FAQ 27: How do I pair flavours?

FAQ 27: How do I pair flavours?

Posted by Kylie Suich

Everyone has a different approach to how they pair flavours.  For those who start with a spirit they usually consider the tasting notes and what will enhance the top note flavours.   

Others will start with a flavour in mind they want to reflect across a dessert plate, or wine selection and choose accordingly - so maybe start with orange, add some mandarin and a subtle lime note so staying with a citrus based flavour palate.

I like to focus on what is complementary, what is a contrast and then what could be contrary between each flavour. This way I can curate a chocolate tasting box, featuring different artisan chocolate producers, to deliver a unique tasting experience.

For example, complementary could literally be oranges with oranges; while a contrast could be orange paired with a zesty lemon; and for something contrary that tastes amazing orange paired with ginger.  

A Summer Picnic Limited Edition tasting box started with a wine that is perfect to enjoy in late summer early autumn, the Nebbiolo Pyrnees 2019, from Susuro wines.  The tasting notes describe it as: a light cherry red to start, similar to a deeply coloured rosé, a theme continued by its pretty watermelon, potpourri and spicy aromas. The wine is then crisp, light-bodied and perfumed with raspberry and floral flavours supported by silky tannins with a lingering finish.   

Luckily for me I can literally think in flavours, what is traditionally paired together and what is a bit unusual - and of course I refer to dessert recipes for inspiration.  When curating a box, I always start with a complementary pairing first as it is easier and then I have a flavour foundation to work up from.

My first pairing was the Monsieur Truffe dark chocolate, Very Berry Cosmo.  It features dried blueberries that were rehydrated using the Bass & Flinders Cerise Gin which has floral notes.  It also has a touch of vanilla, some riberries and rose petals on top which enhance the floral notes. My selection complements  the raspberry and floral flavours of the wine.     

With this curation example, I chose the contrary pairing first instead of the contrast as a flavour popped out at me: the Organic Dark Lime & Coconut bar from Coco Chocolate. A richer intense flavour than the Very Berry Cosmo, with the lime and coconut reflecting tropical humid summers, so northern Queensland instead of hot usually dry summers in Victoria where of course cherries are a feature summer fruit. 

And then to the contrast pairing.  I wanted a sense of summery lightness with the chocolate to pair with the wine, so I  chose the Orange & Pistachio White Chocolate from QQ la Praline.

Orange, cherries and raspberries are perfect together in a fruit salad and white chocolate is often paired with a pink gin, wine or champagne.  So this choice is a contrast to what else is on taste - though of course within the broader recognisable flavour palate as per the wine tasting notes. 

Overall, when curating A Summer Picnic I focused on how someone could move through the flavour palate I was presenting with the chocolates to enjoy them with the Nebbiolo or with a simple summer fruit Mocktail.

If you are trying to pair flavours at home you are not used to, image a fruit, nut & cheese platter you would like to enjoy for dessert. Choose what you are comfortable with and also something a bit different to treat your tastebuds. 

If you are now imaging cherries, raspberries, oranges and Turkish Delight, enjoyed with a glass of wine then order A Summer Picnic now. 

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