Food and Wine Pairing

Ten Tips to Successful Food and Wine Pairing

  1. Spicy, salty, smoked, and highly seasoned dishes are best paired with wines that are fruity and lower in alcohol such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris/Grigio, dry roses, and Pinot Noir. Avoid oaky and more tannic wines.
  2. Richer, fattier foods pair best with heavier, full-bodied wines such as Chardonnay, Caternet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Syrah.
  3. When pairing sweeter foods with wine, try to keep the sweetness in the dish less than the apparent sweetness of the wine. If necessary, sweetness in the dish can be curbed with a touch of citrus juice or vinegar.
  4. Higher-acid foods, such as goat cheese, tomatoes, and citrus fruits, pair most effectively with higher-acid wines such as Sauvignon/Fume Blanc, some Rieslings, Pinot Gris/Grigio, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir. If the wine seems too tart for the dish, add a touch of lemon juice or vinegar to the dish.
  5. In a meal progression where multiple wines will be served, serve lighter wines before more full-bodied ones. Serve dry wines before sweet ones, unless a dish with some sweetness is served early in the meal, in which case it should be matched with a wine of like sweetness. Serve lower-alcohol wines (Riesling, Sauvignon/Fume Blanc, and Pinot Gris/Grigio) before higher-alcohol ones (Chardonnay, Viognier, Gerwurztraminer, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah).
  6. Help connect dishes to the specific wine you’re serving by tasting a small amount of the wine as you’re finishing a sauce or side dish so that the recipe can be “tweaked” to maximum effect. If the wine seems too tannic or bitter for the dish, a sprinkling of citrus zest or nuts can be added to the dish, for example.
  7. When using wine in marinades or sauces, use a decent-quality wine. If possible, this should be the same varietal as will be matched with the dish, but it need not be the same exact wine if you wish to drink a better wine than the one with which you’re cooking.
  8. Grilling, roasting, sautéing, and braising are preferred cooking methods when matching dishes with most wines. Poaching and steaming are more delicate cooking methods that work best with more delicate wines such as Pinot Gris/Grigio and some Riesling. Smoking food works most effectively with lighter, fruitier wines – Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel.
  9. Food and wine pairing is about synergy – the food should not overpower the wine, nor should the wine overpower the food.
  10. Great food and wine combinations come from finding similarities and contrasts of flavor, body (texture), intensity, and basic taste. This is a highly subjective, inexact endeavor. Taste, and trust your own instincts.

Taken from: The Wine Lover’s Cookbook – Great Recipes for the perfect glass of wine, by Sid Goldstein


Leann’s additional tip: If you have a bottle of imported wine do an internet search on the city or region that the wine is from and what foods are harvested or typically eaten in that area.



Four Basic Tastes:

  1. Sweet – in wines a reflection of residual sugar. Wine above 0.6 percent residual sugar has some apparent sweetness, although it may not taste sweet to many until it reaches about 1.5 percent residual sugar.
  2. Sour – experienced by wine’s natural acidity.
  3. Bitter – in wine noted primarily in its tannin structure. Certain foods have tannins as well, most notably walnuts and pecans. These can help lessen the apparent effect of tannin in young Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel.
  4. Salty – not an element found in wine, so not much of a consideration. Dishes that are slightly salty due to their use of anchovies, olives, soy, or Thai fish sauce can compliment lighter, fruity wines such as Gewurztraminer, Riesling, dry rose, and some Pinot Noir. On the other hand tannic red wines and oaky whites fare very poorly with salty dishes, which create a noticeable increase in the wines’ apparent tannin and oak levels.


Foods to avoid when exploring successful pairings with wine:

  1. Asparagus – it contains phosphorus and mercaptan, two components that twist the flavors in most wines in the wrong direction.  Pinot Gris/Grigio or Sauvignon/Fume Blanc are the best wines with asparagus as they have enough acidity.
  2. Artichokes – contain an acid called cynarin, which makes everything taste sweet after eating it.
  3. Chiles – capsaicin in small amounts in milder chiles, such as jalapenos, Anaheims, and poblanos are not particularly problematic for wine matching. However hotter chiles will wreck havoc with oaky white wines and tannic reds. Oaky wines will taste more oaky. High-alcohol wines will taste hotter, even burning. Tannic wines will seem more bitter. Overall, chiles numb the palate’s ability to appreciate the subtleties of wine, particularly older reds.
  4. Eggs – difficult to match with wine because the yolks coat the palate and make it more difficult to taste wine. When eggs are used as part of quiches or hollandaise sauces, they are less intrusive. Champagne, Sauvignon/Fume Blanc, Pinot Gris/Grigio, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and fruitier styles of Chardonnay stand the best chance of working with eggs.
  5. Vinegar and Pickled Foods – vinegars can rob wine of its fruit, making the wine seem astringent and unpleasant. The exception is Balsamic vinegar – its sweet, nutty character can contribute complexity to sauces but it must be used judiciously to avoid overpowering the wine.  When matching salad dressings to wine it’s best to keep the ratio of oil to vinegar at least three parts to one. In general white-wine vinegar works best with white wines and red-wine and balsamic vinegars with reds, but balsamic vinegar can adapt to white wines when used in salads.  Most pickled foods, except for capers and ginger, also are difficult to pair with wines.  Use capers sparingly paired with Sauvignon/Fume Blanc and Pinot Gris/Grigio.  Pickled ginger works with aromatic, fruitier wines.


Taken from: The Wine Lover’s Cookbook – Great Recipes for the perfect glass of wine, by Sid Goldstein