation technique, enjoying food should be much the same. Sometimes it is necessary to eat that burger on the road while rushing to your next meeting but making it a point to enjoy your meals, the flavors they have, and the opportunities for variety will open a lot of new doors.

Good luck finding that perfect wine, that perfect food, and that perfect setting!

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