Traditional wine and food pairing combinations were debunked during a presentation by Dr Peter Klosse, founder and owner of the Academy of Gastronomy in The Netherlands.
Speaking at the Fine & Rare Specialist course at Vienna’s Palais Coburg on 1 July, Klosse criticised classic food and wine matches such as Pauillac with lamb or white wine with fish.
“People say Pauillac goes with lamb, but there are many types of Pauillac…and you are told to have white wine with fish, as though all white wines and all fish are the same.”
Elaborating on the possible source of the Pauillac and lamb combination, he added, “There is an Agneau de Pauillac, which could be the source of the pairing, but I’ve never seen a lamb in Pauillac, and the AOP for Agneau de Pauillac covers the entire Gironde.”
As for other combinations such as red wine with red meat and cheese, Klosse pointed out that in fact many white wines are better matches with these foods, and that in general, white wine “is easier to combine with food than reds.”
Talking more generally, he explained that he is writing a book called The Essence of Gastronomy – Understanding the flavour of food and beverage, before defining gastronomy as the science of flavour and tasting.
He said that while taste is objective, tasting is subjective, and the mission for cooks – or winemakers – is to “be tasty”.
He also suggested, as previously reported by the drinks business, that all senses are involved in tasting, and that there are more than five tastes.
Referring to the senses first, tasting he described as “flavour perception”, and initially stressed the role of the tongue, in particular its central part.
“You detect mouthfeel in the centre of the tongue and all around the mouth, and you often read that the centre part of the tongue is the least sensitive but I don’t think that’s true.”
Then he turned to the sense of smell, and while the use of the tongue he termed gustation, he referred to the use of the nose as olfaction.
“Much of olfaction is within your mouth, so by crunching and chewing and tearing, you release much of the odour, which comes free inside your mouth and goes to your nose.”
He also highlighted the importance of touch, or the trigémina nerve.
Whether using your teeth or tongue, sensations from hard to soft, hot to cold, and other feelings such as pain came under the trigeminal category.
“Pepper, ginger, horseradish, and mustard are all in trigémina, as well as aspects of sourness,” he said.
Sound too plays a part according to Klosse, who noted the impact of foods that crack, such as nuts, or others that make high pitched sounds, such the crunch of a fresh salad.
“If you promise people a crispy salad, it needs to be that, it needs to make that sound, and if it doesn’t, they won’t think it’s a good salad.”
As for the basic tastes – sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and umami – he said that new ones had been added, called “fatty” and “calcium”.
“And there are more to come,” he explained, “such as metallic – so we are seeing the end of the basic taste theory.”
In terms of wine tasting, he said, “First we see, then we smell, hear or touch.”
Continuing he commented, “These are called the extrinsic factors and we underestimate the role of extrinsic factors; they are very important.”
He mentioned research which showed that whites wines with red colourant have been proven to elicit different taste descriptions from experts, who even mention leather and tannin in their notes under experimental conditions.
Dr Peter Klosse founder and owner of the Academy of Gastronomy
Similarly, Klosse said that people who had been given plain yoghurt coloured with red dyes, perceive it as sweeter than the same substance without the colourant.
The shape of the bottle, or circumstances of consumption can also affect wine tasting, he added, reminding attendees of the course how certain wines often seem to taste better when you are on holiday in their region of production.
Then Klosse picked out two important components to mouthfeel which were key to food and wine pairing.
These, he called “coating and contracting”, with contracting referring to the physical response of cells in your mouth which contract when exposed to acidic or salty foods, as well as bubbles, or cold objects, such as ice.
Peppery stinging ingredients have the same effect, while dryness also causes contraction, because it removes saliva, and hence water biscuits or crusts also fall into this category.
Secondly, there is coating food, which contains creamy, fatty, gooey or sticky ingredients.
“Keeping the sugar in a wine, or adding it to a wine, is a way of having coating, fullness, roundness,” he explained.
Summing up, he said it was important to find a balance between these two physical responses when it comes to cooking, and, when it comes to wine and food pairing, a “harmony”.
Explaining further he said, “You should pair contracting wines with contracting foods, and coating wines with coating foods.”
As for an example, he picked out fresh white wine and goats’ cheese – both are acidic, and therefore both are contracting, he said.