How to Pair Food & Wine
By Rachel Thralls, CS
The best way to learn about food and wine pairings is to understand the basics so that you can feel empowered to do it all on your own! I always say the best wine to pair with your favorite meal is the wine you like the best! However, there are some basic principles that will help you guide you.
- The wine should be more acidic than the food.
- The wine should be sweeter than the food. This is why chocolate and most red wines do NOT pair well together.
- The wine should have the same flavor intensity as the food.
- Red wines pair best with bold flavored meats. Think steaks and burgers.
- White wines pair best with light-intensity meats, for example chicken and fish.
- Bitter wines, such as red wines are best balanced with fat. Bitter wines can be defined as wines with higher tannins, such as Cabernet Sauvignon.
- More often than not, Sparkling, White and Rosé wines create contrasting pairings.
- More often than not, Red wines will create complementary pairings.
A great food and wine pairing creates a balance between the components of a dish and the characteristics of a wine. There are two types of food and wine pairings: complementary pairings and contrasting pairings. Simply put, food and wines that have numerous shared compounds are complementary pairings and food and wines that do not have many shared compounds are called contrasting pairings. A complementary pairing creates balance by amplifying shared flavor compounds. A contrasting pairing creates balance by contrasting tastes and flavors.
Here are some examples of the most classic and best food and wine pairings; keeping the above principles in mind:
If you are going to eat steak, pair with a Cabernet Sauvignon.
If you are going to eat a hamburger and/or sausage, pair with a Zinfandel.
If you are going to eat pork tenderloin, pair with a Merlot.
If you are going to eat sweet or spicy barbecue, pair with a Malbec or Shiraz.
If you are going to eat pasta with red sauce, pair with a Sangiovese, Chianti or Merlot.
If you are going to eat pasta with white cream sauce, pair with a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.
If you are going to eat pizza, pair with a Barbera or Chianti.
If you are going to eat Mexican food, pair with a Rioja, Tempranillo, or Gewurztraminer.
If you are going to eat roasted chicken, try a Pinot Noir.
If you are going to eat salmon, pair with a Pinot Gris or Pinot Noir.
If you are going to eat a salad with vinaigrette dressing, pair with a Sauvignon Blanc.
If you are going to eat lobster or shrimp, pair with a Chardonnay.
If you are going to eat crab, pair with a Pinot Grigio.
If you are going to eat curry, pair with a Sauvignon Blanc or Gewurztraminer.
If you are going to east spicy Asian food, pair with a Riesling.
Rachel Thralls is a Certified Sommelier and is studying to be a certified Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. She is the owner of FitSomm Rachel.