Understanding the Basic Tastes

When trying to decide which wine you should pair with food, you need to get the basic tastes of each to match up with each other. In food, look for salty, acidic, sweet, bitter, fatty, or spicy tones. When it comes to wine, you can expect acidic, sweet, or bitter tastes. If you are having a rich, creamy pasta, the tastes you will identify the most will be fatty and salty. In contrast, a green salad will have acidic and bitter tastes.

Find the Perfect Pairing

When you make a wine pairing, you can go with a similar pair, or alternatively, a complementary pair. Sometimes you want a wine that mimics a certain taste in food. If your meal has a smokiness to it, you might enjoy pairing it with a wine that has a slight smoke taint (such as a Pinotage or Shiraz). On the other hand, a complementary pair includes food and wine with different tastes that work together. For instance, a wine with high acidity will be a good match to cut through the fattiness of a rich pasta.

A Few Easy Tips

If all this information seems a bit too much, there are a few basic tips you can keep in mind for your next pairing. When having spicy foods, stick to a low alcohol wine. This will lessen the intensity of the spice, so it won’t feel like your mouth is on fire.

It might not be something new to you, but yes, red wines do go well with fatty meats (such as beef or duck). This is because red wines have more tannins, which ‘cuts’ through the fattiness of red meat. On the other hand, the lightness of chicken means it will pair better with an acidic white wine (such as a Cabernet Sauvignon).

Earthy foods (such as mushrooms or potatoes) will match perfectly with a full-bodied earthy wine, like Pinot Noir or Merlot. If you’re having dessert, white wine will be best suited. Don’t think that a dessert wine goes well with dessert, it will be way too sweet. If you are having a piece of 70% dark chocolate however, then it makes an indulgent pairing with the sweetness from a dessert wine.

Cheese and Wine

Pairing wine with cheese shouldn’t be complicated. You get different types of cheeses (fresh, bloomy, hard, blue etc.), each with their own unique flavor. When it comes to fresh cheese (Mozzarella, Goat’s Cheese, Feta, Ricotta, or Mascarpone), it’s usually good to pair with a dry, crisp white wine (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, or Riesling), or a fruity red wine (Pinot Noir). Bloomy cheeses (Camembert or Brie) are a bit more earthy, so they pair well with sparkling wine (Champagne), or other dry white wines (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay). Hard cheeses include Cheddar, Gloucester, Parmesan, Pecorino, and Grana Padano. If you want to pair these cheeses with white wine, you can go with either Champagne or sherry. Alternatively, choose a full-bodied red wine (Bordeaux blends). The pungency of blue cheeses (Stilton, Roquefort, Gorgonzola) makes a perfect pairing with a sweet dessert wine.

Do you prefer red wine or white wine? Tell us in the comments below!