"A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine."
Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste (1825)
Food & Wine Pairing Basics
Though it can sometimes seem complicated and intimidating, harmonizing food with wine should be a natural and enjoyable process. There is not necessarily a right or wrong answer; it is essentially all a matter of taste. Trust your instincts, often times the flavors you think will go well together, do. With a little common sense and a few basic tips, you will be able to navigate through this culinary challenge like a pro.
- Balancing Weight & Texture
Choose a wine and food that are similar in weight, or body. This will help to make sure that one does not overwhelm the other. For instance, a thick sirloin steak would pair wonderfully with a bold Cabernet Sauvignon. A lighter wine would be lost to the heaviness of the steak.
- Balancing Flavor Intensity
Pair light-bodied wines with lighter, more mildly flavored foods and fuller-bodied wines with heartier, richer, and more intensely flavored dishes.
- Matching Flavors
This is when common sense comes into play. We often top fresh fish with a squeeze of lemon juice because the flavors complement each other. For the same reason, a crisp, Sauvignon Blanc with citrus flavors would be a good choice to drink with this meal. Likewise, an earthy Pinot Noir would go well with a mushroom dish. Follow what your palate already knows and it will most likely be a winning combination.
- Opposites Attract
Sometimes the best pairing for a food is to find its opposite. Opposing flavors can often play off each other, creating new flavor sensations and cleansing the palate. A classic example of this is pairing spicy Thai food with a sweet dessert wine such as Riesling or Gewurztraminer. The sweetness will help highlight and tame the spicy flavors in the dish.