Wine and food go hand in hand, or should we say mouth to
stomach? The quintessential question always asked: how do you pair
wine with food? Historically this was never an issue. Back in the
days when wine was local, local food was consumed with local
And it usually seemed to be a match except when light food was
paired with heavy wine, or the other way around. But usually there
is the option of white and red, to go with light and heavy foods.
Maybe that's where the old wisdom comes from, "white with fish, red
with meat." Even if that today doesn't quite hold true anymore.
There are plenty of light reds to accompany fish and heavy whites
to go with meat dishes. Just think of swordfish with olive
tapenade, or breaded veal in lemon caper sauce, to reverse the old
It's kind of like the old 'what came first, the chicken or the
egg?' Were local foods adapting to local wines, or were certain
foods preferred because they went better with the wine at hand?
At any rate, you're better off to follow the simplest rule: if
eating traditional food, drink traditional wine- Spaghetti
Bolognese with Chianti, German sausage with Riesling, Paella with
Of course your own taste and preference trump rules, but do
yourself a favor and try the classic pairings: Pheasant with Pinot
Noir, Sauternes with Foie Gras, grass-fed well-done beef with
Malbec, strip sirloin with Cabernet Sauvignon, scallops with
chardonnay, and so on.
Next, don't underestimate the sauces and spices when pairing
your food and wine. Earthy mushrooms go with earthy wines, delicate
foods require delicate wines, charcoal grill charred meat loves
heavy tannins, while acidic tomato based dishes are better off with
the acidity driven styles of Italian wines.
But this is a free world! Opposition can make for interesting
talk. Maybe a nicely acidic Sauvignon Blanc would be just great
with that heavy cream sauce to cleanse your palate with between
every bite. Maybe that creamy Chardonnay is just right to sooth
your palate between those spiced up bites.
Some rules though should be heeded: Alcohol will magnify the
heat of spicy food and also increases the density and texture of
the wine. Typically high alcohol wines have more weight to them, so
they're better off with heavier meals such as steak. However salt
and spicy heat with also accentuate the alcohol, creating a
'hotness' sensation in the mouth.
Acidity is perceived by a mouth-watering response of the
salivary glands to stimulate appetite. In dishes that are fatty,
oily, rich or salty the acidity of the wine will contrast or 'cut'
the heaviness and refresh the palate.
If the wine is less tart than the food, it will taste thin and
Sweetness is also a major factor: If the food is sweeter than
the wine, the wine will taste sour. Sweetness in the wine however
can balance the tartness in the food.
When paired with dishes that are high in proteins and fats (such
as red meat and hard cheeses), the tannins will bind to the
proteins and come across as softer. With little protein in the
food, such as some vegetarian dishes, the tannins will react with
the proteins on the tongue and sides of the mouth accentuating the
astringency and having a drying effect on the palate.
Try it, experiment with flavors and enjoy the experience of food
and wine pairing.