Wine Pairing Basics: Two No-Fail Tips

Category: Food

Pairing food and wine shouldn’t be rocket science. More than anything, it has a lot to do with personal taste so there are no cut and dry rules. In fact, most wines work with most foods, but knowing a few basic rules can enhance your enjoyment. Eating and drinking is meant to be enjoyable, all you need are a few simple tips for a great meal!

Complementary Flavors
Complementing flavors is an easy way to pair wine with your food. When you pair this way, you are matching the structure of the wine with the structure of the food. For example, matching a big, powerful, wine with a rich and savory dish. A light, delicate dish wouldn’t work with a robust red since the flavors in the wine could overpower the food.

Match creamy with creamy – like a Chardonnay with a cheesy pasta dish or poultry with a cream-based sauce.

Match acid with acid –  Any dish with lemon or citrus would do well with a crisp, acidic wine like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Albariño, or even Chenin Blanc.

Match sweet with sweet – Chocolate cake? Crème brûlée? Pair your desserts with a sweet wine like Port or Moscato. Also match fruity wines like Gewurztraminer and Riesling with dishes that contain a significant fruit component.

Contrasting Flavors
Pairing your food and wine with contrasting flavors means you are trying to counterbalance a taste or structural element in either the dish or the drink. For example, rich, fatty dishes such like steak diminish the perception of tannins (or acidity), making a robust wine such like a Cabernet Sauvignon seem smoother. Salt on the other hand, accentuates the tannins of a wine and can make it taste more astringent.

Match spicy with sweet – A big tannic red with spicy chow mien? Not so much. Very spicy flavors tend to react badly with bold, high alcohol wine, making them taste even hotter. A fruity or lightly sweet wine like Riesling or Pinot Gris is much better suited to your Thai take-out.

Match creamy with crisp – Pair a crisp, acidic wine to cut through a rich and creamy dish. Try a Sparkling wine or Sauvignon Blanc with your fettuccine alfredo or mac and cheese.


Tastemaker Claire Thomas shares her basic food and wine pairing tips!

Drink and Eat What You Like
Forgot the rules already? Choose a wine that you would want to drink by itself. That way, even if the pairing isn’t perfect, you will still enjoy what you’re drinking; at worst, you might need a sip of water or bite of bread between the dish and the glass.

Click here to see more wine tip videos from Club W!