Questions About Pairing Food & Wine? 6 Helpful Starting Tips

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Wine Pairing is a more of a wine term or a concept than a wine word. It is also a term that can be controversial, ambiguous and even cause anxiety. I am not one for imposing rigid rules when it comes to wine pairing, so what I offer are tips and guidelines rather than hard and fast rules.

Essentially the concept of wine pairing is about creating successful food and wine combinations. However, I would expand the definition to also take into consideration both the occasion in question, the people involved and your own personal preferences, when choosing and agreeing on a suitable food and wine pairing.

Successful and Perfect Wine Pairings

The aim of any wine-pairing task is to create a balanced, harmonious experience for the taster, where both the wine and the food shine through, neither being over-powered by the other.

In a successful wine pairing the food and wine enhance each other by creating a series of compliments and contrasts. Both the food and the wine bring to the table their own sets of aromas, flavors and textures, which when successfully combined create an experience that neither the food nor wine does on its own.

While ‘perfect pairings’ certainly do exist, such as caviar and Champagne or Port and Stilton cheese, wine pairings do not have to be unanimously perfect to be delicious or successful. In most instances both the food and the wine in question are more flexible that we give them credit for. This is often where our own personal preferences come into play.

Key Wine Pairing Tips

1. Trust your own palate. We can all taste. Choose wines that you like, that you are in the mood for, and you think your guests will like. Try not to be swayed by scores or persuasive advertising.

2. Match the weight of the wine with the weight of the food. By doing this you are less likely to end up with one party over-powering the other. Try to avoid super-ripe, extracted, powerful wines unless you are sure that the pairing works.

3. Choose food friendly wines. Food friendly wines tend to be slightly restrained, and have medium-high to high acidity. They are refreshing wines. Acidity is a key component in a food wine. As a generalization, old world wines are more noted for their restraint and high acidity than new world wines.

4. Experiment, then decide. Because so many dishes are comprised of a myriad different components such as spices, herbs, sauces etc. it is not easy to generalize on what might be the best wine pairing. Therefore it is often a good idea to serve more than one wine, and let your guests experiment and decide for themselves which pairings work best.

5. Tannin and protein. With a tannic red wine, make sure you have lots of protein like meat or cheese to cut through and soften the tannins.

6. Wines for dessert. When choosing a wine to go with dessert make sure the wine is sweeter than the dish, otherwise the wine will be overpowered, taste flat and austere.

Over the week I will be writing a number of additional and more specific wine pairing posts, which I hope will be helpful to readers.

This post was requested by Angela! for Reader Request Week 2013.

(Image: Faith Durand)