Do you have a great bottle of chardonnay waiting for the perfect occasion, but you are wondering which dish to best pair it with?
Or maybe you are grilling some beautiful steaks but are not sure which wine you should serve along with them? Which is the best wine to go with burgers or with chocolate?
If you are new to the world of wine and food pairing, we are here to lend a helping hand. Here are some general guidelines that you can follow to understand the best wine pairings.
Basics of Wine and Food Pairing
Use this guide to understand how to pair many classic wines with different foods.
● Dry White Wines: Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon blanc, Albariño
Food Pairings: Fish, Starches, Roasted Vegetables
The category of dry white wine is quite vast, but they are mostly bright, light, and acidic. They pair quite well with foods that are similarly oriented, such as light fishes, grilled chicken, spring vegetables, and herby and citrusy dishes.
● Sweet White Wines: Moscato, Malvasia, Gewurztraminer
Food Pairings: Hard & Soft Cheese, Sweets, Cured Meat
Sweeter white wines go best with rich desserts and salty appetizers. Not only this, but they are also preferred with spicy Asian cuisine as the sweetness helps counter the heat.
● Rich White Wines: Chardonnay, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier
Food Pairings: Soft Cheese, Rich Fish, Starches, White Meat
The heavier and creamier white wines are capable of standing up to stronger flavors. They are also less acidic and do well with leaner meats. Due to this, they go well with chicken, pork loin, and salmon.
● Sparkling Wine: Champagne, Prosecco, Cava
Food Pairings: Vegetables, Hard & Soft Cheese, Fish, Starches
Sparkling wines are mostly used in festivities and fun, but they go quite well with most snacks.
● Light Red Wines: St. Laurent, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Zweigelt
Food Pairings: Rich Fish, Cured Meat, White Meat, Roasted Vegetables, Starches
Lighter reds are considered shape-shifters. They change their ways depending on the dish. These wines interact well with fatty fishes, leaner red meats, white meats, and earthier vegetables such as mushrooms.
● Medium Red Wines: Merlot, Zinfandel, Red Table Wine
Food Pairings: Cured Meat, Red & White Meat, Starches, Roasted Vegetables, Hard Cheese
These are some of the most versatile wines and can go well with everything from cheese plates to salads to pasta and desserts.
● Bold Red Wines: Malbec, Anglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon
Food Pairings: Cured Meat, Red Meat, Hard Cheese, Starches
Big, bold red wines are classic steak wines. They are tannic and rich enough to cut through the fat. They also go well with spicy entrees like BBQ chicken.
● Dessert Wines: Ice Wine, Port, Sherry, Late Harvest
Food Pairings: Sweets, Starches, Soft Cheese, Cured Meat
As the name suggests, dessert wines are best paired with desserts, including chocolate, cheeses, sweets, salty nuts, and anything else that helps round out the meal.
● Rosé Wines: Provence Rosé, Garnacha Rosado, White Zinfandel
Food Pairings: Hard & Soft Cheese, Roasted Vegetables, Starches, Fish, Cured Meat, White Meat
When in doubt, go for rosé wine. They have the fruitiness of reds coupled with the acidity of whites, making them a great match for a variety of cuisines and dishes.
Tips to Match Wine and Food Perfectly
1. Identify Basics Tastes
We get over 20 different tastes from food – from the basic, sweet, fat, and sour to extreme flavors like umami, electric, and spicy. However, while pairing wine and food, you need to focus on six primary tastes, which are salt, acid, bitter, spice, sweet, and fat.
- Basic Taste Components in Wine
Most wines comprise three basic taste components – sweetness, bitterness, and acidity. Based on this, wines from different wine barrels can be categorized into the following:
- Red wines are more bitter.
- Sparkling, Rosé, and White wines are more acidic.
- Sweet wines are sweeter.
- Basic Taste Components in Food
To understand the right wine and food pairing, simply strip the dish to its basic dominant tastes. For instance, baked macaroni has two taste components: salt and fat. Green salad has bitterness and acidity, whereas creamed corn offers sweetness and fatness.
2. Find Contrasting or Congruent Pairings
- Complementary Pairing
Let us take the example of a simple dish: baked macaroni. The creamy béchamel sauce of the dish will go well with zesty wines like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio to create a fantastic complementary pairing.
- Congruent Pairing
A creamy white wine will add to the dish’s creaminess. So, a mac and cheese dish with creamy béchamel sauce paired with a Chardonnay or Viognier will create a strong congruent pairing.
Advanced Wine and Food Pairing
It is best to follow the abovementioned rules of wine and food pairing as a beginner. But once you are an expert at the rules, you can start breaking them once you know how to. Afterall, rules are made to be broken, right?
Some of the best wine pairings defy logic. For instance, champagne goes great with fried chicken. Muscadet and sushi, Riesling and Moo Shoo Pork, Merlot, and Red Chile Enchiladas are some other great pairings that sound strange.
Once you understand the basics of pairing a dish with a wine, the techniques of balancing fat, tempering spice, and matching acidity, you will have a lot of room to explore.
If you are faced with a meal without an obvious pairing – such as Korean BBQ, you can go ahead and experiment with different wines from expensive bottles to used wine barrels.
● Pinot Noir: Pair with earthy flavors
Dishes containing earthy ingredients like truffles and mushrooms go great with red wines such as Dolcetto and Pinot Noir. This is because they are quite light-bodied but loaded with a savory depth.
● Chardonnay: Pair with fatty fish in a rich sauce
Silky whites such as Chardonnays from Australia, Chile, or California work best with fatty fishes like salmon. You can also pair them with any seafood dish made in a rich sauce.
● Champagne: Pair with anything salty
Most of the dry sparkling wines like Spanish cava and champagne come with a faint note of sweetness. This makes them extremely refreshing when taken with salty foods such as udon noodles with nori salt.
● Cabernet Sauvignon: Pair with red meat
Red wines like Bordeaux and California Cabernet work best with red meat dishes such as lamb chops and steaks. The firm tannins contained in these wines help refresh the palate after every bite.
● Sauvignon Blanc: Pair with tart sauces and dressings
Tangy dishes such as scallops with grapefruit and onion salad do not overwhelm zippy wines such as Vinho Verde from Portugal, Verdejo from Spain, and Sauvignon Blanc.
● Dry Rosé: Pair with rich, cheesy dishes
Some cheeses pair better with white or red wines, but almost all of them pair excellently with dry rosé. This is because rosé contains both the acidity of white while coupled with the fruitiness of red wine. For indulgent cheese dishes like Triple Decked Italian Cheese sandwiches, go for Dry Rosé.
● Pinot Grigio: Pair with light fishes
Light seafood dishes such as tostada bites tend to taste even more flavorful when paired with delicate white wines. Try pairing them with Arneis or Pinot Grigio from Italy and French Chablis.
● Malbec: Pair with sweet and spicy barbecue sauces
Shiraz, Côtes-du-Rhône, and Malbec are bold enough to be taken with foods having strong flavors like barbecue sauces.
● Moscato d'Asti: Pair with fruit desserts
Sparkling wines like demi-sec Champagne, Asti Spumante, and Moscato d’Asti help bring out the flavors of the fruit in desserts instead of sugar. Try them with delicious desserts such as honeyed fig crostatas.
● Syrah: Pair with high-spiced dishes
Heavily seasoned and spiced dishes such as cumin-spiced burgers with harissa mayo pairs best with a red wine with spicy notes. French Cabernet Franc, Greek Xinomavro, and Syrah from Washington are some great options.
Wine and food pairing can be as simple or as complex as you like. But the most important thing to remember is to have fun and drink what you love!