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Food and Wine Pairing Basics

Food and wine pairing is a culinary tradition that has been practiced for many years across cultures. With a wide selection of wines and foods, knowing how to pair them well requires a certain level of skill. However, you can ease into the world of wine pairing by first understanding the basics. 

What Is Wine Pairing?

Wine pairing is a process of combining dishes with wines that perfectly complement the flavors for an elevated dining experience. The main concept is that some characteristics of both the food and wine, such as flavor and texture, work well together to enhance your enjoyment of each element. 

The Basics of Wine Pairing

When it comes to wines, the options are endless, from rich reds to light-bodied whites. As a beginner, finding the perfect wines to pair with your favorite dishes can seem intimidating. Here are two basic wine-pairing rules to help you get started: 

  • Match the flavors:¬†Consider matching the wine with the most notable elements of your dish, such as sauce or seasoning. For example, light citrus-based sauces can be paired with white wines such as chardonnay or sauvignon blanc.¬†
  • Match the weight:¬†The weight of a wine refers to how heavy or light it feels on the palate. You will want to pair light meals such as poultry or fish with delicate light-bodied wines. A rich, full-bodied red wine will be the best option for heavier dishes with red meat.¬†

The Flavor Profiles and Types of Wine

There are a number of elements that come together to produce the flavor profiles of wine. Here are some of the prominent flavor profiles in different types of wine: 

  • Sweetness:¬†During the wine-making process, most of the shoulder content is absorbed by yeast. The remaining sugar, otherwise known as residual sugar, determines the sweetness of the wine. A wine such as riesling is usually referred to as sweet due to its taste.¬†
  • Acidity:¬†The acidity in wine is the element that is responsible for its fresh, tart and sour taste. Acidity is an essential trait found in all wines that preserves the wine longer. Wines with high acidity levels such as sauvignon blanc, feature a crisp and sharp taste.¬†
  • Body:¬†The body of a wine is determined by its weight, texture and richness. A light-bodied wine such as pinot noir will have a lean and delicate mouth feel. On the other hand, full-bodied wines such as shiraz or chardonnay will feel thick and viscous in the mouth.¬†
  • Tannins:¬†Wine tannins are extracted from grape skin, seeds, stems and wood barrels used in the production process. Tannins are responsible for the dry and bitter sensation a wine leaves in your mouth. You will find that wines such as merlot are medium-bodied. They have moderate acidity and alcohol content, as well as balanced tannins.¬†

The Flavor Profiles of Food

There are six main food flavor profiles you can explore to develop great wine and food pairings:

  • Salt:¬†Salty foods pair well with acidic and sparkling wine to balance out the sweetness and bring out the fruitiness of the wine.¬†
  • Acid:¬†Acidic foods such as salads or seafood pair well with wines that have higher acidity.
  • Bitter:¬†When it comes to bitter food, avoid pairing them with bitter wines. Dishes with this flavor profile are enhanced by acidic or sweet wine.¬†
  • Fat:¬†Fatty foods pair well with medium-bodied wines like merlot. The bitter taste of the tannins balances out the fat and brings out its flavors.¬†
  • Sweet:¬†Sweet foods such as desserts pair well with wines that have higher levels of sweetness.¬†
  • Spice:¬†Spicy foods can enhance the bitterness or acidity of a wine. It is best to pair spicy dishes with a sweet wine to calm the burning sensation on your tongue.¬†

Food and Wine Pairing Methods

There are various ways to create wine pairing, and they all fall into two categories. Here is how to pair wine with food using these two methods. 

Congruent

The congruent pairing method involves combining wines with dishes that have similar elements to each other to enhance flavors. For example, a congruent pairing can be sweet wines and desserts. The pairing results in a reduced sweetness on the palate. Another good congruent wine pairing is pinot grigio and seafood. The light and delicate flavors of both components work well together. 

Complimentary

This pairing method involves pairing wine and foods that have contrasting dominant profiles to balance out the flavors. Consider the classic pairing of steak with a tannin red wine. The tannins in the wine break down the fat and enhance the flavor of the meat. You can also pair a sweet wine like reisling with spicy Asian dishes ‚ÄĒ the sweetness and acidity of the wine balance out the spices. ¬†

Enjoy an Enhanced Dining Experience 

A good wine pairing can do wonders for your taste buds. If you want to explore the best wine and food pairings, make a reservation at Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant and Bar today. Be sure to also join our Wine Membership club to get special discounts on our select wines. 

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