How to Pair Food and Wine (A Guide)
4 Rules for Pairing Food and Wine
As we discussed in the VIDEO GUIDE, the fundamentals of food and wine pairing can vary, but there are some basic rules we can agree on. We put together this guide to help you get started and learn more about food and wine pairing.
We also cover food and wine pairing in episode 21 of our series, 21 Days to Wine, a free introduction to wine tasting.
Balance is the number one rule for food and wine pairing. The right combination works like magic to bring out the best on your plate and in your glass. A perfect pairing is almost like magic! Flavors of both the food and the wine can really sing when paired correctly.
When choosing a wine to pair with food, take into account the consistency of the main ingredient as well as well as how it is prepared.
For example, a grilled chicken breast is lean and simple. Fried chicken has texture, fattiness, and depending on what’s in the batter a very intense flavor. Barbecued chicken is juicy and also potentially intensely flavorful.
Acidity, minerality, tannins, and effervescence (bubbles) all work in different ways to help clean and polish your palate, and prepare you for another extraordinary bite.
1. Acidity tingles on the tip, sides and back of your palate. It actually acts like a cleaning agent to skim away the sensation of fattiness.
2. Minerality, those metallic, stony, and salty notes stimulate a mouthwatering finish. That rush of saliva can temper strong and overpowering flavors.
3. Tannins also clean up the palate, but in a different way. The drying and dusty sensation of tannins can be a little intense without any food. When you eat something rich and saucy, tannins accentuate the flavors in the same way reducing a sauce in the pan increases aroma and flavor.
4. Effervescence (bubbles) work like tiny scrubbers to keep your palate feeling fresh and clean. Remember the scrubbing bubbles commercials? Just think of that happening in your mouth when you drink a glass of Champagne!
Pair aroma and flavor with aroma and flavor. A wine with bold, spicy finish will overpower a grilled chicken salad, whereas smoked brisket will leave a light-bodied, crisp white wine like Pinot Grigio tasting like water.
2) Pair body with body
A delicate sashimi or ceviche might burst with flavor on your palate, but it won’t weigh it down. Save that buttery California Chardonnay and serve more delicate and mineral-driven white wine like Albariño or Vermentino. Likewise, a mouthful of tender, juicy beef stew or pasta sauce loaded with ground beef and pork and powerful aromatic herbs will surely linger on the palate. Choose a wine with similar staying power and enough weight.
If your food has a particular spice blend, or fresh aromatic herbs, or even a nutty, floral cheese, consider choosing a wine with a similarly unique aromatic profile to suggest and bring out special flavors.
Example Pairing: Mozzarella di Bufala and Fiano d’Avellino.
Fiano is a white wine that grows predominately in the volcanic soils of the southern and central regions of Italy. It has a tendency to oxidize quickly and take on a nutty, floral quality. When paired with a seemingly simple, fresh mozzarella, the flavors of the milk burst into bloom.
4) Consider Tradition and Local Flavor
There’s a famous expression: What grows together goes together. In many parts of the world food and wine traditions have evolved side-by-side for centuries. Sometimes the easiest way to pair food with wine or vice versa is to look at the regional cuisine and wine production. For example, in coastal Southern France Provençal rosé wines from the surrounding area, are standard pairing for dishes like Bouillabaisse, a spicy seafood stew. The piquant fruit notes and minerality of the wine balance and accentuate the flavors.
Lastly, tradition also applies to you! Drink what makes you happy and nostalgic. Sense memories are one of the many joys of wine and food. If you have happy associations about drinking Franzia rosé with pizza in college by all means, keep doing it every once in a while. Just remember, the more you know about food and wine pairing, the wider your world, and more you will appreciate the power of flavors!
A certified sommelier and DiVino founder, Annie believes that the language of wine is more than vocabulary. It is history, culture and most of all, storytelling. She created DiVino as a writer, educator, and wine consultant to bring those stories to life and give people the tools to join the conversation.