The Basics of Wine and Food Pairing

Have you ever wondered how a wine professional is always able to create the perfect food and wine pairing?  How did they learn the secrets of how to create a harmonious food and wine pairing that results in a delightful gastronomic experience? These professionals have dedicated themselves to spending many years engaged in specialized studies. However, the good news is that you do not need to have a professional wine qualification to be able to understand how to pair food and wine.  By following some very straightforward rules, you too can choose the perfect wine to compliment your favorite dishes. 

There is indeed a vast oasis of wine to choose from which makes choosing a bottle of wine seem to be a daunting task for a fledgling wine enthusiast.  Do not let yourself be intimidated. The next time you are in your favorite wine shop to choose a bottle of wine, remember that wine comes from thousands of different winemakers from ninety-three different wine-making countries, and thousands of different regions, and is made from hundreds of different grape varietals. The point is, that there will always be a wine to suit your style and palate that will compliment the foods that you enjoy. By following some very simple rules, you can easily narrow down your wine pairing choices. A good thing to do if you can is to try to taste the wine if it is available for tasting.  This is often possible in higher-end wine shops.  We all have different DNA so a wine will express itself to each individual in a different way. There is nothing wrong with this but it can mean that wines that appeal to one person, may not appeal to someone else. The goal is for your food and wine to move together like a perfectly choreographed dance bringing out the best nuances of each partner in the mix.

Some food and wine pairing rules have held throughout the centuries while others have become obsolete. One steadfast rule that can easily be followed - if it comes from the same place, then the food and wine will usually complement each other.  However, as the world has become more internationalized with a variety of different cuisines being enjoyed, this makes the food and wine pairing process more challenging.  The philosophy of what foods to pair with what wines is not rocket science –  it can be seen as the continuous discovery of playful combinations that strike a balance between contrast and harmony.

Your drink of choice can be similar to your food in terms of taste and body, or be the polar opposite – the general idea being a contrasting pairing balances itself out with contrasting flavors, while a congruent or harmonic combination achieves equilibrium by boosting shared flavors and textures.  

One of the classical tenets of pairing is partnering red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat. This traditional rule can still be an applicable and exemplary interpretation of contrast and harmony in food and wine pairing.  However, once you have gained more experience in food and wine pairing, you can experiment and pair white or red wines with less traditional combinations.  A great example is pairing roast chicken with a rich full-bodied Chardonnay.

Pairing Wine by Contrast & Harmony

The stronger, brusquer body and aroma of red wines such as a rich Northern Rhône Syrah (Domaine Louis Cheze Syrahvissante) will hold its own against roast beef and gravy with peppercorn; while a dry Malvasia (San Marzano Il Pumo Sauvignon-Malvasia) with its lively acidic structure is a lovely pairing with scampi or poached fish. This idea works with the principle that dark savory meats pair best with dark savory wines.  The same is true for lighter meats and fish which find their best complement paired with white wines.


₱ 1,215.00

Il Pumo Sauvignon Malvasia

₱ 890.00

You can take contrast and harmony further by experimenting with fundamental flavor profiles: sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, and umami/salty. When the specific characteristics of both the wine and dish are taken into account, a whole new world of food pairing opportunities is available for you to discover.

The tangier the food, the more acidic the wine should be.  The logic behind this is to enable the different elements to balance out each other, otherwise the wine may appear to be bland.  The same rule applies when creating sweet and spicy pairings. Sweet foods are best paired with sweeter wines. Spicy wines complement spicy foods.  Bitter wines go best with fatty foods and zesty whites – the tannins in the former and the acid in the latter temper the richness. Salty foods go with sweet wines – the sweet-and-salty combo is a classic.

Are you enjoying a platter of various cheeses? Pair tangy and salty cubes of feta cheese with a grassy blend from Southwest France Les Agudes. The herbal notes of these wines complement the intensity of feta, and the acid balances out the creaminess of the cheese. Would you have thought that a sweet Clos des Verdots Blanc naturally pairs with funky gorgonzola? While a sparkling wine might not be the top-of-mind pairing for jamón ibérico, Cava’s crisp and clean palate makes it a subtle compliment to an umami-rich slice of fine ham.

Les Agudes

₱ 1,790.00

Clos des Verdots Blanc

₱ 1,230.00

If you’re having some Indian takeaway, meat curries pair well with a spicy and full-bodied Pinot Noir that is sure to work nicely with the melange of different spices. A light-bodied aromatic red such as Gamay Domaine Des Terres Dorées Le Ronsay with a platter of Japanese fried and battered dishes such as tempura or karaage would yield an interesting and exciting combination.

Pair Wine by Origin

What grows together, goes together. Food and wine from a particular area are shaped by the same environs, practices, and propensities – the milking cows foraged on grass likely to come from similar, if not the same, terroir as the local grape varietals create a natural harmony. Also, regional wine impacts food (and vice versa), so many of these classic flavor combinations have evolved to extol the qualities of the local fare and the flavors of the territory.

With a fine nose of floral, white fruit, pears, citrus, boxwood flowers, and a pleasant hint of flint, Les Genêts from Château de Roquefort in Provence offers a beautiful combination when paired with seafood salad, seared fish, and oil-based pasta.

Domaine de Tempier Blanc with notes of white flora and citrus. The creaminess of Chaourcé (a soft cow’s cheese) harmonizes perfectly with the aromatic richness of Cham​pagne Drappier Carte d’Or Brut both come from the Champagne-Ardenne region. The end goal of these pairings is a potential balance that uplifts the food and expresses the finest element of both components in the pairing.

Certain pairing rules can help guide you along the way. However, it is a great idea to experiment by trying different wine and food combinations depending on the mood or a drinker's preference for either red or white wine.  A wine and food combination is rarely so poor that it has a negative effect. The more knowledge you gain about food and wine pairing combinations will allow you to further your wine pairing adventure by choosing unorthodox pairings on a whim. As you become more experienced and confident, you will be able to make a wider variety of different pairings - have fun and enjoy your journey in your newfound world of food and wine.

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