Food and wine pairing: tasting tips

  • 15/07/2021

How to pair food with wine: the advice of the Tenute del Cerro winemaker for a complete experience 

It's all organized: you have set up the table taking care of the mise en place for your lunch or dinner, prepared the menu, and the guests are about to arrive. You have thought of everything, or maybe not: it is just missing to choose the wine, and here the situation becomes complicated. Italy has a vast winemaking tradition, made up of history and great excellence, and pairing the right wine with food is an art that fascinates many, but it is just as difficult because of this almost endless choice. Every dish has its own characteristics and requires an ideal wine: choosing the right bottle can make your meal a real sensory experience. 

To help you in this task, we interviewed Emanuele Nardi, oenologist and production manager of Tenute del Cerro, who told us about this complex and fascinating discipline. Together with him, we discover some secrets for the best possible food and wine pairing, with also some tasting tips.

Food and wine pairing: the winemaker's advice

There is a whole universe behind - and inside - a bottle of wine, whether it is white, red, rosé, still or sparkling, and there are many factors to consider: the structure, the aroma, the tactile sensations it transmits and, finally, the sweetness. And the same can be said of a dish. For this reason, finding the right wine for the dish you are going to taste requires some evaluations. Where to start from?

Wine and food, two protagonists who must not overshadow each other

First of all, as the wine maker Emanuele Nardi explains, the first fundamental step is to know the dish you are going to taste in order to get an idea of the wine to choose. "I tend to be quite traditional, so I classically choose a red wine to pair with meats or a little more flavorful first course, while the white wine for a dish based on fish or more delicate white meats". The goal, therefore, is to create a marriage of flavors, aromas and sensations between the two elements at stake, which is however capable of enhancing the characteristics of both and, rather than just balancing them, making sure that they mutually gain taste. beyond its potential. The combination of food and wine must therefore create something new. 

As Nardi explains: “I don't like it when tastes are too similar to each other and overlap. I usually recommend, for example with a sweet-tasting fish such as a shrimp, a wine that is very savory and fresh, in order to create a contrast, because otherwise they would tend to cancel each other. I like that the dish has its own personality, but also the wine. Being a great lover of this world, I admit that sometimes more than matching the bottle to the dish I do the opposite. Wine is a protagonist in its turn, more than a pairing. We are dealing with two table stars who do not have to shade each other ".

Contrast of tastes for a unique experience

What are the criteria for pairing wines? “The trend today is to give a more complete taste. The dish is never monotonous: there must be the right sweetness, freshness, crunchiness and so on" explains Nardi. In fact, there are many factors to consider in a dish: the softness, the flavor (as in aged cheeses and many cured meats), the spiciness, the sour or bitter tendency, the succulence, the greasiness. Starting from the main flavors and sensations that that particular dish transmits, you need to choose the right bottle to get the balance. “Wine, therefore, can play in this sense a role in completing flavors. A dish with sweet tastes can be paired with a wine that has a more important acid component, to tease all the taste buds ".

As the wine maker explains, the pairing of food and wine today tends to proceed by contrast: dishes in which the fat component is predominant must be "degreased" with wines of good acidity and effervescence, while particularly succulent or greasy foods require a certain degree of alcohol and tannins to temper. “Normally it goes like this. Then it really depends on the audience you have to satisfy. Young people are more inclined to the new frontiers of taste, so this type of opposition can be very interesting. For example a sweet wine has always been paired with an equally sweet wine, such as a sparkling wine or a sweet still wine. Lately, however, there is a tendency to serve an extremely dry sparkling wine. It therefore depends on the audience that one is facing".

Wine and food pairing according to the seasons

We know how important the seasonality of products and raw materials is in the kitchen: every period of the year has its own colors, flavors and aromas, and this is reflected in the preparation of a dish. But does the same apply to wine? “Clearly, seasonality brings different tastes, it is true, but above all it also brings different conditions to how one approaches tasting" begins to explain Nardi. “It is therefore normal that tasting a red wine with a certain alcohol content with 30 degrees outside becomes rather complicated". 

