The Four Rules of Food and Wine Pairing

Everyone seems to have different ideas about pairing wine with food. But there are four rules that are consistent among most wine experts. Here are the four rules of pairing wine with food in order of importance.

1. Match the weight of the wine to the weight of the food. If you’re serving a heavy, winter-weather meal, serve a heavy winter-weather wine. If you’ve made something light and summery, serve a light, summery wine. This is where the old adage ‘white wine with white meat, red wine with red meat’ really holds up. It is the quickest and easiest way to pair your food with wine. But, say you want to make a more sophisticated pairing. That’s when you go to rule #2.

2. Match the elements of the wine with the elements of the food. The three elements of wine that you want to consider when pairing are acidity, sweetness and tannins. The elements of food that you want to consider are spiciness, saltiness, bitterness, umami, sweetness, and fats. Acidic wines work well with spicy, salty, fatty and umami foods. Tannic wines work well with fatty and salty foods, and clash with spicy foods. Off-dry wines work well with spicy and bitter foods. And sweet wines can work with sweet foods as long as the wine is sweeter than the food. The elemental pairing is depicted in short form below.

Sweet Wine: Sweeter food
Off-Dry Wine: Spicy or Bitter food
Acidic Wine: Spicy, Fatty, Salty, Umami
Tannic Wine: Fatty and Salty (no spicy)

But say you want to create a really special pairing, not just a pairing that enhances the elements of both the food and wine, but a pairing that seems to be greater than the sum of the whole. That takes us to the third step.

3. Match the flavors of the wine with the flavors of the food We’ve all done it at some point. We’re sipping a wine, perhaps a new one we’ve never experienced before and we notice a flavor or aroma that we’ve never perceived in any other wine. Maybe it’s ginger, maybe it’s almond, maybe we pick up on anise or bell pepper in a way that is certain and stunning. Remember that wine. The next time you serve it, pair it with a dish that uses one or a few of its aromas in the ingredients. It’s really incredible when a wine matches up elementally with the food and also echoes the flavors of the meal.

4. Serve the wine with which you cook If you’re cooking with wine, make sure you have enough to serve with the meal. The longer the dish cooks with the wine, the more heavenly the experience that glass of wine will be.

This entry was posted in wine.

7 comments on “The Four Rules of Food and Wine Pairing

  1. I adore geeking out on wine/food pairings. Before leaving Seattle and my job as a wine buyer, I co-hosted wine dinners every few weeks – making matches with a four-course meal and talking to the diners about how and why I made the selections I did. It’s an inexact, messy, joyful art & science.

    I agree whole-heartedly with the elements you present and love the simplicity – it’s easy to get wrapped around the wine-pairing axle. Weight is not something I think most wine drinkers consider, yet it’s perhaps the most critical element in pairing.

    I also love introducing beer and hard cider into the mix. Sometimes either just works better than vino 🙂

    Brava! Great post!

  2. foxress says:

    Julie- Thank you so much! I really value your professional opinion both as a writer and wine expert. Your positive comments were a real boost!

  3. Well done, and great advice. My favorite is number 3. You’ve inspired me to plan a pairing meal for friends ASAP!

  4. Jennifer M. says:

    Great advice! I recently taught a Wine 101 Class at a local NJ winery, and these are exactly the points I discovered in my research. I’ve since had the chance to put them into practice, and they really work.

    • foxress says:

      Jennifer, Thanks for stopping by and for your positive comments! As an aside, I used to live in Glassboro, and miss it. People don’t realize how beautiful south Jersey is, especially if they’ve only seen it from the Turnpike.

  5. coastalcrone says:

    Thanks for the wine tips! And thanks for visiting my blog. Have a good weekend.

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