The Secret Behind Wine and Food Pairings


Wine and food are two sides of the same coin. They’re more enjoyable together. Still, pairing food and wine is a bit like cooking — not all ingredients go well with others.

Pairing food and wine, though, is a lovely and creative habit. One that can make you a better host for when having friends and family coming over for dinner. You’ll also enjoy your meals much more with a glass of the right wine in hand! Here are some quick tips for pairing food and wine easily. Pair wine and food like a pro.

Complementary Pairings

The first strategy to pair food and wine is looking for food and wine that complement each other. This, of course, is not always an easy feat, as you must know what different wines taste like. Here are some examples.

Oaky Chardonnay is often rich, creamy and buttery. It complements creamy, starchy and buttery dishes beautifully, from butter-seared shrimp to Alfredo pasta.

Red wines made with Syrah often have noticeable black pepper scents. Pairing Syrah with peppery food, such as a steak au poivre, is a good idea. Look for similar flavors and aromas in the food and wine, and you’ll be all right.

Contrasting Pairings

Contrasting food with wine is a second popular food and wine pairing strategy. In this case, we want to contrast food to make it more interesting. Here, acidity in wine is your friend.

Pair luscious foie gras or pâté with sparkling wine. The wine’s acidity acts like a palate cleanser. And just like a splash of lemon juice can make a fish fillet more interesting, citrusy and tart white wine pairs well with seafood. Pair tart red wine with sweet barbecue ribs and watch the wine contrast with the sweet sauce. This pairing strategy is the reason tart wine is more food compatible.

Pair by Weight

A third strategy to pair food and wine involves determining the perceived weight of the food and wine in question. Salads, fresh cheese and raw seafood are light compared to fatty steaks, meaty casseroles or oily salmon.

You can also classify wine as light or full-bodied. White wine is often light, except for oak-aged Chardonnay. Red wines are almost always full-bodied, except for Pinot Noir and similar thin-skinned varietals. Pair big red wines with thick steaks and light salads with crisp white wines. Pair your food and wine by weight, and you’ll get it right every time.

Experiment a Little!

Wine and food pairings are no hard science. There’s lots of creativity involved, and we encourage experimentation. We don’t like the same things, so there’s no such thing as a universal pairing.

Find the combinations you like the most and see what your friends and family think about them. Who knows, perhaps you’ll discover the next perfect pairing! Enjoy your meals with wine and try different things. The more you experiment with food and wine pairings, the better you become at it.