Learn Wine and Food Pairings!

Hey all it’s Madeleine. I want to explain the basics behind wine and food pairing, so you can create pairings on your own. In order to do so, I’m using an infographic poster called the food and wine pairing chart that I created for wine folly.


What to read next? Learn more about wine and food pairings, and see examples of what wine to drink with meats, cheeses, and even desserts, go here:


So we can sort of vet some pairings together, but before we get into all of that, let’s understand the basics: the fundamentals of flavor pairing, the process of flavor pairing involves balancing tastes with one another.

There are essentially five building blocks of taste to construct flavor in wine and food pairings… bitter, sweet, salt, fat, and acid. So let’s say you have this dish with kale, and the kale has some bitterness in it. You might want to compliment that bitterness with fat, salt, and some sweetness to help balance out the dish.

It’s useful to note that the more intense the taste, the more intense the balancing taste should be. So if I had radicchio in the last example, which is a lot more bitter, I might opt for something like candied walnuts and blue cheese to really counterbalance the flavors.

The topic of flavor pairing goes pretty deep. There are now other flavors. we’ve learned and understood that go beyond just the five fundamental tastes, including meatiness, or picanti, which means spiciness.

So you can go crazy if you want to, but I like to keep things simple, not only because you’re learning, but as soon as you add wine, it gets more complicated. When I’m thinking about wine and food pairings I like to think of the wine more as an ingredient, with attributes, then, as just wine itself.

wine and food pairings for beginners

Wine as an ingredient is a fermented beverage with a lower pH, which means fundamentally it’S on the acid side of the spectrum: next, some wines are sweet and some are dry, as in not sweet.

And finally, if you’re working with a red wine, you will have an element of bitterness in the form of pigment and polyphenols. Aka tannin, now that we see wine as an ingredient, we will choose the role it plays with the food.

It will either be a congruent pairing where the flavors go together or a complementary pairing where they contrast one another. A good example of a congruent pairing would be a zesty Sauvignon Blanc paired with chilled cucumber soup.

The sharp citrusy and herbaceous flavors of Sauvignon Blanc highlight the freshness of the cucumbers in a soup that is texturally very creamy. A good example of a complementary pairing would be the classic pairing of steak and Cabernet Sauvignon in this pairing.

The acids and tannins in the wine work opposite the rich fatty, flavors and umami in the meat. When you have a good understanding of the fundamental tastes in the different styles of wine, it’s, actually pretty easy to come up with food and wine pairings on your own in your head.

However, if you’re just getting started, I totally understand we created this chart. I’m gonna link it here, so you can take a look at it on your own and start practicing pairings. Alright here’s, how the chart works on the x-axis.

There are nine styles of wine on the y-axis. There are food ingredients which are organized by type. You’ll, see the recommended pairings for these ingredients as you go across the x-axis dots indicate a pairing and large dots indicate an excellent pairing.

So if you want to create your own pairing, identify the major ingredients in your dish, the sort of the primary flavor profiles and then use the chart to find recommended wines. So, for example, let’s say I want a pet want to pair a BLT sandwich on wheat bread.

I would then identify the major ingredients. Well, bacon is definitely a major ingredient. There’s lettuce, but it’s more of a textural thing, tomatoes, an ingredient, and so is the wheat bread. So those three ingredients I will find on the chart there’s bacon… bacon seems to go well with a light red wine and a sweet red wine.

Then there’s tomato… tomato will go with a medium-bodied red wine, but it’ll also pair with sweet white wine, and then finally, we have the wheat bread, which goes with several different wine styles, and it looks like it will also go with a sweet white wine.

I might be picking a sweet white wine to go with my BLT, and as it happens, Riesling… a off-dry Riesling is an excellent pairing with a BLT sandwich.

Alright, I hope you enjoyed this little wine and food pairing demo and have fun making wonderful pairings!

This video is from Wine Folly, a great resource for wine info.
Get Their wine and food pairing chart now: https://wfol.ly/pairingposter

If you want some personal wine and food pairing recommendations from a knowledgeable consultant, contact¬†one of our editors, [email protected], or call him at (866) 332-9463.¬†Learn more about Pat by clicking here!

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