Basic Rules for Wine and Food Pairings

Next time you’re at a fine dining restaurant, don’t embarrass yourself by getting confused after the waiter asks what wine you’d like to pair with your food.

These are the basic tips on how to pick the right food and wine pairings.

Balance the Flavors
There are basic food and wine pairings you can start from. It’s like playing a matching game. Most food can be classified in one of the following: fatty, salty, bitter, spicy, umami and sweet. When choosing wine, think about the acidity and alcohol level.

Fatty Plus Acid and Tannins
Fatty food are best paired with wines that have higher acidity levels. That is because the acid can help bring out the flavors by breaking down the food components faster. It’s also easier to wash down the oil left in your mouth. More tannins are also perfect for most meat.

Salty Plus Sweet
Salty food should be balanced with a glass of sweet wine. A sweet and salty combination is like a treat for the palate. That is why cheese are best paired with sweet wines because they bring out each other’s flavors.

Sweet Plus Sweet
If you’re a fan of sweets, pair it up with an equally sweet or sweeter wine. You might be wondering why the wine doesn’t complement with the food, but it actually does. The wine’s sweetness will bring out the flavor of the dessert. You can even pick sweet wines with flavors like nuts also found in your dessert.

Grilled Plus Oaky
If you love grilled and charred food, wines aged in oaks can help bring out its flavors. Oaked wines are known for their intense flavor and aroma, something that can be countered by grilled food which are also flavorful and aromatic.

Spicy Plus Slightly Sweet
Wines that still have some residual sugar left during fermentation can help you cool down your mouth when eating spicy food. The wine should also have less alcohol and tannins to avoid making the dish seem spicier in your mouth.

Umami Plus Sweet or Acidic
A lot of Asian dishes have umami or savory flavor. The only thing you need to consider when choosing a wine is not the flavor of the food itself but the salt content of the dish. If the dish isn’t salty, pair it up with sweet wines or off-dry wines. Food with high salt content however needs wine with higher acidity.

Bitter Plus Sweet
Never pair bitter food like dark chocolate with an equally bitter wine, although some people are a fan of this combination. Pick something sweet or slightly sweet to complement the taste.

Sour Plus Sweet
Sour dishes generally go well together with sweet wine. They both bring out the opposite flavors. Sour food can also reduce the alcohol content as long as you don’t pick wines with lower acidity than the food.

Regional Pairings
The general rule for regional cuisine is to pair it with wine grown and processed within the same region the recipe comes from. That is because the flavors were made with those same dishes in mind.