Pairing 101

The Fundementals

Wine flavors are derived from fruit, sugar, acid, tannin, and alcohol and foods have flavor components such as salt, sugar, fat, acid and bitter. The key is to match complimentary components (either through similarity or contrast). Wine Enthusiast highlights the 6 elements of food and wine pairings. Understanding these elements will give you a solid foundation to start pairing!

Acid Element

“Acid is a key element in both food and wine. In wine, it adds nerve, freshness and lift. It can do the same with food, as when lemon is squeezed on a fresh piece of fish. When looking for a wine to go with an acidic dish, you should make sure that the perceived acidity of the wine is at least equal to that of the food, or the wine will taste bland and washed out.”
“Salty foods seem to limit your wine choices. Salt can make an oaky chardonnay taste weird, strip the fruit right out of a red wine and turn high alcohol wines bitter. But with a bit of imagination, you can conjure up some remarkable combinations of salty foods and sweet wines. Bleu cheese and Sauternes is another one of the world’s classic food and wine combos. Sparkling wines are a home run with salty, fried foods.”

Salt Element


Sweetness Element

chocolate bars isolated on white background
“Sweet desserts and other sugary foods seem easy—just pull out a sweet wine—but beware. Here’s where a rule really needs to be observed. There are degrees of sweetness. With desserts you must be certain that the wine tastes sweeter than the dessert; otherwise the dessert will strip the wine of its sweetness and render it bitter or tart.”
“What about bitter flavors? In some cultures, bitter flavors are prized, but most of the time they are to be avoided. When bitterness in wine meets bitterness in food, it acts the opposite of sugar. One does not cancel out the other; they merely combine.”

Bitterness Element

Texture Element

“As for matching textures, think light and heavy. Light foods are best with light wines; heavy foods with heavy wines.”

Getting Started

If you are looking for a good place to start, Food and Wine Magazine’s Ray Isle did a great job creating pairing rules for 15 fantastic wines.
  • Champagne is perfect with anything salty.
  • Sauvignon Blanc goes with tart dressings and sauces.
  • Choose Grüner Veltliner when a dish has lots of fresh herbs.
  • Pinot Grigio pairs well with light fish dishes.
  • Choose Chardonnay for fatty fish or fish in a rich sauce.
  • Off-Dry Riesling pairs with sweet & spicy dishes.
  • Moscato d’Asti loves fruit desserts.
  • Rosé Champagne is great with dinner, not just hors d’oeuvres.
  • Pair a dry Rosé with rich, cheesy dishes.
  • Pinot Noir is great for dishes with earthy flavors.
  • Old World wines and Old World dishes are intrinsically good together.
  • Malbec won’t be overshadowed by sweet-spicy barbecue sauces.
  • Choose Zinfandel for pâtés, mousses and terrines.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon is fabulous with juicy red meat.
  • Syrah matches with highly spiced dishes.

The Most Important Thing To Remember Wine Is Subjective.
Trust Your Taste Buds And Drink What You Love.