Quick Guide to Food and Wine Pairing

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Gourmet food and wine tastings are popular with tourists for good reason – they’re a fun, delicious way to experience local foods and wines. Good food and wine are no longer inaccessible and they have taken celebrations of any occasion to a whole new level.

With a little understanding of the basic rules of food and wine pairing you may enjoy a perfect meal at home, too.  There’s four basic factors to take into consideration: flavor, texture, weight, and acidity. Experimenting with each will help you to select flavors that are complimentary.

Quick Guide to Food and Wine Pairing

Weight Balance

The first basic rule is to understand the weight of your food and your wine and find the balance between the two. The bolder your food, the bolder should your wine be to balance the natural flavors of the dish.

Things that you need to take into account are the way your meal is cooked and the sauce served with your dish.  For example, cream sauces need a wine like a full bodied Chardonnay that can stand up to and cut the richness of the sauce.  Mushroom-based sauces tend to pair well with the lightness of Pinot Noir. Bolognese is a great match for a good Merlot.


Acidity is another element to consider when matching the best wine to your food. A wine with more acidity will cut through fat and make a dish seem less rich. It can also enhance the taste of your food.

For example, if your dish is packed with lemon choose a red wine with low tannin – try Pinot Noir.


Another important detail is sweetness. Your wine should be as sweet as your food, or even sweeter, otherwise the wine may taste sour or bitter.  The same is true in reverse, bitter or sour foods will often make a sweet wine taste too syrupy.

A perfect pairing example is Cabernet Sauvignon and bittersweet chocolate.  On the sweet side, Riesling is an excellent mate for barbecue sauces and caramel desserts.

Try starting your pairing with chocolate and wine – this is a great way to socialize with friends and family and to discover a better understanding of sweetness pairing.


Tannin is the drying feeling in your mouth after a sip of red wine which comes from the pit and skin of grapes.

Meat is the perfect partner for a wine with lots of tannin.  Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most popular well known varietals that’s heavy with tannins.

Cheese, eggs and fish are tough to pair with tannic red wines.  Sharp cheddar can be a good match, but most other cheeses will not be.

If you find yourself lost on what to pair with what – read the back of the label to find suggestions.  You can also visit the wine maker’s website, if they have one, for ideas.  Books are available on the subject if you really want to dive deep.

What not to Pair with Wine

The absolute no-no with wine is vinaigrette. And the obvious reason for the odd combination of vinegar and wine is because of the acid in both substances.

There are also tricky ingredients in some dishes that clash with the acid in wine such as smoked food, yogurt, chili, and ginger.

Ultimately, though, a lot depending upon your palette.  While there are some hard-fast “rules” in the world of wine, it’s okay to deviate.  If the food and wine pairing tastes great to you, truly that’s what matters most.  It’s going to be a good experience if you enjoy the combination!

Wine – Cheers to your health and enjoyment!

Research shows that red wine consumption can be beneficial to our health and it may reduce the risk of heart disease. It is called the “French Paradox”. Now there is evidence that those who drink red wine moderately are less likely to develop coronary heart disease. But common sense should be considered as age, build, and health must be taken into account.

Always experiment and drink what you like with your meal. Just because something is proper it doesn’t mean you have to do it.

Break the rules once in a while because there are no rules when it comes to what you really enjoy with your food or with your wine.  If you prefer red wines, even if the meal calls for a wine, go ahead and try to find a red to pair with the dish.

Bottom line, eat and drink in moderation and enjoy your food and wine pairing!

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Tags: drink, food, foodie travel, wine

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Barb Webb is a sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky. When she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s following the road less traveled, writing about country living and artisan culture. Travel specialties are: Agritourism and Second Season of Life (over 50) Adventures.
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    • Amy
    • November 13, 2019

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