Welcome to Uncork the Flavour, where we’ll explore the wondrous world of South African wine pairing. We are here to help you navigate the intricacies of matching the perfect wine with your favourite local dishes, all while avoiding any embarrassing faux pas (like accidentally pairing a Pinotage with a milk tart – trust me, it’s not a good idea). Let’s uncork the flavour through these tips and tricks to food and wine pairing.
South African cuisine and wine are a melting pot of flavours and influences. From Braaivleis to Bobotie, Pinotage to Chenin and everything in between. That’s where we come in. we’ll be sharing our favourite tips and tricks for pairing South African wines with different foods, all with a healthy dose of humour and warmth.
So, whether you’re a seasoned wine aficionado or a newbie looking to expand your palate, buckle up and get ready to uncork the flavour of South African wine pairing. Let’s dive in!
When it comes to enjoying a glass of wine, the right food pairing can make all the difference. By pairing food and wine correctly, you can enhance the flavours and aromas of both. In fact, you can create a more enjoyable and satisfying experience. In this blog, we’ll explore the benefits of pairing food and wine, and provide some tips for getting the most out of your food and wine pairing.
What are the benefits then of pairing food and wine you may wonder. Here are a few that I can think of.
Enhance the flavours
Pairing food and wine can enhance the flavours of both. When you pair the right wine with the right food, the flavours can complement and balance each other. This can create a more complex and enjoyable taste experience. For example, full-bodied red wine pairs well with a rich, meaty dish, while a crisp white wine can bring out the flavours in a light, delicate seafood dish.
South African wines, specifically, are known for their unique and diverse flavour profiles. These are influenced by a range of factors including grape variety, climate, soil type, winemaking techniques, and more. Here are some of the most popular flavour profiles you might find in South African wine:
- Fruity: South African wines are often characterized by their fruity flavours. These can range from citrus and tropical fruit notes in white wines to dark fruit flavours like black cherry and blackberry in red wines.
- Spicy: Many South African red wines exhibit spicy notes, with black pepper, cinnamon, and clove being common flavours. These spicy notes are often balanced by the fruit flavours in the wine.
- Earthy: Some South African wines have an earthy flavour profile, with notes of mushrooms, truffles, and forest floor. This is particularly common in red wines made from Pinot Noir and Syrah grapes.
- Floral: White wines from South Africa can exhibit floral notes, such as honeysuckle, jasmine, and elderflower. These flavours are often balanced by crisp acidity and fruit flavours.
- Herbaceous: Sauvignon Blanc is a popular grape variety in South Africa, and it often exhibits herbaceous flavours such as green bell pepper, grass, and herbs. This gives the wine a fresh, crisp character.
Overall, South African wines are known for their complexity and diversity of flavour profiles, with something to suit every palate.
Improve the aroma
Wine and food can also have complementary aromas. For example, a fruity red wine can complement the aroma of a spicy dish. However, a floral white wine can bring out the aroma of a light, fragrant dish. When you pair the right wine with the right food, you can improve the overall aroma of the meal. This can make it even more enjoyable.
Wine can have many different aromas, ranging from fruity to floral to spicy.
Some common fruit aromas in wine include cherry, blackberry, and apple, while floral aromas can include rose and lavender.
Pairing wine with the right food can enhance the overall dining experience by creating complementary and harmonious flavours. This is because the taste and aroma of wine can be influenced by the flavours of the food it’s paired with. Here are some ways that pairing wine with the right foods can improve the aromas of wine:
- Complementary Flavours: Pairing wine with food that has complementary flavours can enhance the aroma of the wine. For example, a spicy red wine can be paired with a rich and savoury beef dish. The spices in the wine and the savoury flavours in the beef complement each other, creating a pleasant aroma.
- Contrasting Flavours: Pairing wine with food that has contrasting flavours can also improve the aroma of the wine. For example, a sweet wine can be paired with a salty and savoury cheese dish. The sweetness in the wine contrasts with the saltiness in the cheese, creating a unique and interesting aroma.
- Balance: Pairing wine with food that balances its flavours can also improve the aroma of the wine. For example, a high-acid wine can be paired with a dish that has a creamy sauce. The creaminess of the sauce can balance the acidity in the wine, creating a harmonious and pleasant aroma.
Overall, pairing wine with the right foods can improve the aromas of wine by creating a complementary, contrasting or balanced flavour profile. This can enhance the overall dining experience by creating a pleasant and memorable taste and aroma.
