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Pairing food and wine is not a cut and dry process, nor should it be difficult. There are lots of food and wine pairing possibilities that will help you enhance both the wine and the food. Follow our top pairing tips below and take your palate to a new level of nirvana!
Pair a similar weight, texture and intensity of both wine and food so neither overpowers the other. A heavier, richer dish will typically pair well with a fuller-bodied, robust wine and a lighter dish will similarly pair well with a lighter-bodied wine. In contrast, if you drink Shiraz with your sushi dinner the wine will overpower the food, just as an Italian Pinot Grigio will get lost if paired with a spicy sausage and penne pasta dish.
Pairing ideas: Cabernet Sauvignon + Ribeye with Crumbled Blue Cheese, Sauvignon Blanc + Grilled Vegetable Salad.
Pairing wine and food that have opposing taste components can complement each other quite well. For example:
Sweet & Spicy: The residual sugar in a sweeter wine has the power to tone down the intensity of spicy foods and vice versa.
Pairing Ideas: German Riesling + Spicy Thai, Gewürztraminer + Indian Cuisine, Prosecco + Spicy Tuna Rolls.
Sweet & Salty: Saltiness in food will decrease the sweetness in the wine and provide a perfect compliment.
Pairing Ideas: Sauternes + Foie Gras, Port + Roquefort or Stilton, Lambrusco + Charcuterie.
Sour (Acidic) & Savory: A wine’s acidity will cut through a cream-based or rich dish and help cleanse the palate.
Pairing Ideas: Chardonnay + Seared Scallops with Creamy Grits, Champagne + Brie.
Pairing wine and food with similar flavor components will also make your palate sing! For example, a wine with prominent smoky, meaty notes will pair well with complimentary food flavors. Keep in mind that maintaining a similar weight between the food and wine is still important.
Pairing Ideas: Pinot Noir + Mushroom Risotto, Zinfandel + Spicy BBQ Ribs, Picpoul de Pinet + Mahi Mahi with Lemon Wine Sauce.
A dish containing some sweetness will pair well with a wine that reflects the level of sweetness. You’ll want your wine’s sweetness to be equal to or more than the dish. Sweet wines are also a natural match for post-dinner dessert decadence.
Pairing Ideas: Riesling + Apple-glazed Roast Pork, Ruby Port + Chocolate Cream Pie, Ice Wine + Apple Cobbler or Fresh Fruit, Moscato d’Asti + Peach Shortcake.
Don’t limit yourself to the belief that “white goes with fish” and “red goes with meat”. Consider a sauce’s flavor and body, as it can have an impact on your selection.
Pairing Ideas: Pinot Noir + Salmon with Mushroom Cream Sauce, Zinfandel + BBQ Pork Ribs, Chianti + Pasta with Tomato-Based Sauce.
Acidity, a critical component in wine’s structure, acts as flavor enhancer and causes salivation. It also helps cleanse the palate after a rich bite of food.
Pairing Ideas: Chablis + Oysters, Rioja + Tapas, Bordeaux Blanc + Grilled Shrimp and Pea Risotto, Barbera d'Alba + Margherita Pizza.
Want to take your pairing knowledge to the next level? For a detailed, analytical approach to this process we highly recommend The Essentials of Wine with Food Pairing Techniques by Sommelier, Author and Educator, John P. Laloganes.