Seasonality, therefore, not only takes into account the different dishes, but also the wine which must necessarily "adapt" to the conditions. "In summer we always tend to drink a fresh wine, such as a white or a sparkling wine". However, as Nardi explains, this does not mean that it is not possible to choose a good red, regardless of the season. "Obviously, I will never choose a wine with a very important alcohol content, but a more delicate one: before serving it, it is refreshed to bring it to the table at about 16 degrees, making it absolutely pleasant even for an evening or a very hot lunch". There is certainly a seasonality with regard to particularly intense, full-bodied and complex reds, which are tasted more during the winter, when looking for "warm" and more structured dishes. "In summer, drinking a white wine is certainly easier. But giving another example: with a summer grilled meat it is difficult to combine a white, so why not choose a delicate red? As I said, you leave it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes before serving to let the temperature lower by around six/seven degrees and you can enjoy it very well".

Red wine with meat and white wine with fish: a "rule" still valid?

Tradition teaches us that there is nothing better to combine with meat than a good glass of red wine, while the delicacy of fish is preferred to accompany a white. Is this a "rule" still valid today, or  are you trying new combinations? "First of all, it must be said that there is wine and wine. For example, a red wine from central Tuscany - or in any case a rather structured and full bodied one - is difficult to pair with fish, like a fillet, while if the dish is a “cacciucco" then the situation is different. If I pair fish with a delicate, fresh and savory red wine, why not? If we are talking about white meat, then we have a slightly wider range and therefore we can venture with a more structured white wine. On a red meat, such as a typical Florentine steak, it is much more complicated to try a pairing that is not a classic red. While with pork, not excessively tasty, such as a grilled steak, you can try to combine a nice structured white ". 

The tendency, therefore, is always to prefer a classic pairing, but taking into account the characteristics of the dish and the wine, one can range and dare with new and original combinations.


Tasting tips for some of Tenute del Cerro's excellences

When we talk about wine, we must think to the great Tuscan wine excellences, appreciated and known all over the world. This is because Tuscany is a region particularly devoted to viticulture, thanks to the lucky combination of ideal geo-climatic conditions that make it an area rich in biodiversity. This aspect is found in the variety of fine wines and, taking into consideration some of those produced by Tenute del Cerro, we ask Emanuele Nardi if he can give us some advice for the "perfect match", indicating a dish for each of them.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

Produced by La Poderina, in Castelnuovo dell'Abate - Montalcino, an area known for the particular elegance and balance of its grapes. The Brunello di Montalcino DOCG in the mouth is intense and strong, slightly tannic, soft and persistent. “With the Brunello, a structured and full red, you need to pair a dish with a full-bodied taste, certainly based on meat, such as pappardella with wild boar ragù, because it goes very well with game. Or, a roasted leg of wild boar or a wild boar alla cacciatora".

Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva DOCG

The falgship of the production of Fattoria del Cerro, located in Acquaviva in Montepulciano in the province of Siena, the largest private producer of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva DOCG has a full, persistent flavor with an evident tannic component, but “it is fresher and more fruity than Brunello. It can therefore be paired very well with dishes based on red meat, but not as tasty as a wild boar. Perfect is a roast beef or a classic cut of Chianina, or a ragù ".

Vermentino di Toscana IGT

In Val di Cornia, among hectares of unspoiled nature, we find the Monterufoli Estate, the wine produced here are: Poggio Miniera Val di Cornia DOCG selection and the Vermentino di Toscana IGT. The second is balanced, with good minerality, evident freshness and light sapidity and, as the winemaker explains, "goes well with white meats, such as that of a chicken that is not particularly tasty. Or, of course, with fish, such as grilled sea bass or sea bream, baked squid, or even king prawns because it tends to be very fresh and not sweet, with a nice acidity that degreases the mouth ".


But the fine Tuscan wines did not end here, and there are still many pairings that could be found. For this reason, being guided in choosing and tasting is an experience to try and for those who love the pairing of food and wine, a wine tour in this splendid region cannot be missing, to discover its food and wine excellences, to find the "perfect" match.​



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