Sommelier Tip: Wine-Free Pairing

How to match food with wine-free pairing and other libations.

Published on Nov 28, 2012

Wine may be food’s perfect partner, but increasingly, wine directors are organizing multicourse dinners that match spirits, beer and saké with specific dishes, resulting in some revelatory meals.

At Elements in Princeton, New Jersey, Justin Kuruvilla, the restaurant’s wine director, curates 6–8 nontraditional pairing dinners each year. These events “tend to draw a more youthful, fun-loving crowd,” says Kuruvilla. “Our consumers like to broaden their flavor spectrum, which is why we try to incorporate these beverages into our wine-free pairing.”

Matching weight- Wine-Free Pairing

In food and wine-free pairing, the most basic element considered is “weight”-the balance between the weight of the food (a heavy, red sauce pasta versus a more delicate salad) and the weight or “body” of the wine (a heavy Cabernet Sauvignon versus a more delicate Pinot grigio). In wine tasting, body is determined primarily by the alcohol level of the wine and can be influenced by the perceptions of tannins (from the grape skins or oak) and extract (the dissolved solids in the wine derived from winemaking processes like extended maceration and sur lie aging).

Kuruvilla offers these outside-the-box tricks:

Spirits
Beer
Saké

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