Wine and Food
Learn the fundamentals behind food and wine pairing to create your own great pairings. This guide will show you the steps and what to look for in your recipe to find the perfect wine. Additional tips are below!
A great food and wine pairing creates a balance between the components of a dish and the characteristics of a wine. As much as it seems complex, it’s actually pretty easy to make great pairings.
The steps to pairing food with wine
1. Know the “rules” of wine pairing (see below)
2. Identify the basic tastes in food and wine
3. Assess the intensity of the dish to find an equally intense wine
4. Choose a basic taste strategy (e.g. sweet + salty, fat + acid, sweet + sour, etc)
5. Play with subtle congruent or complementary flavor pairings to find a potential match
Flavor pairing is based on the science of matching aroma compounds. Design from Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine
What is Congruent and Complementary Pairing?
A complementary pairing creates balance by contrasting tastes and flavors.
A congruent pairing creates balance by amplifying shared flavor compounds.
9 Tips For Pairing Wine & Food
If you’re just getting started, you’ll find these tried-and-true methodologies to produce consistently great pairings. That said, as you get more familiar with different wines, you’ll become confident and can experiment breaking the rules. The wine should be more acidic than the food.
1. The wine should be sweeter than the food.
2. The wine should have the same flavor intensity as the food.
3. Red wines pair best with bold flavored meats (e.g. red meat).
4. White wines pair best with light-intensity meats (e.g. fish or chicken).
5. Bitter wines (e.g. red wines) are best balanced with fat.
6. It is better to match the wine with the sauce than with the meat.
7. More often than not, White, Sparkling and Rosé wines create complementary pairings.
8. More often than not, Red wines will create congruent pairings.
Identify The Basics Tastes
In this day and age, we’ve learned that there are over 20 different tastes found in food – from the basic, including sweet, sour and fat, to the extreme, including spicy, umami and electric. Fortunately you only need to focus on 6 tastes when pairing food and wine: Salt, Acid, Sweet, Bitter, Fat and Spice (Piquant).
Basic Taste Components in Wine
For the most part, wine lacks the 3 tastes of fatness, spiciness and saltiness but does contain acidity, sweetness and bitterness in varying degrees. Generally speaking, you can group wines into 3 different categories:
1. Red wines have more bitterness.
2. White, rosé and sparkling wines have more acidity.
3. Sweet wines have more sweetness.
Basic Taste Components in Food
Simplify a dish down to its basic dominant tastes. For example, baked macaroni has 2 primary components: fat and salt. Southern barbecue is a bit more complex and includes fat, salt, sweet and spice (plus a little acid!). Even dishes without meat can be simplified. For example, a green salad offers acidity and bitterness; creamed corn offers fatness and sweetness.
Consider the intensity
FOOD: Is the food super light or super rich? A salad may seem lighter, but perhaps the dressing is balsamic vinaigrette with high acidity. If the intensity of the dish isn’t obvious at first, just focus on the power of each taste component (acidity, fat, sweet, etc).
WINE: Is the wine light or bold? Here are a few examples:
• Sauvignon Blanc is light-bodied, but it has higher acidity
• Chardonnay has more body, but it’s usually not too acidic
• Pinot Noir is lighter bodied (for a red wine) and it doesn’t have too much tannin (bitterness).
• Cabernet Sauvignon is more full-bodied and has high tannin (more bitterness).
A Guide To Help You Pair Red Wine With Food.
Barbera: Probably the first red wine that you drank in an Italian restaurant, Barbera goes well with tomato-based dishes and those from the North of Italy
Cabernet Sauvignon: A global classic, Cabernet Sauvignon tends to be medium or full bodied, and is a great match to hearty dishes such as roast lamb and beef, and more complex dishes such as coq au vin.
Gamay: Going to a barbie? Take along a bottle of Gamay. It’s ideal served alongside griddled veg, barbecued sardines or spicy sausages. Pop in the fridge for an hour before opening, and serve lightly chilled.
Grenache: The perfect partner to hearty and rustic dishes, game and cassoulet. Charter a couple of Labradors, stalk across some windblown countryside, then come home to roast venison…
Malbec: The Argentinian favorite – Malbec is at its best as a match to grilled steak.
Merlot: Pair Merlot with your Christmas turkey or Sunday lunch of roast chicken. It also pairs well with roast duck and wintry casseroles.
Nebbiolo: A young ‘Barbaresco’ will go well with a platter of cold meats, while ‘Barolo’ is best with richer dishes, such as braised beef.
Negroamaro: Right from the Southern heel of Italy, Negroamaro (literally ‘bitter black’) is a good match for pasta bakes and spicy sausage dishes.
Pinot Noir: Medium bodied Pinot Noir will happily grace any Christmas dinner table – it’s ideal with roast turkey and roast lamb. It’s also works well with creamy, mild soft cheeses – try the cheese with rough oat cakes.
Pinotage: Red Pinotage is a natural with barbecued steak and sausages – think beach parties and Southern African ‘braai’.
Sangiovese: This largely Italian red grape partners well with rich meat sauces on pasta – or try it with a pepperoni pizza, at home or in a restaurant.
Syrah / Shiraz: This grape produces full bodied wines that go particularly well with grilled steaks and roasted vegetables. A winter warmer.
Tempranillo: The bright red juicy wines from the Tempranillo grape are a perfect match to roast lamb, roasted vegetables and mushrooms, especially vegetarian main courses.
Zinfandel: A medium to full bodied wine, Zin goes well with sautéed field mushrooms or heartier dishes such as roast venison.