How to Pair Wine and Food
Because people almost always drink wine alongside food, it’s important to know that certain wines complement certain foods better than others. So if you’re at a restaurant or throwing a dinner party, it never hurts to try to pair your wine with the food you’ll be eating.
Classic Wine and Food Pairing
In the not-so-distant past, there was a hard and fast rule about which wines to serve with which food: red wines with red meat; white wines with white meat. This rule existed for a reason: it generally works. Red wine is usually heartier and richer than white wine, which means it matches better with heartier, more flavorful foods (such as red meat), while most white wines match better with more delicately flavored foods (such as chicken or fish). So if you’re making a beef stew and have only a few minutes to pick a wine to go with it, you won’t go wrong by following this rule and picking a rich, powerful red.
Modern Wine and Food Pairing
Rather than follow strict (and often overly simplistic) “rules” of food pairing, you can pair wine and food based on a finer understanding of how wine and food interact.
How Wine and Food Interact
The five main attributes of wine—its tannins, acidity, sweetness, body, and flavor—all affect the way the wine pairs with food.
Hints for Pairing
|Tannins||Tannic wines pair well with salty foods, slightly sour or bitter foods, and with protein-rich and fatty foods.|
|Acidity||Acidic white wines, such as Sauvignon Blanc, tend to pair well with acidic, salty, oily, and fatty foods.|
|Sweetness||Sweet wines, such as Riesling, pair well with slightly sweet foods. Dry, crisp wines pair well with creamy or salty foods, as well as with Asian foods.|
|Body||Full-bodied wines pair well with heavy foods, whereas light wines pair well with more delicate foods.|
|Flavor||Wines tend to pair well with foods that have similar flavors. For instance, an earthy wine is likely to pair well with a dish that contains mushrooms.|
The final rule of wine and food pairing is that there’s no single “right” answer. Don’t get intimidated looking for the perfect wine. Instead, follow the guidelines above, trust your instincts, try things out, and see what you like best.