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Food and Wine Pairing Essentials for Beginners

Are you getting ready to host a big dinner party and are struggling to find just the right wine? We’re here to help you tackle the great mystery of wine pairing, a delicate art and science that has made a serious historical impact on how we experience food.

We’ve chatted with Patrick Barnes, the wine-loving venue manager behind Mister Percy, a charming wine bar tucked away in Pyymont that touts a pretty incredible menu of Mediterranean-inspired eats alongside an extensive wine list. Filled with both Australian and Italian varietals, Mister Percy is committed to sharing fine wines and good times for all those that venture through its doors. Barnes has picked up quite a few great wine pairing tips after working in the hospitality business for many years all over the world.

What Makes a Good Food and Wine Pairing?

We’re going back to the basics here to explain fundamentally what makes a wine and food pairing taste good. While many may insist the perfect match depends on finding an amazing wine, Barnes explains that a good food and wine matching is so much more than that. “A good pairing is just like a good marriage and how together, each person makes the other person better. And vice versa.”

The relationship between food and wine needs to be complimentary, bringing out the best in each other. Barnes explains, “when you eat food, it may already taste fantastic. But the moment you take a sip of wine, the food should taste even more incredible. That experience needs to flow both ways so that a bite of food will also bring out all the incredible flavours of your wine.”

At the end of the day, you both elements of your dining experience to enhance each other and ultimately elevate the entire meal. It truly is a magical match!

Can you Find a Great Wine Pairings for Every Type of Cuisine?

Have no fear because fortunately there is absolutely a wine pairing for every dish in every cuisine! Although truth be told, some of these pairings may not be as intuitive as others. “There are certain cuisines, like French, Italian and any other Mediterranean foods, that seem to pair more easily with wines,” explains Barnes. “But this is simply because of cultural connotations.”

If you consult an sommelier, they can absolutely find not only an excellent wine, but even a great gin or whisky, that compliments the flavour profiles of your food. From Chinese and Korean to Peruvian and Mexican, you can alwaysdiscover a great alcohol that proliferates the eating experience of your meal. Even a quick google search will unveil clever wine pairings for whatever dish you’re cooking. 

There are plenty of wines, gins, and other spirits that you can pair food with!

What is the Most Fundamental Food and Wine Matching Rule?
For Barnes, his number one most important rule for food and wine pairings is to never have your wine flavour profile mimic the exact flavours of your food. Additionally, you do want to match the weight and body of a dish.

For example, a light lemony chicken dish will not pair well with a heavy, full-bodied wine with lemon and citrus undertones. Barnes elaborates, “It’s just like cooking. If you’re main dish is drenched in lemon juice, you’re not going to cook up a bunch of side dishes covered in lemon juice as well.” Instead, you want to perhaps find a more creamy or buttery vino, like a light Chardonnay, to support the citrus flavours of the main and not overpower the food.

Another example of this wine pairing faux pas is trying to support a heavy, rich peppery steak with a heavy, peppery wine. Yes, you need to find a full-bodied wine that won’t be overpowered by the richness of the red meat; however, explore a red wine with berry or fruity flavour profiles.

Can you Give us Food and Wine Pairing Menu Examples?

We worked with Barnes to craft a plain, simple set of pairings that you can reference as a baseline for putting together your own dinner party. We also reflect on some of the recommend pairings at Mister Percy, to get your gears spinning about great Italian food pairings.

Light Dishes:
“In general, if you’re serving light dishes, such as chicken, fish, salad or simple vegetables, find a light, white, crisp and clean wine.” Barnes further specified a Sauvignon Blanc, which can be quite herbaceous, or Pinot Grigio, which is more on the zesty side.

Heavy Dishes:

For those who enjoy more rich, red-meat driven dishes, like steak, burgers or lamb, Barnes encourages you to find a bigger bodied red wine, like a Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec or Shiraz. The same idea works for heavy, flavourful dishes like in Asian curries! To ensure you don’t overpower the food, make sure you find a full-bodied wine with opposing flavour profiles to your meal.

Mister Percy Examples:

For pastas that are slow cooked and incredibly rich in flavour, like Mister Percy’s beloved Fresh Pappardelle and Lamb Ragu, Barnes recommends a wine that is full-bodied and can stand up against the pasta’s bold taste but doesn’t share the exact same flavour notes. A Shiraz, for example, might mask all the subtleties of the pasta sauce; however, a Pinot Noir is still full-bodied but has opposing undertones that accent the herbs in the Ragu. “The Save Our Souls Wines Pinot Noir is also a really great pair with our Mezze Maniche Pasta served with heirloom tomatoes and Buffalo mozzarella.”

“At Mister Percy, we also serve a lot of small aperitivi bites that are light and simple. For our Arancini, which are fried rice balls made with saffron and peas, I’d pair them with our Cullen Wines Dancing in the Sun Sauvignon Blanc, because it’s crisp, clean and won’t overtake the delicate flavour of the saffron.”

The rich Mezze Maniche Pasta pairs perfectly with a full-bodied, spicy and fruity pinot noir.

Where Can you Learn More About Wine Matching?

In the modern world of tech, we have plenty of wine wisdom at our fingertips. While the internet may not have exact answer for your every pairing needs, you can do your best to compile a few key pieces of information about a wine to decide if it is the right match for your meal. We recommend downloading the Vivino app, a great food and wine pairing app which can scan a wine label and tell you more about it’s body, undertones and overall rank in global and regional wines.

Asking your server, sommelier or chef at a restaurant for a recommended wine pairing is another great way to get the ball rolling. You can always admit that you’d like to learn more about how they chose that wine pairing, because staff should always willing to sharing!

In fact, if you’re in Pyrmont, you’re always welcome to stop by Mister Percy and chat with Barnes and the team about wine pairings. They’d be happy to discuss great wine and cheese pairings, sample wine pairing menus, and how to plan a wine pairing dinner.

At Mister Percy, there are plenty of fine wines and good times to be had.