Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.

Food and Wine Pairing – An Introduction

There are several useful guidelines in food and wine matching that you may want to consider. The whole point is to make both the food and the wine enhance one another, so the experience is even more pleasurable. It should be a happy marriage, where both compliment and neither party is too over-powering.

One of the most important guidelines is to match by the intensity of flavor. Some foods, like spicy Asian dishes, can be very strong and so it is important to have a powerfully flavored wine to stand up to them. Chilled German Riesling, Gewurztraminer from Alsace, or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc can stand up to powerful spicy foods, and also have the benefit of being more refreshing than a red wine because of the service temperature.

On the other hand, more delicate foods pair better with less intense wines. Oysters and Muscadet, crab and Sancerre, smoked salmon and bubbly are some good matches.

Another useful tip is to pair food and wines according to their weight. If you have heavy food, like a steak, then it generally pairs better with a fuller bodied red wine, like a Cabernet or a Merlot. If you then put a peppercorn sauce on the steak you are increasing the level of flavor intensity, and so now maybe an even more powerful red, like an Aussie Shiraz or a California Zinfandel, would work better. On the other hand, you can take my word for it that oysters and Shiraz don’t make for a happy marriage.

Highly acidic foods can be tricky to pair with wines. The important thing to know is that high acid wines taste softer when paired with dishes containing a lot of citrus, or tomato. Many Italian red wines can be quite acidic, but when they are drunk with pasta in a tomato sauce, or a Pizza, they become much more enjoyable. So when in Rome, do as the Romans. That’s to say, look for the classic regional pairings.

Finally, there is a myth that red wines pairs well with all types of cheeses, but this is simply not true. For soft cheeses, like chevre, the ideal wine is a crisp dry white like a Sauvignon Blanc, which can cut through the creaminess of the cheese. This can be a great way to start a meal, served as an appetizer.

There are some good books on food and wine matching, like “What to Drink with What you Eat” where these guidelines are explained more in-depth, along with several others. Given that you might be eating and drinking for a few more years, it’s probably worth buying.