“Reds with meat, and whites with fish” is the wine pairing advice that probably every Filipino has heard. This piece of advice isn’t wrong but pairing wine with food is more fun than that!
You might even find it hard to imagine pairing Pinoy food with wine, as it isn’t a common practice here in the Philippines but guess what: wine is always great with food, and there are many varietals that could easily complement our own cuisine.
In fact, a foreigner from the online cooking show, Maputing Cooking, pairs wine with Filipino food every week!
Let’s graduate from the vague pairing advice and get down to specifics: what are the basic tastes in a particular dish, and what type of red or white wines would best complement them?
The basic tastes can be classified into six categories: fatness, spiciness, saltiness, bitterness, acidity, and sweetness. By distinguishing these in the food, you can easily pair with a wine that matches the flavor intensity but lacks its basic tastes.
This basic tastes chart from Wine Folly is a great reference for pairing!
A perfect pairing would result to the food and wine developing tastes that are better, and more balanced than they would on their own.
Filipino food are usually loaded with fat and salt, so pick a bold, acidic wine that cuts through all the taba and balances the saltiness.
Caldereta, for example, has a creamy, tomato flavor. It’s a dish that falls in between heavy and light, depending on how it’s cooked. This would pair well with a Tempranillo, since it’s a savory wine that pairs well with most food. It’s considered full-bodied but isn’t as heavy as most reds of the same type.
Crunchy and salty food, like chicharon, would be good with sweet and/or sparkling wine to take out the fatty, malansa taste. Riesling, or Prosecco would balance the salt and match the pork flavors.
For dishes that rely heavily on sauces, it would be best to gage the flavor of the sauce rather than the meat itself.
Salpicao has a light, sweet sauce that could complement dry and medium-bodied reds, like Sangiovese. The same goes for other meat dishes, such as adobo, bistek, and even longganisa.
Check out this longganisa pasta recipe. Perfect with your favorite light-bodied red!
Vegetable dishes will pair well with a low acidity, light-bodied white wine, like Pinot Grigio. The fruity and nutty notes of this wine can complement the light seasoning of vegetables and starters, like green bean, chopsuey, and salads with oil or balsamic vinegar dressing.
Pinoy Chopsuey paired with a dry white!
For other wine options with similar flavor intensities, try Sauvignon Blanc, Arneis or a dry Chenin Blanc.
Light seafood, like fish, oysters, and mussels, would be good with an equally light, fresh, and crisp wine like Pinot Grigio, or a dry Riesling.
Try them with ceviche (or kilawin in Tagalog), or any sweet and/or sour flavored fish, and see how the dry, white winesbring back the moisture in your mouth and balance the acidic seafood flavors.
Note: the more acidic the food, the ‘flabbier’ your wine will taste when pairing it, as the vinegar from the food is congruent to the acid in the wine masking it to a degree on your palate.
Maputing Cooking’s “Filipino ceviche”
This effect is enjoyable to an extent but if the food is much more vinegary than the wine, it may spoil the pairing.
Expert tip: when wine pairing to vinegar rich dishes like adobo or kinilaw, it’s worth lessening the vinegar in cooking, knowing that the wine pairing later will compensate and give the right balance.
A little disclaimer: while we did say that wine is always great with food, note that not all dishes can pair well with wine.
Some well-loved Filipino food, like sinigang and pinapaitan would be extremely difficult to pair because the flavors are so strong that they can overpower your palette and make a perfectly balanced wine taste like a bland grape juice.
Some vegetables are also known to not work with wine, such as asparagus and Brussel sprouts because of the compounds naturally present in them that can elevate the undesirable flavors of wine, like the sulfuric and overly acidic tastes.
To discover wine pairings that work best for you, be on the lookout for several wine and food events that pop up often around Manila, or refer to the tasting notes Winery Philippines’ catalogue to find a bottle that could pair well with your favorite dish.
For any pairing, always remember that the most important factor to consider is your personal preference and enjoyment. Don’t be afraid to mix and match, break some rules, and find what tastes and feels best for your own palette.