Pairing food with wine is an acquired skill. If you practice enough, you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t over time. While the art of food and wine pairing itself has often been discussed, it usually helps to have a few do’s and don’ts on your list so that you know what to do and what to avoid. Whether you’re just getting started on your wine pairing journey, or you’re a seasoned pro who just needs a bit of reminding, here are some wine pairing do’s and dont’s to guide you through your next wine-paired meal.
Pair high-fat food with high-tannin wines
Some people aren’t fans of a wine’s tannin–that compound present in grape skins that gives wine that dry, bitter aftertaste. However, when a high-tannin wine is paired with dishes that are equally high in fat, the two elements will actually balance each other out.
You don’t want a decadent wine to go with an already rich dish. So, the next time you serve something like a prime rib, pair it with a dry wine like the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Try to match the intensity of the dish with the intensity of the wine
Intensity is a very relative aspect to define, so this part of wine pairing takes a bit of practice. In essence, matching intensity means to pair rich food with rich wines, and light food with light wines. In this way, neither the food nor the drink will overpower the flavours of the other.
This is where the most popular rule of wine pairing comes in. White wines usually carry less intense flavours, and will therefore go with light meals containing vegetables, or proteins such as chicken or seafood. Meanwhile, as red wines tend to be more intense, they go better with dark meat.
Pair sweet wines with spicy food
If you made the bold decision to order something spicy at the restaurant, one way you can keep your cool while you eat is to order a sweet wine. Better yet, request for the wine to be chilled to really help you stave off the dish’s heat.
Next time you’re eating something spicy like a Thai curry, get a glass of Riesling to go with it. The sweetness of the wine will cover your palate and soothe the burn from the spice.
Choose a flexible, versatile wine
Pairing food with a wine that is too specific in flavour may end up taking attention away from the taste of the dish. Plenty of reds and whites are versatile, making them the perfect pair for a wide array of menus.
Some flexible wines include:
- Pinot Noir
- Red Burgundy
Pair acidic food with acidic wine
Too much acidity washes out other flavours it’s combined with. This is why when you’re serving up a particularly acidic food, it’s best to pair it with an equally acidic wine. By acidic here, we don’t just mean sour-tasting. We mean high in acidity, such as dishes containing vinegar or citrus juice.
Pair spicy food with high-ABV wines
If you’re looking to tame the heat of spicy food, pay close attention to the ABV level noted on your wine label. A high-alcohol wine isn’t going to help you with the heat! The alcohol in the wine will end up intensifying the spiciness of the food on your palate, making it feel spicier. It’s recommended to stick to wines under 12% ABV if you’re looking at eating spicy food with it.
Pair dry wines with desserts
Thinking of having wine with dessert? Make sure you pair it with a wine that is sweeter, or at the very least as sweet, as the dessert you’re having. Serving dessert with a dry wine is an absolute no! The sweetness of the dessert with the acidity of the wine will end up creating a bitter taste on your palate, ruining both dessert and wine.
Choose a wine that you don’t like
At the end of the day, you’re pairing food and wine for yourself, so choose a wine that’s according to your preference! Take all of the above into account, but also consider what you like. The last thing you want is to have dinner with a wine that isn’t to your liking.