The Ultimate Guide to Wine & Olive Oil Pairing
Ever wonder how to create the perfect wine and olive oil pairing? In Italy, wine and olive oil are each an essential part of a meal. Both wine and olive oil work together to create a balanced taste experience, which is characteristic of many authentic Italian meals. Delicious and comforting. In this article, we’ll explore the different flavors found in both olive oils and wines, discuss their similarities, why wine and olive oil pair well, and provide specific wine olive oil pairing suggestions for you to try at home.
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Wine and Olive Oil Pairing History
In the culinary world, both wine and olive oil have a long history.
Wine dates back as early as 7000 BC in China (6000 BC in modern-day Georgia and Iran), while olive oil is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean basin around 4000 BC-3000 BC.
While grapes symbolize abundance, the olive branch symbolizes peace. Both have been regarded as sacred throughout history and have an important relationship. For centuries, wine and olive oil have historically been paired during mealtimes.
Despite its long history of wine olive oil pairings, however, the specific kind of wine and olive oil pairings haven’t always been given the same considerations it does today. However, as people grow in their knowledge of wine and olive oil, they’ve discovered that certain kinds of wine pairs best with certain kinds of olive oil.
And this specific pairing between different kinds of wine and olive oil is exactly what this article will go over.
Similarities Between Wine and Olive oil
- Olive tastings and wine tastings use similar descriptors to distinguish varieties, such as “fruity, mild, and mellow” for aroma, or “peppery, buttery, and nutty” for taste.
- The taste profiles of wine and olive oil are similarly influenced by the climate and where the plants are grown.
- The antioxidant polyphenols (tannins) are found in both olive oil and wine, which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Storage: both wine and olive oil need to be stored in a dark place to maintain freshness.
Differences Between Wine and Olive oil
- Aging: wine gets better with age, but olive oil does not (and spoils)
- Use: wine is primarily used for drinking (though yes, some cooking), but olive oil is primarily used in cooking.
Why Do Wine and Olive Oil Pair Well?
Traditionally, wine is paired with dishes to complement the dominant flavors and bring out a dish’s subtle notes. Olive oil is utilized in a dish to balance acidity, add depth, and increase healthiness. Pairing wine and olive oil are especially useful when attempting to balance a wine’s acidity (e.g., Pinot Noir or Chianti), bring out certain flavors in a dish, or increase a meal’s health benefits.
Congruent Pairings vs Contrasting Pairings
When pairing elements for consumption, there are two pairings you need to consider: congruent pairings and contrasting pairings.
As the name implies, a contrasting pairing adds balance to a dish by contrasting flavors.
A congruent pairing, on the other hand, adds balance by elevating shared flavors.
These flavors stem from our 5 basic tastes: bitter, salty, sour, sweet, and umami (savory).
In order to pair olive oil with wine, we also need to consider the food you are eating alongside the wine olive oil pairing.
Let’s take an imaginary meal for example: steak and green bell peppers made with olive oil.
- Steak is naturally acidic and fatty, which gives it a distinct umami component.
- Green bell peppers have a combintation of bitterness and sweetness.
- Robust extra virgin olive oil will give the dish a slightly spicy finish.
In a contrasting pairing, a good wine match would be a sweet one. This will balance out the bitterness of the peppers, the spiciness of the olive oil, and the acidity of the steak.
In a congruent pairing, a good wine match might be one with more bitterness. Since tannins give the wine a deeper color, we know that red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon would bring out the bitterness of the green peppers and so elevate the shared bitter flavor of the meal.
FUN FACT: A recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (2021) found that olive oil actually enhances red wine’s flavor. So if you’re in a pinch and you need a quick wine and olive oil pairing, I recommend pairing a full-bodied red wine with an extra virgin olive oil.
What To Look for When Pairing Wine and Olive Oil
- Acidity (tartness): the higher the level of acidity, the more tart or crisp it is. Sweetness can balance this out.
- Flavor profile: what do you taste? Fruits, vegetables, herbs, etc.
- Bone Dry/Dry: longer fermentation, lower residual sugar level
- Semi-dry/Semi-sweet: medium fermentation, moderate residual sugar level
- Sweet/Very Sweet: shorter fermentation, higherres sugar level
Olive Oil Varieties
- Mild: delicate, buttery taste, slightly peppery finish
- Medium: complex notes, fruity, spicy/peppery finish
- Robust: bold, prominent peppery finish
Best Wine Olive Oil Pairing Combinations
For a quick reference guide on the best wine olive oil pairings, here’s how to pair your favorite wine with the right olive oil:
Bone Dry Wine Pairs with Mild Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Merlot (smooth, red fruit notes, medium acidity, medium/full-bodied) pairs well with mild extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO).
Dry Wine Pairs with Mild-Robust Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- California Chardonnay (fruity, tropical, medium acidity) pairs well with mild, fruity olive oil
- Cabernet Franc (fruity, distinctive green vegetable notes, medium acidity) pairs well with medium, buttery or peppery olive oil
- Syrah (black pepper and spicy notes, medium acidity, full-bodied) pairs well with medium-robust EVOO
- Cabernet Sauvignon (dark fruit notes, brings out sweetness, high acidity, medium/full-bodied) pairs well with robust EVOO
Semi-Dry Wine Pairs with Medium-Robust Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Sauvignon Blanc (herbal notes, refreshing, high acidity, medium-bodied) pairs well with medium-robust, fruity or grassy EVOO
Sweet Wine Pairs with Medium-Robust Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Sweet Riesling (aromatic, floral, high acidity, light-bodied) pairs well with medium-robust, fruity olive oil
- White Zinfandel (light, fruity, high acidity, medium-bodied) pairs well with medium-robust EVOO
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For the best wine and olive oil pairing experience, I recommend using Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). It is the highest grade of olive oil, offers more health benefits, and has a better flavor overall.
My Favorite Wine Olive Oil Pairing To Buy
Personally, my favorite wine olive oil pairing ever is the La Maliosa wines and olive oils, which come from a woman-owned farm in Tuscany. Here’s why:
- Since 2015, all their products have been certified vegan and organic
- With 160 hectares in the hills of Maremma in Tuscany, La Maliosa’s owner (Antonella Manuli) follows Lorenzo’s legendary biodynamic guidelines called the ‘Corino Method’, which promotes sustainable and regenerative organic farming methods in all aspects of wine and olive oil production throuhgout her vineyards and olive groves.
- La Maliosa’s olive oils regularly win gold medals in the BIOL competition dedicated to the best extra virgin organic olive oils from around the world.
I first tried La Maliosa products from Vero – an online wine & craft foods service. Vero, by the way, means “real” in Italian. The products they sell (wine and olive oils) are sourced from farmers who make authentic, natural products from their own land. I’m a huge supporter of sustainability and buying local (vs mass-produced), so I loved this about the company!
Since trying different combinations and wine olive oil pairings, I’ve come to the conclusion that my all-time favorite pairing has to be the La Maliosa’s Saturnia Rosso Red Wine and/or Rosso Tuscan Red Wine paired with their Aurinia Tuscan Blend Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO).
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This pairing is a true flavor explosion, in the best way possible! And you can buy it individually or as a set. The pairing set from Vero also comes with free shipping, but no matter which option you choose, the La Maliosa wine and olive oils make the best treat for hosting dinner parties!