Texture Components

Texture is something that is felt through the sense of touch. You feel it and that is how it is differentiated from both taste and flavour, even if certain experiences like spice, will be both felt and enjoyed as a flavour. Mouthfeel is a self-describing term, it describes how a component feels in your mouth. Wine (a beverage) and food (generally solid) will have very different mouthfeels, but there are still many similarities to consider.

When it comes to food and wine pairings in relation to textures, there are two different directions to follow, one can either go for a similar texture or a contrasting one.

Wine

There are a lot of things going on in your mouth when you try a wine,
which is probably why wine is a bit of an acquired taste.
Breaking the experience down, theses are the most important Texture Components
you have to take into consideration, but far from all of them.

Viscosity

To understand viscosity, old fashioned milk tends to be the most comprehensive descriptive example (even if it is outdated). If you compare low fat milk, standard milk, half and half, and pure cream to each other, you have a good example of how to distinguish between different viscosities. You will find a similar tendency in wine. From a light Riesling to a heavy Petit Verdot.

The viscosity of the wine is an important factor, and a very instrumental part of the wine’s body. If the wine is light (low fat milk) it pairs best with light dishes, while richer wine (cream) generally demands richer dishes.

Alcohol

Alcohol is a flavour enhancer, instrumental for making wine what it is. If you ever have tried de-alcoholised wine, you know this. Wine does not taste well without alcohol. When it comes to food and wine pairings, the most important factor in regard to alcohol, is that it is balanced in the wine. A light wine with high alcohol or a heavy red with low alcohol, that simply does not work. The alcohol has to match the structure of the wine.

Alcohol in general can be quite hard to pair with food, especially if you like your food spicy hot. Alcohol has a tendency to enhance both tannins and spicy ingredients, like capsaicin (the active ingredient in many forms of pepper) and make it unpleasant. If you like your food spicy you should therefore avoid high alcohol reds, or make sure there is some residual sugar in the wine, the help reduce the spiciness.

Astringency

Astringency in wine primarily comes from the tannins. Tannins are polyphenols derived from grape skins, stems, and seeds. Oak barrels, especially from new oak or heavily toasted ones can also add tannins to the wine (which tends to be the case if you have a young, white oak aged wine with tannins). Tannins are a universal divider, where preference will very vastly. Some love it, others hate it.

High astringency wines can sometimes be hard to pair with food, generally you will want something that helps to mitigate the astringency, like fatty food, a lot of proteins, high acidity, or moderate levels of salt. If the food is spicy, then just avoid astringent wines. It generally just does not work, unless you have a very uncommon palate.

Body

A wine’s body is best described as the combined experience of its Viscosity, Alcohol and Astringency. The wine’s body should preferably match the body of the food. If you pair a heavy wine to a delicate, light dish, the wine will completely overwhelm the food and vice versa. But worth mentioning is the unexpected charm of opposites. Sometimes a heavy dish might be interesting to pair with a light wine, to get a Refreshing Pairing. Or if you have an extraordinary wine that you want on centre stage, then it might be interesting to pair it with a plain, light bodied dish, so that you can truly experience the wine as the dominant part.

Effervescence

Bubblies! Not all wines have bubbles, but when it comes to sparkling wines, they can often add an interesting dimension to the pairing. Moderate to high levels of effervescence work amazingly well with salty foods (that otherwise would make a still wine harsh) or very bitter foods. There is no reason to only have bubbles for the starter. Main courses work surprisingly well with sparkling wines, as long as you find something heavy enough to match the body of the main course (think Method Traditional).

Temperature

Temperature is everything! A wine served at the wrong temperature can be close to undrinkable. So please, take 5 seconds to look up the best serving temperature for your wine, it will be well worth the effort (see Serving Temperature). A wine that is too cold, will lose its aroma and the acidity, tannins and bitterness will be more noticeable. While a wine that is too warm will have a stronger smell, a more noticeable burning sensation from the alcohol, and the acidity will seem dull, making the wine jammy.

Serving temperature should also be taken into account in relation to the food temperature. Do you want it to match or do you want to use it as a contrast? Both are viable alternatives.

Food

The term “Food” includes everything on the plate, not only the main component.
The sauce, the side or even that lemon wedge on the side,
might completely change the overall experience of the dish.
Therefore, you have to take the entire dish into consideration,
not only the main event.

Fat and Protein

Fat and Protein are said to be neutralising food agents, in the sense that they mitigate astringent agents in the wine, making the wine smoother. There is some science disputing this, saying that it is the salt (fat and protein is always cooked with salt) that works as the mitigator, but this is still disputed. Dishes with high levels of protein and/or fat therefore tends to work well, with wines higher in astringency, alcohol and/or acidity. People how do not enjoy astringent red wines on their own, sometimes love them with protein rich food. If the dish is too high in fat or protein, high acidity wines tends to cut through that heaviness, giving it a better balance.

Cooking Method

Different cooking methods adds different flavours, textures, and structures, and has to be taken into consideration when selecting the wine. Boiling/poaching does not add much, while stewing can completely change the profile of the food. At the same time, pan-seared, roasted or even grilled food will demand a completely different structure in the wine.

Simplified, the lighter the cooking method, the lighter the wine. And if you are using a cooking method that causes a Maillard Reaction (caramelisation) an oak aged wine (be it white or red) would be highly recommended, since the oak would match the flavours and texture caused be the caramelisation.

In relation to the cooking method, the serving temperature of the food is also very important. If you have a traditionally heavy dish that you serve cold, it makes the overall impression of the food lighter, meaning you might need a lighter wine to go with it, to match the experience of the food.

Overall Body

The body is the combined experience on your palate. Where everything relating to the food and its components come together. Generally, rich, and heavy dishes tend to demand a richer wine, while light dishes are best paired with lighter wines. But again, it is up to you to decide if you wish to create a match or a contrast. Both have their own merits.

Hot Spices

Spices containing capsaicin will make almost any wine taste poor. It increases bitterness, acidity, astringency, and alcohol burn, while decreasing the sweetness of the wine. Most people find this combination unpleasant, but there are some weird people out there who might actually enjoy this combination. Some people experience a high from spicy food, and some of them, seems to enjoy astringent heavy wines with hot spices, odd as it sounds.