Wine and Food Pairing Guide

What should I pair with my wine?

Whether you’ve gotten the wine, then need the groceries, or vice versa, it is important to know exactly what to cook that pairs best with your wine, or what wine to select in order to pair with your food. Wine can be confusing, but we’re here to help you out. In just a few minutes, you’ll have the basics down, learn a bit of the finer details, and hopefully be encouraged to enjoy a glass with the special people in your life or simply just treat yourself!

The simplest part of wine pairing is summarizing the main components of taste people often use as a guiding point. Every bottle has a certain bit of bitterness, sweetness, and acidity. These levels vary across both color, region, and style and are a strong basis point for finding the ultimate pairing. Generally, whites are sweeter than reds, ,more acidic, and less bitter. There is obviously some range in bitterness, sweetness, and acidity within color groups and sparkling wines, but this is a guiding rule. For instance, a lighter bodied red would be a bit less bitter than a heavy bodied counterpart, but would generally be more bitter than the average white wine. Reds are generally the most bitter, whites the most acidic, and sweet / dessert wines the sweetest.

So where do I start?

The same general rules can apply to food - narrowing it down to a few select flavors such as sweetness, acidity, fat, and intensity of certain food or dishes. The main trouble with pairing food and lies lies in the fact that a certain dish will have multiple different components, such as a sauce and sides, whereas the wine stands alone. Since different components have different flavors, a certain wine could be paired with multiple dishes. You’ll have to decide the most prominent part of a dish, and whether you want to pair your wine with the meat, the sides, or the sauce. It is rare that all will lead to the same selection in wine. Age old rules such as “only white with fish” are starting to go away, but there are some basic, yet still customizable, guidelines to stick to in order to have a great wine drinking experience!

As if just simply picking a wine was not difficult enough, now you’re left needing to find the perfect pairing. Whether its for a family gathering, date night, or simply enjoying alone, we have the answers. There are two ways to pair wine - either with complementary or congruent flavors. Complimentary flavors are those that compliment the food. Complimentary pairings usually have distinctly different flavors in order to bring out some other flavors in a dish. For example, a light-bodied, acidic white would be a complementary pairing to a pasta dish with a creamy, buttery sauce allowing the cream to be brought to the forefront. A congruent pairing on the other hand is one that is consistent with the flavors of the dish. A great example of a congruent pairing would be a heavy, full-bodied red such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah paired with a smoky piece of red meat. The smokiness and bold flavors in both will match very well without the flavor of the food overpowering that of the food. A similar wine would overpower a light and fresh dish such as a salad of white fish.

What If I'm Craving Something Sweet?

Dessert wine is sometimes a standalone treat itself, but there’s often a great pair to be had between a dessert and its liquid counterpart. As a rule of thumb, the color in your glass should be on par with the color of your dessert. Pairing a dessert doesn’t always call for sweet wine, but many opt for it. A great wine can be paired with something on the sweeter side using the rules above. If opting for the sweeter side, much like a good, dark red would overpower a lighter fish, a port would be too much for a light and airy cake. On the other hand, a chocolate based dish would be a great pair for the sweet, and generally fuller port. If you’re opting for a healthier dessert of fruit, white wine or Champagne is very well suited

The Age Old Duo: Wine and Cheese

A common starter, dessert, or standalone meal over a bottle is cheese. Cheese is sometimes as confusing as wine - so many varieties, such differing flavor profiles. Thankfully, we’ll break down the basics of pairing your favorite wine with a delicious cheese. At the end of the day, it all is a matter of personal preference, but we’ll provide some assistance! First, it's important to pair bold cheeses with bold wines, and lighter cheese with lighter, less intense wines. Neither will overpower the other and will allow for the distinct flavors of each to be brought out. A great example of a complementary pairing would be Port with Blue Cheese. The sweetness would give balance to the odd flavors and allow the components to be distinct. Another complementary pairing would be to pair a soft cheese such as Brie with a sparkling wine. Generally, the soft, buttery, and fat flavor of the cheese will be balanced by the slightly bitter and more acidic, bubbly white.

What Will go Well with my Favorite Wines?

Enough of the science, let’s get down to business. Listed below are a few common types of wine, and what we’d suggest to pair them with.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Steak, gamey meats, and meals with thick, dark sauces.

The boldness and heavy body of a Cab will balance will with the bold flavors that come with beef and other red meat as well as bolder sauces. Obviously we won’t tell you not to drink your favorite Sauvignon Blanc with a steak, but we’ll just advise against it!

Pinot Grigio

Salads, light seafood and pasta dishes, as well as lightly fried food.

Your favorite light-bodied white is a versatile wine. It goes well with a spring salad (especially with seafood) and can even go well with a lighter Italian pasta. We would recommend against drinking Pinot Grigio with pasta with a heavier sauce, such as a ragu, but a lighter risotto would be perfect.

Since know many of you are Rosé drinkers, especially during the summer months, it is beneficial to know the above pairings are perfect for a crisp, light to medium bodied Rosé.

Pinot Noir

Roasted poultry, filet, and heavier fish

Since a Pinot Noir is on the lighter side of reds, it makes a perfect pairing for less gamey, more tender cuts of meat like a filet but also some heavier fish like salmon. While it wouldn’t be perfect for a white fish, salmon with a mushroom sauce would be our best recommendation.

Wine and Food Pairing in a Nutshell

To wrap it up, pairing your food and wine is as simple as do you like the way they taste together or do you not? Although there is a science to tell us what chemically or molecularly goes well together because of certain attributes, it all comes down to individual taste and what you enjoy! Maybe a bold red is too much regardless of the steak on your plate — and that is completely fine! Written above are some general guidelines and common pairings, as well as some of the nuances behind it. The best wine to enjoy with any dish is the one you will enjoy the most.