Wine and food pairing takes some practice. After all, each wine tastes different, even when they are the same grape from the same region. You don’t need to be a sommelier to know how to pair wine with food, though.
Rules for Great Wine & Food Pairings Your Guests Will Love
Here are 15 rules for pairing wine with food that covers the basics for you. This way you don’t have to think about all the ways to use leftover wine because with the right wine and food pairing there won’t be a drop left.
Let’s start with a few basic wine pairing rules. These rules will help you to understand the specific pairings we recommend later on in the post.
General Wine Pairing Rules
1. Build Up to More Full-Bodied Wines
If you are serving several courses, then build up to the more full-bodied wines. Start with a light, dry wine and then let the wine intensity increase with each course.
2. Start with Something Sparkling
Traditionally, hors d’oeuvres are served with a sparkling wine like Champagne, Cava, and Prosecco. This is because they are easy to drink and are not overpowering on the palette. Also, sparkling wines are a good pairing for when there is a wide variety of flavors being served, like with mix platters.
3. End on a Sweet Note
Dessert wine usually has quite a concentrated flavor. This is so that the wine does not fade away against sweet or creamy desserts. Also, you need a sweet wine to follow up a full-bodied main course wine without overpowering the dessert flavors.
4. Stay Within the Region Whenever Possible
This is a traditional trick but one that works. In many cases, a dish from specific regions pairs well with a wine from that same region. For specific regional pairings read this sommelier’s recommendations.
5. Sometimes the Sauce Is More Important than the Protein
The wine should pair with the dominant flavors in the dish. In certain dishes like lasagne or beef stroganoff, the sauce is the more powerful flavor so find a wine that complements that sauce, not the beef.
6. White Wine with Fish and Red Wine with Meat Is Not Set in Stone
This goes back to rule no.5. If the protein is not the dominant flavor then that is not the focus of the wine pairing. For example, a fish dish with a lot of tomatoes and olives pairs better with a light red wine than a bold white wine.
7. Wine & Food Pairings Are a Balancing Act
The general rule is; pair a wine that is the opposite of the dish. For example, a creamy dish with a dry wine full of tannins and a spicy dish with a smooth fruity wine.
Specific Wine and Food Pairings
Now that you know the general wine pairing rules, we will look at what specific wines go with certain foods. Below we have listed 8 wines that match specific foods that your dining guests will love.
Since you’ve already learned the great wine and food pairing rules you will understand our favorite wine and food pairings as mentioned below.
1. Cava & Smoked Salmon
Cava is the more sweet version of the sparkling wines. This slight sweetness and tang balances the fatty and salty flavor of smoked salmon.
2. Riesling & Curry
Riesling is fruity and slightly sweet which calms down the intense spicy flavors of a curry.
3. Sicilian Chardonnay & Creamy Pasta
Yes, there is an Italian Chardonnay and its slight acidity creates the perfect balance for creamy pasta dishes like carbonara.
4. Cabernet Sauvignon & Steak
Nothing brings out the juiciness of a steak like Cabernet Sauvignon.
5. Zinfandel & Minced Meat Dishes
Zinfandel is fruity but still earthy without being overpowering. A perfect match for meatloaf, burgers and shepherd’s pie.
6. Gruner Veltliner & Salads
This Austrian wine has notes of citrus and spices like nutmeg. This light but rich wine brings out the flavor profile of any salad and salad dressing.
7. Syrah & Moroccan Dishes
A bold Syrah does not fade away against the rich spices and earthy flavors of falafel and tajines.
8. Moscato & Dessert
This is a traditional but winning pairing. Look for a Moscato with citrus notes to balance the sweetness of the dessert.
Of course, there are many more types of wine and endless flavor profiles in dishes. The only true way to discover the perfect wine and food pairing is by building your wine collection and trying each of them out with different home-cooked meals.