How do you pair food and wine? Should you choose the Pinot Noir or Pinot Grigio? It can be complicated, and there is a multitude of information that can be confusing. We listed some basic tips to help you decide how to make the right wine selection to pair with your meal and hope that you will find pairing food and wine a bit more simplified.
- Wine can enhance the flavor of food. A good food and wine match will enhance the flavors and unique characteristics of both the food and the wine.
- When pairing food and wine, the wine shouldn’t overpower the food, nor should the food overpower the wine.
- Think of wine as if it were a condiment — it should compliment the food.
Flavors found in wine
The basic flavors in our foods are also found in wine. Some of those flavors can be sweet, tart (sour, acidic), bitter (puckery, astringent sensation) and salty (which isn’t found in wine, but affects its flavor). In addition wine has alcohol which adds aromas and body, making the wine feel richer. Alcohol gives wine a sense of body and weight, the higher the alcohol, the more full-bodied the wine.
Wine drunk by itself tastes different than when you drink wine with food. The same way that spices interact with food to change the flavors, wine interacts the same way with food. The acids, tannins and sugars in the wine interact with the food to provide different taste sensations.
When you are having foods that have some acidity, such as salads with citrus fruits, or vinegar, choose a wine that is high in acidity. White wines that are acidic are Sauvignon Blanc and most sparkling wines.
Salty, Sour or Bitter
Foods with a prominent salty, sour or bitter taste will make a wine seem sweeter and less tannic. Tannins from the skins and sometimes stems of grapes and the oak barrels used for aging cause the bitter or astringent aftertaste in some red wines.
Did you ever notice when you are at a cocktail party that many of the salty appetizers pair perfectly with the sparkling wine and Champagne. The acidity in the sparkling wines cuts the saltiness. They make a better pairing to the salty foods than less tart red wines.
Match food and wine flavors
Match the flavors of both the food and the wine. An earthy Pinot Noir goes well with mushroom soup. The grapefruit/citrus flavors of Sauvignon Blanc pair well with fish in a lemon sauce. Consider how the food is prepared. Delicately flavored foods (steamed) — pair best with delicate wines. Braised, grilled, roasted or sautéed, which can be richer and fattier dishes pair with fuller-bodied wines.
Deciding how you will serve the food and wine is another important element when selecting wines. Will you serve wine as an apéritif, or with appetizers, dinner, or even dessert. Let’s check out the details.
Serving wine as an Apéritif
An apéritif stimulates the appetite making it a perfect start to the evening. Here are a few tips for serving apéritifs to your guests while you are putting the final touches to your dinner.
- Choose a sparkling wine as your apéritif. Sparkling wines are very affordable and you’ll be surprised how much fun serving a sparkling wine brings to your evening.
- Select a white wine that is low in acidity. A white wine from a warm climate will have lower acidity. This will keep from interfering with the taste of the food.
- Select a red wine that is low in tannins. The high tannins may be too strong and will interfere with the taste of the food.
Wine with Dinner
A good food and wine pairing will enhance the flavors and of both the food and the wine. Just try to keep the flavors of the food, or the sauce, the same as the flavors in the wine. For instance, if you are serving a seafood dinner with a citrus or lemon sauce, serve a wine with citrus flavors.
Wines for Fish
- Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand are light, crisp and citrusy.
- Sancerre and Pouilly Fume (also from sauvignon blanc) are French wines that are light with grassy or herbal flavors that are also great with fish.
- White Bordeaux sometimes a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon (semillon gives a richness) can stand up to richer fish dishes such as salmon, as well as a variety of other dishes.
- Pinot Grigio has a neutral character that makes it a good match for fish.
- Australian Riesling varieties have a lime/citrus flavor.
- Pinot Noir – is very good with salmon and grilled fish if you are a red wine drinker.
Wines for Meat
- Cabernet Sauvignon from California, Australia, Chile, or Bordeaux are classic pairings for red meat. Merlot and Syrah/Shiraz are also good pairings.
- Bordeaux and Rioja will pair with Lamb
- Syrah/Shiraz, and Zinfandel are robust enough to go with stews and casseroles.
- Pinot Noir, Beaujolais are light reds that pair well with pork and veal. You can also choose a Chardonnay to pair with the pork. If you are serving mushrooms with your meat entre, you might want to choose a wine with earthy flavors such as a Pinot Noir.
- There is a variety of wines that will pair with chicken. It all depends on the preparation of the dish. Hearty dishes can pair with a Pinot Noir or even a Merlot. Lighter styles can be paired with a Chardonnay.
Wine with Dessert
- Serving wine with dessert is a simple rule. Again, you want to match the flavors. In this case, you want to match the sweets with the sweet. Moscato d’Asti from Italy is a delicious dessert wine.
- Prosecco is a light fizzante wine to serve with fresh fruits for dessert.
- Sparkling wine and dessert is a perfect match. You can’t miss.
Date night pairing wine tip
When out on a date, what wine should I drink?
White wine. “Why” you ask? You want to make a good impression, don’t you? Purple-stained teeth from red wine is just not attractive. Are you nervous, maybe a bit clumsy? If a you spill the red wine, the last thing you want is red wine to ruin your clothes or worse, your date’s clothes. Sauvignon Blanc is very food friendly and can be the perfect white wine for a lasting relationship!
Pair wine and food by geographic location
Another way to pair your food and wine is to serve a wine from the same region as the style of food you are preparing.
Regional foods pair extremely well with the wines produced in the same region. Italy’s delicious tomato sauces pair well with the young fruity reds such as young Chianti Classico, Barbera and Dolcetto. Pasta with pesto and Pinot Grigio or Gavi are a perfect match. If you are serving spaghetti or pizza, open an Italian Chianti.
Don’t stress over the perfect food and wine pairing. There are endless possibilities and there is no right or wrong. Of course, there are some pairings that may be better suited than others. It’s important to remember to have fun, experiment a little, and if you like it, that’s all that matters.
Don’t stress over the perfect food and wine pairing. The best pairing is good food, good wine and good company. Friends and loved ones are the most important ingredients. The best wine pairing hot tip is, if you like it that’s all that matters. Remember “it’s a matter of taste!”