The Real Rules of Food and Wine Pairing, Part One…


Forget everything you think you know about food and wine pairing!

  • White Wine with Fish…
  • Strawberries and Champagne…
  • Red Wine and Chocolate…

Whatever you’ve heard, forget it!

I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but food and wine pairing have nothing to do with wine color, pairing to proteins, or “matching or contrasting” flavors.

The truth of the matter is this: food and wine pair up, and pair up successfully or disastrously, based on three components:  tastes, flavors, and textures.  Learn the principles behind these truths and you will become an instant food and wine genius!  Who can resist that?

To Get Started…Defining “The Three Components”

Tastes include sweet, salt, acid (sour), bitter, and umami (certain types of protein). Due to their importance in food-and-wine meet-ups, fat/oil, and tannin are often included in this component category..

A taste component, as you should have learned in elementary school, is something that can be perceived using just your tongue, or your taste bud?  Time to dust off that memory!  I also include tannin and fat/oil in this category, as many scientists believe they are actually tastes, and they have such a profound impact on a food and wine pairing.

The truth is this:  if a wine, or a dish, is sweet, salty, acidic, bitter, or contains a lot of mouth-coating oil or tongue-drying tannin, that fact is likely to have a big impact on its behavior in a food-and-wine match.

Taste Components are almost always the most important factor to consider in a food and wine pairing.  Specific tastes in food will change the way you perceive specific tastes in wine.  These changes are predictable and consistent, and are outlined in my “few simple rules” chart – to be posted in the near future.

 Flavors….fruity, floral, herbal, earthy, nutty, oaky, meaty…the list goes on!

 Flavors are sensed as a combination of taste, aroma, and texture.  Please don’t confuse flavor with taste!  Cherry is a flavor, sweet is a taste (repeat after me!).  Flavors in food and wine are not that big of a deal when it comes to a successful match.

Flavors are very forgiving…they can be successful in either the “match” or the “contrast” mode.   But never, ever, attempt to pair to flavors until you have dealt with the tastes!  Flavors can be matched to highlight the flavor, such as herbal wine with herbal food.  This is called a “bridge flavor” and can make for a very successful match.  Or, flavors can be contrasted to make a meal balanced and interesting.  For instance, we can cool down a spicy food by pairing it with a fruity wine.

Texture…light-bodied, medium-bodied, rich, round, lean…

Textures are discerned using the tactile sense of touch.  Textures should usually (although not always…) be matched.  In other words, serve light bodied food with light bodied wine, and rich food with rich, full-bodied wine. However, there are some exceptions…if you want one part of the meal (that is, the food or the wine) to really shine, you can mix textures in what I like to call “the wind beneath my wings” effect.

Textures are generally best matched rich for rich or light on light, however exceptions can be interesting.

MAJOR CAVEAT: People vary in the ability to perceive and enjoy tastes, flavors, and textures as well as a range of food and wine (by themselves and in any combination). If it works for you…go for it!

 So….that’s just the beginning. You are two more posts away from being a wine and food genius!

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

10 Responses to The Real Rules of Food and Wine Pairing, Part One…

  1. Susan says:

    So….why do chefs always say “I’m matching to the flavors”??? Have they no clue????

  2. Pingback: Can She Pair a Pumpkin Pie? « The Bubbly Professor

  3. Pingback: Perfect Pairings: Wine with Holiday Ham | The Bubbly Professor

  4. Pingback: Pairing Food with…Beer? | The Bubbly Professor

  5. Pingback: Food, Wine, and True Love | The Bubbly Professor

  6. Pingback: Can She Pair a Pumpkin Pie? | The Bubbly Professor

  7. Pingback: Train the Trainer: Taxonomy of a Wine Class | The Bubbly Professor

  8. Pingback: The Real Rules of Food and Wine Pairing, Part Two | The Bubbly Professor

  9. Pingback: The Real Rules of Food and Wine Pairing, Part Three | The Bubbly Professor

  10. Pingback: Perfect Pairings: Wine with Holiday Ham | The Bubbly Professor

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: