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Wine and Food Pairing

Wine and food pairing

Matching food to wine and indeed wine to food is a complex discussion and as many have found, it often needs a book to discuss and even then, there will be questions. We are not trying to be complete or be definitive but to provide some ideas and direction. That said, drinking fine wine and matching it with fine food is influenced by certain “rules” which are useful to appreciate. So where to start:

Six primary tastes

Madelaine Puckette and Justin Hammack in their excellent book, Wine Folly, note that when paring wine and food there are six primary tastes that affect most wine and food pairings – these are bitter, sweet, acid, salt, piquant (spicy) and fat. When wine and food are matched some of these taste pairings make a harmonious match (like sweet-salt and acid-fat) and others (like bitter-acid and piquant-bitter) are discordant.

Matching aromas and flavours

Another way to approach pairing wine and food is, according to our very own Master Sommelier, Kathrine Larsen-Robert, by either matching aromas/flavours in the wine with aromas/flavours in the food, and or matching or counteracting textures. An example of the latter can be pairing a richly textured lobster bisque with a richly textured American Chardonnay.

We use these guidelines and also the opinions of a number of experts to collate summary recommendations. But, and this is a big but – these are many elements with a dish which will also contribute to a more harmonious or discordant match. For example, the ingredients of a particular sauce served with say a meat, fish, pasta or vegetable dish will influence the match.

One approach is to think of one’s own “signature” dishes and also event or seasonal meals (Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays etc). It’s easy enough through a little research and experience to have a short list of wines that they feel best match these dishes, simply add the wines to your recipe book or notes.

Enjoy the moment

Finally remember the venue, time, season, occasion and company also may impact the experience. For example, a delightful chilled white enjoyed with great seafood with a loved one on a beach in Italy may not taste quite the same with fish and chips at the local (although it may work). Another example is that people might follow a main course with cheese, where the wine for the main might not suit the cheese. Either plan for it or don’t sweat it, people simply may be enjoying the moment without having to drink the “right” wine.    

For specific wine and food pairing on this website, we tend to match primarily based on grape variety (or grape family/blends). Examples of good pairings are normally found within the sub region commentary. You can have fun with matching. Like everything you can make it as complicated or simple as you like. Yes do some research if you want, or follow guidelines but learning and experience is important. Have fun, talk about it a little, enjoy and remember what works and what doesn’t. As Walt Whitman, a famous American poet and journalist, once said, "Always be curious".

We couldn't agree more.