Wine and Food Pairing Guidelines

29 Nov

Pairing wines and food certainly is individualistic with endless variations, but a few basic principles can help guide you to good pairings. This article summarizes several of these principles, with examples, and future articles will go into more detail. In the meantime, you can experiment with these guidelines and the examples given below. Also, at Pairings Wine and Food we offer 6 wine and food pairings every Saturday from 4-7 pm, free.

Pair acidic foods with acidic wines. If the food has little or no acid, the wine will taste even more acidic, trending toward a vinegary or sour taste. As an example, goat cheese (an acidic cheese) pairs well with Sauvignon Blanc (an acidic wine).

Pair foods and wines with the same “power” (e.g. light wines with light foods). Pairing foods with contrasting “power” (e.g. a light wine with a heavy food), makes the tastes out of balance, and one will tend to dominate the other. An example at a recent Pairing, simple ham and cheese squares paired well with Pinot Noir. Both have “medium” power, and are  in balance. Tip 1: Pinot Noir is one of the most versatile red wines for food pairing.

Pair the wine with the most assertive taste(s) in the food. For instance, the protein may be dominated by a sauce. For example, a mushroom sauce will dominate roasted chicken, so that a Pinot Noir (for the mushrooms) may be a better pairing than a chardonnay (for the chicken). A recent example at one of our Pairings, curry was the most assertive taste in a Curry-Cashew Popcorn, and paired well with Chardonnay because the Curry isn’t spicy hot.

Pair meaty, rich and heavy foods with tannic wines (i.e., wines that engender some “pucker” in the back of the mouth). If the food is light, on the other hand, the wine will taste even more tannic, possibly becoming unpalatably bitter. Crispy Sausage at a recent Pairing went well with the big red tannic wines being tasted (e.g., Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Syrah). Tip 2: The strength of tannins in a wine can be reduced by decanting it (i.e. pouring from the bottle into another container). Tip 3: Adding salt to a dish will help tame tannins.

Pair sweet foods with sweet wines. Sweetness in a dish can make the wine taste sour or more tannic. This principle isn’t just for desserts. For instance, honey glazed ham may pair better with a wine that’s slightly sweet (e.g. a Riesling or Gewurtztraminer). Tip 4: For dessert, the wine generally should be at least as sweet as the dessert.

As for all general principles, exceptions abound and, in any case, individual tastes will trump principles. Experience is the best way to discover what types of pairings work for you. Come any of our Pairings to get more experience.


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