3 Basic Tips for Pairing Wine with Food

Guest post by Morris Clarke

A little complementing, a little contrasting, and a whole lot of experimentation

Entering the world of food and wine pairings can be a very intimidating prospect for a newbie. You don’t need to be a certified sommelier or a world-renowned chef to be able to make quick pairings for your own creations, though. Here are a few tips on how to select what wine goes with what dish.

Experiment with complementing and contrasting flavors – This is Wine.com’s most basic tip. Complementing means pairing wines and food that have the same basic structure. A creamy Chardonnay will go well with cream-based sauces, for example, while a chocolate cake would be best complemented by a similarly dark and sweet wine like port. When you contrast the pairing, you’re trying to offset a flavor in one area with a contrasting one, like matching sweet wine with spicy food. Getting the contrasts right may involve a lot of experimenting, though.

Wine and food from the same region typically go well together – The food traditions of a specific region will usually be organically intertwined with the drinks that are normally served there. This is especially true for Europe’s many wine-producing regions, but the same can be said for Asia as well. Japanese wines made from the Koshu grape, for example, are characterized by “dazzling Yuzu lemongrass flavors” which M&S wine buyer Emma Dawson notes matches well with sushi and other Japanese food.

Pay attention to dominant flavors – Just because your dish is made mostly with meat doesn’t mean you should immediately select the wine according to what the dominant ingredient is. Although the ingredients will be a major factor in your pairing selection, Buzzmag recommends paying special attention to the final, dominant flavor instead. A chicken dish with a strong lemon sauce, for example, would be better paired with a more acidic wine to match the sauce’s flavor. Be careful with matching when it comes to bitter flavors, however, as pairing a bitter-tasting high tannin wine with bitter food can overload your tastebuds.

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