A piece by Ray Isle at Food & Wine a few years ago explores this question of how much food and wine really can complement each other. He says:
I find that in the vast majority of pairings, the wine and the food don't affect each other much; they coexist peacefully, if unexcitingly. In a modest percentage of matches, the wine and the food accentuate the flavors in one another, and both taste better as a result; however, an equal percentage, I'd say, are the reverse.
But every now and then wine and food complement each other spectacularly. I think of a strawberry panna cotta I had last summer with a glass of not-too-sweet Moscato, the strawberry and floral flavors playing back and forth in a shockingly delicious way.
Isle offers a few of his own picks for wines and foods that come together in a special way, including:
Melon and prosciutto and dry Muscat. The perfumy, grapey character of the Muscat--Terre di Orazio's bottling is particularly good--complements the melon, while the saltiness of the prosciutto makes a nice counterpoint to the wine's ebullient fruitiness.
Black truffles and old Burgundy or white truffles and old Barolo. Truffles have a wild, musky, earthy depth that goes very well with the aromas and flavors--gaminess, spice notes, earth, dried fruits and, well, truffles--that these wines acquire over time.
Read on for more of his piece and his picks:
An Expert's Pairing Advice at Food & Wine
Your turn! What food and wine pairings have made you gasp? Any really amazing pairings that complemented both the food and the wine?
More on Pairing Wine with Food
• Yes, You Can Drink Wine With Birthday Cake. Here's How!
• Wine and Soup: Easy Pairing Tips
• Wine and Cheese: Why Pairings Don't Really Matter
• Wines for Hot and Spicy Foods
• A Sip and a Cone: 5 Luscious Wine and Ice Cream Pairings
• A Safe Bet: Sherry and Cheese. Together.