When it comes to pairing wine and food, there seems to be two types of people:
- the perfectionist group that meticulously tries to find the flawless pairing
- and the whimsical group that seems to pull pairings out of thin air.
Fortunately, for both groups, pairing wine with nuts is easier than cracking a walnut.
There’s a natural marriage between wine and nuts that seems to bring out the best in each other. It’s almost as if they were predestined for pairing.
So, whether you are an explorer of tastes and textures, the perfectionist type, your first time pairing the two, or an experienced wine matchmaker, the following advice is to help you get on the right path to finding that tasty nutty treat.
What to Consider When Pairing
There are a handful of elements that one can consider when pairing wine with any food, especially nuts.
These elements are derived from the characteristics of the foods and how they might interact with the characteristics of wine. The following is a list of some of the more prominent elements and characteristics to consider:
- Acidity – many foods and wines have an acid component. For wine, the acid element adds characteristics like freshness. For foods, the acid seems to bring a certain zest to the meal. Unfortunately, highly acidic foods can overpower and cancel out many wines. They tend to hide the tannin and make wines appear sweeter.
- Bitterness – the taste of bitterness sometimes outlasts any other taste. It can cover up other elements in wine like acidity. Bitterness has also been known to hide tannin and accentuate sweetness. A combination of bitter food with bitter wine almost always ends up a bitter experience.
- Fat – foods high in fat typically require wines that balances them out with acidity or require more tannin to help cut through the taste.
- Saltiness – foods with a salty taste tend to prevent you from a wider range of wine choices. Saltiness can make a wine taste bitterer or punctuate its sweetness.
- Sweetness – sweet tasting foods and wines seem to be a match made in heaven. However, there can be too much of a good thing here. The sweetness of foods may cancel out the sweetness of the wine. Additionally, sweetness can also diminish the bitterness or acidity of a wine.
- Texture – the texture of a food is a great way to decide which wine to get. Food textures may be light or heavy and require an equally textured wine. The more adventurous consumers might try a contrast of textures for a unique experience.
Some of you might not be able to fully appreciate or identify these different characteristics in foods or wines and that’s ok.
Focus on what tastes good to you. These are just some tools to help you better pair foods and wine. This is not a scientific formula that will result in the perfect combination. However, they will give you a better idea on selecting the right pairing of wine and nuts the first time you try.
Complement or Contrast
Now that you have an idea of what tastes, elements or characteristics to look for, it’s time to decide on how you want to pair wine and nuts.
There are two options here:
Complementary or Contrast
The complementary approach tends to bring harmony between wine and food. It’s like a balancing act of taste buds. Your goal is to find a wine that complements the taste of foods like a Cabernet Sauvignon and grilled lamb chops.
The contrasting approach is a counterbalance of intense tastes, characteristics or elements. For example, pairing a sweeter wine with spicy foods.
The choice of contrast or complementary really comes down to what you are in the mood for, what’s available, what tastes you enjoy, and your knowledge of both wine and nuts.
Going Nuts over Nuts
With over 50 different types of nuts in the world, it’s safe to say that most of us have never tried all of them. This can pose a significant challenge when trying to pair nuts with wine. Your best bet is to stick with nuts that you are familiar with or that are very common. Nuts that are common tend to have more information, recipes and feedback that you can take into consideration during your pairing process.
If you happen to come across a less common nut, a good tip would be to pair it with a wine that’s also from the same region as the nut.
Another nut factor to take into consideration is how the nuts are prepared.
Are they raw, baked, roasted or some other form?
Roasted nuts tend to go better with rich, red wines where raw pistachios would better be served with something lighter and zestier.
Some Tested Nuts & Wine Pairings
The following is a list of potential pairings for you to consider. Feel free to mix and match these pairings.
- Pistachios and Cashews with Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris/Grigio
- Hazelnuts or Almonds with Chardonnay or Champagne
- Pecans with Riesling
- Walnuts with Pinot Noir
- Chestnuts with Merlot
In the End
No two palates are the same. What may taste good to you, might not be enjoyable to someone else. The pairing process of nuts and wine really comes down to your personal preference. Keep this process simple by choosing nuts and wines that you are familiar with and enjoy.
The more adventurous souls out there are certainly welcome to continue experimenting.
You may find some delicious combinations that don’t follow the general wine pairing theories.
This guest post was written by David Wilson exclusively for Social Vignerons.
David is a wine professional with over 20+ years of industry experience. His love for wine has seen him travel and work in various locations throughout Australia, a four-year stint in the USA and a lot of trips to New Zealand. He spent eight years with one of Australia’s largest retailers before working for the fourth largest wine producer globally. If he could be a wine, it would be Shiraz!