Like bread is to butter, milk is to cookies and chips are to dip, in the world of food pairings there are those that, well, are simply just right. But why is it that peanut butter is best with jelly and beer with pizza? I can’t imagine my chicken wings with anything but blue cheese and hello salt, where’s
the pepper?

But it’s not always easy to define why even the most unusual of food matches work, but when you know it, you know it, no questions asked. The same is true for food and wine pairings.  Wine and cheese for example is almost always a given. The acidity and tannin in the wine combines perfectly with the lactic acids of the cheese. It’s like putting cream in your coffee or milk in your tea. Together all is right in the world, a harmony of opposites.

And while there are no hard and fast rules for finding the yin to your yang in matching the right food to the right wine there are a few guidelines that can assist in finding your culinary Nirvana.

One theory, is to match ‘like with like’. For example if you are cooking a light meat such as fish or poultry look for a light white wine such as Riesling or Pinot Grigio. Prepare it in a butter sauce and instead pair with a buttery oak aged Chardonnay that’s richer in flavour. And who can’t imagine a seared steak paired with a big bold Cabernet Sauvignon?

But it’s also true that opposites attract. Two extremes can create a balance. In contrasting flavours we might pair sweet and salty or spicy and sweet. Case in point, one of the most incredible cheese pairings with a sweet and luxurious Icewine is a salty blue cheese. The yin and the yang meet to create perfect balance and harmony. And go ahead, try a sweeter Gewürztraminer next time you order in spicy Thai or Indian. You
won’t be disappointed.

Looking for some inspiration and a bit of adventure? Look no further than Niagara-on-the-Lake, where wineries serve up classic and sometimes unusual food pairings throughout the winter months.

In November ‘Taste the Season’ is a great motivator to start thinking about holiday entertaining. What could be more festive than sparkling wine with spiced pumpkin pie or a ripe Syrah paired with a pork terrine topped with blueberry and black pepper compote? Or maybe think outside the box and plan a meal to start with a fresh and lively Riesling matched with an authentic Thai chicken and coconut soup.

January is naturally when Niagara-on-the-Lake celebrates all things Icewine and the wineries will not disappoint with sweet treats to match with nature’s naturally decadent dessert wine. The ever popular Icewine marshmallow S’mores showcase how ‘like’ flavours work well together in creating harmony in balance. However, if sweet and savoury pairings are more your style, think bacon and blue cheese.

And finally in February, wineries take on one of the most challenging of food items to pair with wine by way of ‘The Days of Wine and Chocolate’. Chocolate has been touted as notoriously difficult to match due to its slightly bitter, slightly acidic nature, and its own tannins which can overpower most wines. But if we use our two guiding principles the result can be remarkably delicious. Why not try a Merlot matched with a flourless chocolate brownie or perhaps if the wine is sweeter it might pair well with a spicy chocolate chicken tortilla soup? The possibilities are endless, we only need to use our imagination.

My last piece of advice, drink what you like. I drink Sparkling wine with well, everything. And there is no accounting for taste – we are all different. To make your own classic matches, start off on the traditional paths and then deviate a little, or a lot, you might find a yin to match your yang where you least expect it.

By: Andrea Kaiser