The best food and wine pairing tips

An old Provençale saying goes like this - the best wines are the ones we drink with friends - and it definitely rings true even in modern times when traditional values give way to more materialistic views. Wine, the ancient alcoholic beverage, has always played an important part in human society, sometimes even being regarded as an important icon for many ancient civilizations. 

Wine and salmon

With a unique aroma, which can vary greatly depending on the type of grapes, geographical area and time of harvest, wine has been considered an important cultural and social symbol for millennia.

Wine has also been an integral part of social life, having important roles in religious ceremonies and celebrations, casual gatherings, as well as in more somber events, like burials or ritual offerings.

Nonetheless, wine has always been a valued alcoholic beverage and we as a people have developed a very complex system of pairing it with food. The ideal pairings of wine and dishes depend on the type of food, its ingredients, and the type of wine (its color, its taste and various other factors), as well as the occasion.

Knowing how to pair each some of the popular types of dishes with wine can be learned, as with most other arts. While you may never be as skilled as famous sommeliers or wine connoisseurs but with these basic tips in mind, and maybe a trip or two to Kasa Restaurant & Raw Bar for a tasting or two and you should be up to speed in no time.

How Does It Work?

Every wine has its unique flavor that is derived from its various chemical components, mainly alcohol, sugar, fruit, tannin and acid. Foods, on the other hand, have as chemical components fat, salt, sugar, acids and various minerals.

To put it simply, the best food and wine pairings combine these chemical compounds and create contrasting or complementary flavors, resulting in a diverse array of textures, aromas and richness levels.

For instance, some sommeliers may go for wines that enhance the taste of a certain type of pasta, while others may opt for a more neutral approach. On the other hand, you can pick a wine that may almost conceal the taste of some ingredients.

Fats, Acids, Salts, and Sugars

The basic chemical elements on which the whole concept of food and wine pairings work are: fat, salt, sugar and acid.

• Fat – Almost all of our favorite foods are packed with fat. Dairy and meat products are integral parts in most dishes, and some would even argue that fat is what makes food taste good. Wine, however, doesn't have fat at all, and this is the first thing to keep in mind. The fat from food must be balanced with the acid and the tannin in the wine, to create a more palatable experience. 

• Acid – In wines, acid brings life and freshness -- this is why we tend to add flavors like lemon to fish or seafood. When the food is particularly acidic, keep in mind to choose a similarly acidic wine to go with it.

• Salt – Salty dishes can be difficult to pair with some wines, but there is a simple rule to follow -- try to mix a sweet wine with salty dishes, and everything will be great.

• Sugar – Desserts go well with sweet wines, but pay attention on the sweetness of certain wines. A particularly sweet cake may taste bland if the wine is too sweet. Try to go for a slight contrast between the sugar levels.

Wine and SteakSample Pairings

Red Wine

Duck breast and caramelized apples – Red Burgundy

Rice salad and mushrooms – Cabernet Franc

Lamb with apricots – Mencia

Grilled shrimp stew – Beaujolais

Steak – Sonoma Zinfandel

Rose Wine

Slow cooked pork – Cabernet Sauvignon

Vegetable soup – Cotes Provence

White Wine

Tomato salad – Bandol Rose

Chicken burgers – Chardonnay

Pasta with cockles – Greco

Chicken tostadas – Vouvray

Pesto pasta – Vermentino

Squash soup – White Burgundy

Further Reading

Flaviu Mircea
 is a freelance writer and professional student who offers articles and insights into current events and student life.

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We would love to hear from you about your experience pairing food and wine.