The aroma can be influenced by the type of grape used, as well as the region where the grape was grown.
To fully experience the aroma of wine, you can take a few steps. First, swirl the wine in your glass to release its aroma. Then, hold the glass up to your nose and take a deep sniff. See if you can identify any specific aromas. We expand on this further in our recent blog on the Seduction of the Senses through Wine Tasting.
It’s important to note that everyone experiences wine aromas differently, so don’t worry if you don’t smell the same things as someone else.
Finally, remember that the aroma is just one aspect of wine. To fully experience it, you should also taste it and pay attention to its texture and finish.
So, the aroma of wine is the way it smells and can give you clues about its flavour and quality. To fully experience the aroma, you can swirl the wine in your glass, take a deep sniff, and try to identify any specific aromas.
Create a balance
Pairing food and wine can also help create a balance in the meal. For example, a high-acid wine can balance out the richness of a fatty dish. A sweet wine can however balance out the spiciness of a dish. When you create a balance in the meal, you can enjoy each element of the meal without feeling overwhelmed by any one flavour or texture.
Pairing food and wine can help create a balance in the meal by ensuring that the flavours of the wine and food complement each other.
A balanced meal is one in which no one flavour or element dominates over the others. The different components of the dish work together to create a harmonious taste experience. Here are some ways that pairing food and wine can help create balance in the meal:
- Acidic Wines with Fatty Foods: Wines with high acidity can help balance the richness of fatty foods. For example, a crisp, acidic white wine like Sauvignon Blanc can be paired with a creamy, buttery pasta dish. The acidity in the wine helps cut through the richness of the sauce, creating a balanced and enjoyable flavour profile.
- Red Wines with Red Meat: Red wines with high tannin levels can help balance the richness of red meat dishes. Tannins are compounds in wine that create a drying sensation in the mouth. They can help cut through the richness of the meat. For example, a full-bodied red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon can be paired with a steak or roast beef dish. This creates a balanced and flavourful pairing.
- Sweet Wines with Spicy Foods: Sweet wines can help balance the heat of spicy foods. For example, a sweet Riesling or Gewürztraminer can be paired with a spicy Thai or Indian dish. This can help to counterbalance the heat and create a more balanced and enjoyable taste experience.
In summary, pairing food and wine can help create a balance in the meal by ensuring that the flavours of the wine and food complement each other. This can result in a more enjoyable and harmonious dining experience.
Enhance the experience
Pairing food and wine can also enhance the overall experience of the meal. By taking the time to choose the right wine to pair with your food, you can create a more sophisticated and enjoyable dining experience. This can be especially true when dining out, as many restaurants offer wine pairings with their menus. This truly allows you to experience a curated and cohesive meal.
Pairing food and wine can enhance the overall experience of the meal by creating complementary and contrasting flavours that stimulate the senses and create a more enjoyable dining experience. Here are some ways that pairing food and wine can enhance the overall experience of the meal:
- Complementary Flavours: Pairing food and wine with complementary flavours can enhance the overall experience of the meal by creating a harmonious taste experience. For example, a fruity, medium-bodied red wine can be paired with a tomato-based pasta dish, creating a complementary flavour profile that enhances the overall dining experience.
- Contrasting Flavours: Pairing food and wine with contrasting flavours can also enhance the overall experience of the meal. It can create a more interesting and complex flavour profile. For example, a dry, acidic white wine can be paired with a spicy Thai or Indian dish. This creates a contrasting flavour profile that stimulates the senses and creates a more exciting dining experience.
- Contextual Pairings: Pairing food and wine that are contextually related can also enhance the overall experience of the meal. For example, a local wine can be paired with a regional dish, creating a more authentic and immersive dining experience that highlights the local culture and cuisine.
Overall, pairing food and wine can enhance the overall experience of the meal by creating complementary and contrasting flavours that stimulate the senses and create a more enjoyable and memorable dining experience.
Tips for pairing food and wine
Now that you know the benefits of pairing food and wine, here are some tips for getting the most out of your wine:
1. Consider the flavours
When choosing a wine to pair with your food, consider the flavours of both the wine and the dish. Look for flavours that complement each other or create a balance. For example, a spicy dish might pair well with a fruity, bold red wine.
2. Consider the acidity
The acidity of the wine can also be an important factor in pairing food and wine. High-acid wines can pair well with fatty or rich dishes, while low-acid wines can pair well with light, delicate dishes.
