Basic Guide to Food & Wine Pairings

The cheat sheet...

Posted by Barterhouse on February 18, 2020

If you’ve been in the wine game for a while now, chances are that your palate is pretty developed in terms of food and wine pairings. However, many people think they’re experts when they are far from it. Wine is just a convenient and enjoyable element that can be added to so many occasions. From a romantic night in, to a cocktail party, to a family gathering, wine has so many places in a person’s regular life. Not having a true understanding of food and wine pairings is an educational slip that’s not only unnecessary but also not too complicated to fix. While lessons in food and wine pairings can get rather intricate, it can’t hurt anyone to brush up on the basics. If you are totally lost, these tips are a great way to dive into enhancing your wine experience.

Different types of wine contain varying degrees of sweetness, acidity, dryness, intensity, and body. There are some very general rules of thumb that are easy to remember when considering how to pair wine:

  • Red wines pair with red meats
  • White wines pair with light meats
  • Lighter wines pair well with desserts
  • Wine and food pairings should have the same intensity: It’s pretty easy to tell which foods are light and which foods are rich. It can get complicated when a food that is regularly light has a rich sauce. In general, the sauce determines the richness of the food. The wine pairings should match the richness or lightness in the dish or the dish’s sauce.
  • The wine should be more acidic than the food: A wine’s acidity refers to how the freshness or sour components cut through the tannins. The tannins provide the wine with an integral structure. They contribute to whether your wine is considered bitter or sweet. The level of acidity is determined by its ability to cut through that bitterness or sweetness. Sweet wines have a higher acidity than bitter wines.

Now, the rules are not set in stone. There is, of course, room for creativity. The creativity comes in when you begin to consider whether you want your wine to contrast with your food, or you’d prefer that the wine brings out distinct flavors in your food. If you advanced in the kitchen, you can make this decision for yourself. For example, Chardonnay’s creamy taste would match and enhance a dish with a creamy sauce. However, on the other hand, Chardonnay might deliciously contrast a food that was sharp tasting. You can find a dish that does a bit of both (like a fish in a cream sauce), which both contrasts and enhances all in one!

If you find yourself fumbling when you try to cook, and the above tips didn’t help you much, here are some concrete examples of types of wine and an example of their respective food pairings that might help you navigate your way through this lesson. Take a look and see if any main ingredient might inspire a particular dish that you are comfortable making!

Light white wine like Jules Sauvignon Blanc

This type of wine is typically more citrus and acidic. It complements lighter foods that still contain hints of robust flavor.

  • Meat: Turkey
  • Fish: Shellfish
  • Fruit: Apple
  • Veggies: Asparagus
  • Cheese: Feta
  • Pasta Sauce: Light cream

Full-bodied white wine like Jules Chardonnay VDP Mediterranee

A fuller white wine is usually a bit buttery and stands its ground against flavors that might overpower a lighter white wine.

  • Meat: Veal
  • Fish: Halibut
  • Fruit: Mango
  • Veggies: Squash
  • Cheese: Asiago
  • Pasta Sauce: Pesto

Medium red wine like a Pinot Noir or Chianti

A red wine that is on the lighter side pairs delightfully with decadent food that tends to pull back just a tad in flavor. It’s still robust, but not overpowering to the senses.

  • Meat: Lamb
  • Fish: Salmon
  • Fruit: Strawberries
  • Veggies: Mushrooms
  • Cheese: Goat cheese
  • Pasta Sauce: Red sauce

Full-bodied red wine like Macauley Napa Valley Cabernet

Heavy red wines are great when complemented with heavy robust dishes, which is why it pairs so well with grilled red meat.

  • Meat: Steak
  • Fish: Tuna
  • Fruit: Plums
  • Veggies: Tomatoes
  • Cheese: Parmesan
  • Pasta Sauce: Bolognese
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