A Beginner’s Guide to Wine and Food Pairings

Need help choosing the best food to pair with your wine?

We’re telling you now that wines and chocolate aren’t the best of friends.

Contrary to common belief, this combination is challenging to pull off. Chocolates contain tannins, regardless of flavor. When these interact with the tannins that wines have, the result is a bitter, if not sour, encounter.

What should you pair with your wine selection, then? Read on to find out the best alcohol and food pairings!

Introduction to Wine and Food Pairings: Matching the Taste

There are 20 different tastes, but in alcohol paring, you only need to focus on six flavors. These tastes are salty, acidic, sweet, bitter, fat, and spiciness.

Most wines contain varying degrees of acidity, bitterness, and sweetness. They commonly lack the tastes of saltiness, fatty, and spicy. These taste gaps now become your starting point when pairing different types of wine.

As such, it’s best to understand the tastes that wines have. Red wines, for instance, are acidic and more bitter. On the other hand, sparkling white wines and rosé wines have more acidity but are sweeter.

With this information about wine, you can make a better pairing. The question, however, is whether you complement or contradict the taste of the wine. Find out more in the section below!

What Type of Pairing Would You Prefer?

After identifying the basic taste in your wine, start playing with pairing options. There are two ways that you can mix and match food and alcohol: complementary and congruent pairing.

Complementary pairing is when you balance the richness of a wine with another flavor. For example, you can balance the high acidity of Sauvignon Blanc with goat cheese. The earthy, buttery flavor will neutralize the acidic after-taste of the said wine.

Meanwhile, Cabernet Sauvignon has higher tannin and is full-bodied, meaning it’s bitterer. Taste-wise, you need a tinge of fattiness to offset the tannins.

Hence, pair with slightly fattier steaks such as sirloin and ribeye. For the best taste combination, serve the steak rare to medium-rare.

On the one hand, when you select food for wine because it shares the same taste element, it’s a congruent pairing. White wines with a creamy taste and a creamy dish are classic examples.

Classic Combination: Wine and Cheese

Now that we’ve got the basics of food and alcohol pairing let’s dig deeper. Here are more specific pairing tips for various types of foods. Let’s start with the classic wine food: cheese.

A good rule of thumb to follow with cheese is the funkier the wine, the funkier the cheese should be. Bold red wines go well with intense, firm, and salty cheese. For example, peppery and aged cheddar cheese is great with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Nutty and washed-rind-flavored cheeses are the best partner for light red wines. Unfortunately, blue cheese is not the best food to pair with white wines. Blue cheese has an intense flavor that’ll overwhelm the wine.

The Best Wine and Chicken Combination

A platter of different kinds of cheese has good chemistry with wine, but so does chicken and poultry. A good rule of thumb when pairing is to match the most prominent taste of the chicken and poultry dish.

Naturally, the cooking method employed affects how the dish tastes. Roasting, for instance, will not only make the chicken meat tender but will also preserve the intensity of its flavor. This cooking method suits richer white wine, light-bodied red wine, and rosé wine.

Barbecued chicken has a smoky and savory flavor that matches richer red wines like Cabernet Franc or Malbec. Poaching removes a lot of flavor from the meat but preserves its texture and moisture. You should pair poached chicken with light white wine like Colombard.

Lambrusco, rose champagne, and sparkling wines are great for fried chicken. Chilled dishes are best served with white wines like Pinot Blanc and unoaked Chardonnay.

The Perfect Lean Meat and Wine Recipe

Among alcohol pairings, meat, and beer is the most favored pair. However, lean meat paired with wine can also make your day dreamy.

Rich meat cuts like prime rib will pair nicely with a red wine with high tannin. However, light or medium-bodied red wines are the way for leaner cuts like sirloin tip-side steak.

Finally, fatty meats like filet mignon and t-bone are great with high tannin, bold red wines. Tannins are good palate cleansers that scrap the fattiness of these types of lean meat.

Expose your wine to oxygen using a wine aerator for a more flavorful meal. Doing so enhances the wine’s aroma and taste while you eat with meat. 

Ever Tried Fish and White Wine?

Fish is not the ingredient you think of when making food pairings for alcohol. Yet, did you know that wines have surprisingly good chemistry with green veggies and fish?

Thin and flaky fish like tilapia and sea bass is excellent with mild white wines. These include sweet Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio,

Firmer, thicker, medium-textured fish like trout, cod, and halibut can hold up to richer wine. Hence, pair them with either highly aromatic or rich, full-bodied oak-aged white wines.

Examples of firm, meaty, and steak-like fish include mackerel, tuna, salmon, and bluefish. These go well with rich white wines and a few red and rosé wines. Specific examples include Oaked Chardonnay Viognier, White Burgundy, and Dry Rosé.

If you noticed, white wines are highly endorsed with fish. This is because red wines have high levels of tannin.

When these tannins interact with fish oils, it creates a metallic after-taste. Meanwhile, the zesty taste of white wines refreshes the delicate fish flavor, balancing it out.

The story changes when dealing with dishes with strong-flavored fish like anchovies. For instances like this, red wines are the way to go but mind the tannin level.

Alcohol and Food: The Best Pairing

Remember, match the intensity of the cheese with the wine. White wines are the way to go for fish unless you’re dealing with strong-fish flavor.

The type of wine will vary depending on how you prepare and cook your chicken and poultry. However, your mantra for meat should be “the leaner the meat, the lighter the wine.”

These are only a few of the best food pairings. If we go into detail and include the sauce, you’ll have to explore our guides for a while longer.

Fortunately, you can look further to dig deeper into alcohol and food pairings. We have a library on alcohol, wines, and more waiting for you!