Vilma Mazaite is the Assistant Director of Food and Beverage at the famous Little Nell hotel in Aspen, Colorado. She has a diploma from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, has been awarded the Advanced Sommelier title and is on her way to becoming the Master Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. In this second part of a three part series, transcribed from an interview by our reviewer Vilma Darling, Vilma shares more of her knowledge with Bon Vivant.
Part 2: Vilma’s Guide to Basic Food & Wine Pairing
Acidity is the main ingredient for food and wine pairing. For me it’s very important, because I always have some wine with food. You can pair similar textures of food and wine or you can almost contrast them. For example, the classic pairing – spicy works well with something a little bit sweet, so German Riesling and spicy Thai food is a match made in heaven.
You could have some game meat with the same aromas in wine – gamey and spicy. For example, Syrah or Grenache, let’s say from Rhone, would go extremely well with game and would have enough acidity to elevate its flavours.
Creamy pasta can be great with creamy white wine – what goes better with cream than more cream? Well, it could also work well with good acidity light red, which would cut through the richness of the butter or cream of pasta sauce, like Pinot Noir from Burgundy or Nebbiolo from the Piedmont region in Italy.
When it comes to seafood, it depends of course, but if it is grilled, fresh seafood or fish with olive oil and lemon, then it should be white wine.
I don’t always enjoy the New World wines, because they are bigger, bolder and fruit driven. They are great to enjoy on their own, but when it comes to food, they can lack acidity. I prefer wines that are a little bit more lean and elegant, but that doesn’t mean that they are not full of flavour; they have so many layers if you really want to start analysing them.
That’s why I love Burgundy – a light and elegant style pairs well with food. Chablis or unoaked Chardonnay are bright and have amazing acidity, so you can pair them with oysters and with any type of seafood or salads. Chablis normally is unoaked, but if you go a little bit down South to Burgundy, you get Meursault which is normally round and smoky because of the oak influence and you can pair it with creamy pasta.
When I go out, I always choose a bottle of sparkling or a bottle of white that pairs well with the majority of foods, because I love to eat small plates. White wine always works well with food because of the acidity and its brightness. Lighter red is also always good and a safe option if you are not sure what you are going to eat.
Rosé is another wine that can be universal with food. If you are having different dishes such as tapas or not sure what to eat, a bottle of rosé is perfect.
If you drink certain wines without food you might not enjoy them, because they might be too sharp, acidic or tannic and will lose their value. Wines such as the very tart Sangiovese, the anic Nebbiolo or the acidic Burgundy require food to balance them out.
If you are not into food and wine pairing, do not worry and choose your favourite wines with any kind of food: The most important thing is to enjoy and trust your own palate.
For further information on Vilma Mazaite, please click here to visit her blog and keep an eye out for the final part of the guide, which will be posted shortly.