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 complementary 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 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.”
“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.”