3. Consider the tannins
Tannins are compounds found in red wine that can create a bitter or astringent taste. When pairing food and wine, consider the tannins in the wine and look for dishes that can balance or complement them. For example, a tannic red wine might pair well with a rich, fatty steak.
4. Consider the sweetness
The sweetness of the wine can also be a factor in pairing food and wine. Sweet wines can pair well with spicy or salty dishes, while dry wines can pair well with light, delicate dishes.
Pairing food and wine can enhance the flavours and aromas of both, creating a more enjoyable and satisfying experience. By considering the flavours, acidity, tannins, and sweetness of both the wine and the food, you can create a balanced and cohesive meal that will be a delight for your taste buds. Whether you’re dining out or enjoying a meal at home, take the time to choose the right wine to pair with.
Some great pairings with truly South African wine
South African wines are known for their unique flavour profiles and can be paired with a variety of foods. These wines are known for their rich and complex flavour profiles, making them excellent pairings with a wide range of dishes. Here are some further details on the South African pairings mentioned earlier, including some great blends and Cabernet Sauvignon options:
Here are some great pairings to try:
Chenin Blanc and seafood
South African Chenin Blanc is a versatile wine that pairs well with seafood, especially shellfish like shrimp, lobster, and scallops. The bright acidity and subtle fruit flavours of Chenin Blanc complement the delicate flavours of seafood, while also providing a refreshing counterbalance.
Pinotage and braai (barbecue)
Pinotage, a red wine grape that is indigenous to South Africa, is known for its smoky, earthy flavours, making it an excellent pairing with barbecue. Pinotage’s bold, spicy flavours can hold up to the bold flavours of smoked meats. However, it also complements the sweetness of barbecue sauce. This is of course one of our favourite grape varieties due to Gerhard’s heritage. It was in fact his great grandfather that created the varietal. There are of course many expressions of this grape. From white pinotage, rose to the full-bodied variety we all love.
Sauvignon Blanc and goat cheese
South African Sauvignon Blanc is known for its crisp acidity and tropical fruit flavours, making it an excellent pairing with tangy goat cheese. The acidity of the wine can cut through the richness of the cheese, while also complementing its tangy, pungent flavour.
Cabernet Sauvignon and steak
Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied red wine that pairs well with steak. Especially when the steak is cooked medium-rare or rare. The tannins in Cabernet Sauvignon can help to cut through the richness of the meat, while also complementing its bold, beefy flavour.
Shiraz and game meat
Shiraz, also known as Syrah, is a bold, spicy red wine that pairs well with game meat. The bold flavours of Shiraz can hold up to the richness of game meat, while also complementing its earthy, gamey flavour.
South African wines offer a unique flavour profile that can be paired with a variety of foods. Whether you’re looking for a refreshing white wine to pair with seafood, a bold red wine to pair with steak or game meat, or something in between, South African wines have something to offer. So next time you’re looking for a great wine pairing, consider trying a South African wine!
Guidelines for creating your own food and wine pairing
When creating your own event, here are some guidelines to keep in mind when pairing food and wine. Remember, Gerhard can also do private tastings and talks for you, friends and family or clubs or groups to give you a very unique experience:
- Consider the wine’s varietal and style: South African wines come in a wide variety of styles and varietals. However, it’s important to understand the unique characteristics of each. For example, a bold and fruity Pinotage pairs well with game meats or a spicy curry. A crisp Chenin Blanc pairs well with seafood and light salads.
- Look to local cuisine: Consider serving South African cuisine alongside the wine. South African dishes like Bobotie, a spiced meat dish, or Boerewors, a type of sausage, pair well with the country’s bold red wines. Additionally, South Africa’s famous seafood, such as grilled prawns or snoek fish, can be paired with crisp white wines.
- Balance flavours: When pairing wine with food, it’s important to balance the flavours of both. Bold, spicy foods pair well with bold, fruit-forward wines, while lighter dishes are best paired with lighter wines.
- Consider the occasion: When choosing a South African wine to serve to guests, consider the occasion. For a formal dinner party, a full-bodied red like a Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah may be appropriate, while a more casual gathering could be paired with a lighter Pinot Noir or Chenin Blanc.
- Experiment and have fun: South African wine is versatile and pairs well with a variety of dishes, so don’t be afraid to experiment and try new pairings. You may discover unexpected and delicious combinations that your guests will love.