The evaluation criteria of modern pairing
A correct evaluation of the pairing should be totally free of conditioning, carried out in environments free of extraneous noises and odors without consulting the senses of hearing and sight, concentrating solely on smell and taste. In such conditions the combination would become a pure technical exercise, useful in certain contexts, but equally useless in everyday life, where food and drink are combined during meals, simply for pure personal pleasure.
Frequently the combinations suffer interference due to emotional states or environmental factors (a well-laden table, a particular environment or the pleasantness of the people involved) helping to enrich the pleasure of the experience that is being experienced. A beautiful location, for example, can make us forgive some defect in the pairing or an excellent pairing can make us forgive environmental imperfections. Personal experiences, habits and memories contribute to creating personal criteria when choosing a particular pairing. The sense organs are stimulated by all these factors by sending information to the brain, where the idea of pleasure is realized, which is the real purpose of finding a good pairing.
As we saw in the previous article, the pairing follow different schools of thought, however, the Italian school has established over time a series of criteria that are used to create what we now call modern pairing.
It’s good to remember that regardless of the type of criterion used, each evaluation arises only from the careful examination of the characteristics of the products, leaving out clichés, incorrect traditions or urban legends.
The criteria of the modern paring of the Italian school
The tradional pairing
It is based on regional cuisine: local dishes and wines are combined according to ancient habits. This criterion not only brings together geographical coincidences, but also scents and flavors given by uses, environments and people.
The seasonal pairing
It’s based on consuming and combining the most suitable foods in every season. In the cold season you feel the need for a more substantial diet based on dishes rich in calories pairing with very structured red wines with a high alcoholic strength. In the warm season, on the other hand, one feels the need for a less rich diet based on low-calorie dishes combined with young and sparkling wines, not particularly structured and with an alcohol content not too high.
The above criteria are interconnected. The rules mentioned above may not always be applied, as there are territories with climates completely different from the Italian one, with cold summers and warm winters, or without certain products. Globalization, apart from personal opinions, has contributed to the distribution of certain products worldwide, making them available throughout the year. Moreover, the spread of ethnic food cultures has allowed the growth of new knowledge to search for new types of pairing and the cases of impossible pairing are increasingly rare.
The valorization pairing
It’s based on the possibility of enhancing the organoleptic characteristics of a dish, a wine, or both. If you decide to enhance the preparation you will avoid choosing a structured or aromatic wine; if instead it is decided to enhance the wine the food should have neutral characteristics to allow those of the wine to emerge. Finally, if you want to enhance both, you will have to opt for a perfect harmony of flavors, enhancing the characteristics of a particular dish with a wine without the characteristics of the latter being diminished.
Concordance and contrast pairing
It’s certainly the most used and widespread criterion in the whole world. It was created in 1978 by some professional Sommeliers led by prof. Pietro Mercadini in order to offer a technical-scientific matching system with respect to other schools of thought.
The fundamental principles of this method indicate that the characteristics of the wine are in contrast with those of the food in order to dampen certain characteristics that are too aggressive, or of concordance based therefore on the need to make the food correspond to a similar characteristic of the wine.
The two elements proposed for pairing must have the same organoleptic characteristics in the same “weight” to achieve balanced sensations. The perceptions that can be matched by concordance are listed below.
Once a distinctive feature has been identified in the first element, it must be contrasted with a characteristic of equal “weight” in the second element so as to cancel out creating a perfect balance between the two parts. Listed below are the perceptions that can be matched by contrast.
It’s important to note that this table refers to food-wine pairing but in other contexts such as food-beer or food-distilled pairing the perceptions may vary.
In this article we have seen how the pairing can be conditioned by innumerable psychological and environmental factors, both in positive and in negative, but always trying to point to what is definitive the purpose for which the same pairing exists: the pure personal pleasure . We have seen how the Italian school has defined over time various criteria that can be applied to enhance a combination by analyzing the most common and important ones. To date, the method based on the criteria of concordance and contrast is the most widespread in the world, thanks to its technical-scientific approach, however it’s good to remember that although it’s a subject in which there are rules that establish the balance of perceptions, when we talk about pairing there are no unique and absolute rules because of the partial conditioning of our mind.