The 6 Basics to Pairing Food and Wine

The basics of flavor-matching are actually quite simple (although not always easy to pull off). These are the six basic profiles to work with when thinking about matching food and wine.

Posted: March 23, 2014 at 6:56 a.m.

Acidity in wine pairs well with fatty and sweet foods.

Fatty foods need either an acidic or high-alcohol wine, otherwise the wine will taste flabby.

Bitter (aka Tannic) wine can be balanced with a sweet food.

Salty shouldn’t compete with acidity in wine. Use sparingly as necessary to keep sharpness in the meal.

Sweet food/wine benefits from a little acidity.

Alcohol can be used to cut through fatty foods or to balance a sweet dish.

Common Food and Wine Pairing Techniques

Regional Pairing

The idea of a regional pairing is pretty fundamental. Imagine Italian wine and Italian food or an Oregon Pinot Noir with a cow’s-milk cheese from the Willamette Valley. Regional matches aren’t always the perfect pairing. However, they provide a template to understand more about what’s going on structurally with wine and food pairings.

Acid and Acid

Unlike bitter, acidity can be added together with food and wine to create the basis of what wine people think about when selecting a wine with dinner. If the wine has less acidity than the food, the wine will taste flat. An easy visualization for acids out of balance is a glass of oaked, warm-climate Chardonnay with a vinaigrette salad. When pairing a dish with wine, consider the acid balance between the food and the wine.

Sweet and Salty

For one that loves maple bacon, candied pecans and salted caramels, a wine and food pairing of a sweet wine with a salty food will probably be delightful. Pair a Riesling with Asian foods such as fried rice or Pad Thai, or try a “low calorie” dessert of pretzels and tawny port.

Bitter and Bitter

Bitter does not go well with more bitter, which is the primary reason why the author of the “Wine Folly Blog” loathes red wine and chocolate pairings.

Bitter and Fat

Grab a big thick piece of fatty something-or-other and pair it with a wine with lots of tannin. This is the classic steak with red wine food pairing. However, it can be better than that. Try a red wine, such as an Italian Sangiovese with lots of cherry flavor, and an herbed potato croquette, roasted red tomatoes and rocket (a classic Tuscan Secondi). Suddenly, it is a meal that has the tannin balanced with the fat in the croquette and a congruent flavor in the dish and wine (tomato and cherry) that elevate each other.

Acid and Fat

There is nothing like a glass of champagne to cut the fat. A high-acid drink will add a range of interesting flavors to a lipid-heavy dish. This is why white wine butter sauce is popular. The white wine in the butter sauce livens up the whole dish. So when in the mood for something fatty like cheesecake, get a glass of something bubbly and zippy.

Alcohol and Fat

The alcohol category is a bit of a strange one. The alcohol taste actually comes across as acidity, so a lot of the same ideologies of the Acid and Fat category pass over into Alcohol and Fat. The primary difference is that a high-alcohol drink should not be used as a palate-cleanser because it is highly intoxicating. Instead, look at an alcohol and fat category as a way to mitigate high-speed food consumption. A glass of 17% ABV (alcohol by volume) zinfandel will greatly slow down the rate at which one consumes a pepper steak. The alcohol and fat category is often used as a dessert pairing, but it can be used more in dining as a way to learn to eat slower and enjoy longer.

Registration is required to make comments. Click here to LOGIN.
You can register for FREE to post comments and receive alerts.