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


The Truth about Food and Wine Pairing!

Or, as Miss Jane likes to call it, “Wine and Food – Deconstructed”

 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, Bitter, Oil, and Tannin.

A taste component, as you should have learned in elementary school, is something that can be perceived using just your tongue, or your taste buds – remember the “tongue map” and the areas where you can detect salt, sweet, acid, and bitter?  Time to dust off that memory!  I also include tannin and oil as taste components, as many scientists believe they are actaully 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 must be dealt with to make a successful 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, Spicy, 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…

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.

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

Check back tomorrow for installment number two.


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

7 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????

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