Wine Stuff to Know: Wine & Food Pairing around EPCOT
What makes a successful food & wine pairing? How do you decide when EPCOT's World Showcase is overflowing with tasty options? Today we explore a few food & wine pairing tips to get you ready for the reopening on EPCOT on July 15th and the new Taste of EPCOT Food & Wine Festival.
Food & Wine Pairing Basics
At its most basic level, food & wine pairing comes down to how the two interact with each other. The goal is for that interaction to be be enjoyable. Generally, foods will have more of an impact on the wine than the other way around. Which is why it is best to think about what food you want first, then select the wine to accompany it.
The Food. And the Sauce.
When you are deciding on a wine, consider the food you are getting - steak, chicken, pasta - as well as the sauce. The best way to explain this is by an example. Chicken is usually considered a protein that should be accompanied by a white wine. However, if you are enjoying a hearty tomato and mushroom sauce with your chicken, red wines will likely work better with those bold sauce flavors.
"You have to consider boldness darling" -Lumière (probably)
Continuing our chicken and mushroom sauce example from above, the intensity of food flavors do matter. A light white wine would be completely drowned out by the heavy mushroom sauce. Think about how big and bold, or light and crisp, your meal components are and pick a pairing wine accordingly. A wine's character can be greatly muted by intense food. Likewise, a wine that is too bold can dampen lighter fare. An earthy, rich Italian Chianti would mute the delicate flavors of a thin slice of fresh mozzarella. If you add that mozzarella slice to a hearty meat sauce and top a pizza pie with it, and Chianti would be a delightful option.
Avoid the burn
Acidity in wine is good. A high acidity wine paired with spicy food is less good. A high acidity and high alcohol wine with spicy food is very less good. It can create an unpleasant burning sensation in the mouth and throat. If you are looking to pair a spicy dish with a beverage, beer and sake are great options. For wine pairing with spicy food, look for something that is off-dry or has some sweetness.
Tips specific to visiting EPCOT - World Showcase restaurants and during seasonal festivals
Menus have been carefully crafted
Disney takes their theming very seriously; it is the key component to creating the magic. No detail is overlooked, including menu planning. Whether for festival booths or the Showcase's multiple restaurants, the food and beverage menus have been crafted with care and diligent thoughtfulness. The options you see on the menu have been carefully selected - use the knowledge you learned above to pick out the best pairing for what you've selected for food or are in the mood for.
Menus may include pairing suggestions
A few restaurants in Disney World are starting to include suggested pairings on menus. As mentioned above, the menus are created by experienced chefs and beverage directors - take confidence in trying what they have suggested. I'll challenge you to use the information you learned above about food & wine pairing to explore WHY the suggested pairing works. As you take sips of your wine and nibbles of your meal, think about why the pairing works (or if you don't care for it, why not? You can always learn from what you don't like as well). This type of tasting practice is how we learn and can make our own choices when suggestions are not available.
New World Wine Regions and Old World Wine Regions
This information is particularly helpful when trying to decide what to try at the multitude of festival booths that scatter around World Showcase (and have now begun to creep into Future World as the festivals' popularity grows).
Old World wine regions (classic wine producing areas with more regulations on production and grape options such as France, Italy and Spain) traditionally prepare their wines to be paired with food. The character of the wine will have more food friendly components - tannin, acidity, depth of flavors. If you are trying to pace yourself or very interested in pairing wine and food, the Old World booths are a great start.
New World wine regions (countries newer to wine producing and with less restrictions such as Australia, United States and Chile) often design wines to be enjoyed solo. Their character will be more balanced, likely more fruit forward on the palate; easy drinking.
These are generalities. Old World producers make easy wines and New World producers make complex and intense wines. The notes here are a guide. I'm including this information to help you pick food and wine at festival booths. There are so many options at the festivals, you should pace yourself and make smart decisions of what to try. If you want to pair a wine with food, Old World kiosks may be your go-to. If you want a wine to sip solo as you people watch or watch the Showcase entertainers, hit up a New World kiosk.
As always, remember, what YOU like makes a wine good. What YOU like makes the food good. These tips are to help you make the best pick. But ultimately, pick what YOU like.
~Cheers & Ears