How to Pair Wine and Food
Focus on structure, weight, and flavor profile. You want both the food and wine to stand up nicely and not overpower one another. We recommend that you look at the dish as a whole, not just the main component or protein of the dish. At the winery, we pay close attention to the sauces, spices, and smaller items that are part of the entire plate. The end goal is to make everything sing and dance together in harmony. Below are a few tips on where to begin your epicurean journey.
3 Styles of Pairings
Complimentary – multiple components of a dish have similar flavors to the wine. However, you still want some qualities that are different. We like to recommend that when going with the ‘complimentary’ style, acid and tannins really help liven up the pairing while accentuating the fruit without being boring.
Contrast – pairing a wine with a dish that has very little or no similar components. For example, sweet and salty or spicy creamy. A wonderful pairing is Mahi Tacos with Habanero Mango Aioli paired with our Viognier. The creaminess of the wine tones down the spice of the aioli while allowing the flavors to shine. The acid cuts through the weight of the aioli keeping the dish fresh and bright.
Regional – Regional matches aren’t always the perfect pairing but they do work, especially if you’re short on time. They are a great way to begin to understand more about what’s going on structurally with wine and food pairings. Ask yourself, where does this varietal originate from? A great example of a regional pairing is Paella and Tempranillo. Both originate from Spain’s Rioja region. Another classic is Barbera and Truffles. A good way to think about this is people have been making this wine and cooking this food together for hundreds of years. It WILL be good.
Tips to Pair
Acid and Fat – Nothing cuts through fat like wine with great acidity. A good glass of Sparkling or Champagne is a classic. Pairing a high acid wine with a heavy dish brings out an array of interesting flavors.
Acidity in wine pairs well with fatty and sweet foods. The acidity gives the wine a ‘backbone’ to stand up to the food.
Alcohol can be used to cut through fatty foods or balance a sweet dish. The high alcohol prevents the food from overpowering the wine.
Fruit Characteristics – A good guide is to pair similar color fruit characteristics with a wine. For example, pair red fruits with red fruit wine qualities. Pair blue fruit with blue fruit qualities. Adding contrasting fruits often will counter balance.
Bitter and Fat elevate each other and is a classic pairing. The bitterness mellows out the fat letting other qualities step forward. Bitter with bitter does not work. Fat is needed to alleviate bitterness.
Fat and Creamy benefit from acid and/or a little bit of tartness. For example, our White Wine blend with Chicken Picatta is a game changer. The wine’s acid and fruit really accentuates the flavors and seasonings of the sauce and chicken.
Fatty foods need either an acidic or high alcohol wine, otherwise the fat overwhelms the wine and it tastes flabby.
Salty shouldn’t compete with acidity in wine. Too much salt and acid together is not good.
Spicy foods pair well with sweeter wines and more full-bodied creamy whites. An oaky, malolactic white wine and spicy Cuban dishes are excellent pairings.
Sweet and Salty – Ever have chocolate covered pretzels or candied maple bacon? The salt and sweet battle each other but it ends up being a tug of war of deliciousness. A little bit of salt opens your taste bud receptors making sweet dishes (like chocolate) taste even richer or sweeter.
Sweet food/wine benefits from a little acidity. The acid helps cut through the sweet to let the flavors step forward.
Very tannic wine can be balanced with a sweet food. Some tannic wines (based on flavor components) can go well with fat. Masculine, opulent, dark fruit wines with great tannic structure go phenomenally well with rich steak dishes.
Wine acid and food acid need to be similar. If the wine has less acidity than the food, the wine tastes flat. When pairing a dish with wine, consider the acid balance between the food and the wine. If the food is really heavy, it will sometimes benefit from a wine with higher acid.
Last but not least. Have FUN! Play around, experiment. The journey and the discovery are half the fun.
If you have any questions about pairing, send us an email.