Acid. Sugar. Fat. Body.
I’m not spitting out wine terms: I’m talking about a hamburger. Acidic tomatoes, sugary ketchup, fatty cheese, and big, bold flavors from the meat, all coming together as one. And wine pairing is just like hamburgers; its all about the compare and contrast of flavors and textures; the wine either brings new elements to the dish, or complements the ones already there.
That means you must assign descriptors to the burger (and wine) other than “very good”. Remember, as the late Robin Williams said, “very” is lazy. Whether you’re balancing the burger ingredients, or balancing said burger with wine, you have to understand the components of each. So start with the video above ↑ and then, let’s dive deeper. And if these terms sound like gibberish (acid, tannin, body, etc) then make sure to SIGN UP to get the FREE wine pairing guide and more wine content broken down simple right to your inbox.
3 steps to perfect wine pairing
Step 1: know the rules, punk
First things first: there are no rules. You can pair whatever you like with whatever your heart desires. But with a little method to your madness, you’ll give yourself better odds than you gave yourself on poker night last week (face it, you have a terrible poker face). And that’s the goal: to give yourself the best chance at a successful pairing that enhances both the food and wine. By the way, we get into this in a lot more detail (including explaining all these terms like acid, tannin etc.) in our “Ultimate Wine Pairing Guide” so make sure to get it free HERE!
Start with your food profile (on the left) and find wines with characteristics that match. Eating really acidic foods (tomatoes and tomato sauce, or anything with lots of citrus or vinegar)? Your wine better have acid (e.g. cool climate white and red wines, like Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir). How about spicy (Thai and Mexican food)? Only a sweet wine will do (Riesling or off-dry prosecco). Keep reading for more examples:
1: salty food likes sweet
Salty and sweet play off each other very nicely. e.g. salty blue cheese and port wine
2: salty food likes acid
It’s why beer and fried foods are always so good together. e.g. fried chicken and Champagne
3: fatty food likes tannin
The fat in the food softens the tannin in the wine and makes the fatty food melt in your mouth. e.g. ribeye steak and Cabernet Sauvignon
4: fatty food likes acid
Acid helps cut through the fat and palette cleanses, leaving you refreshed for the next bite. e.g. cream based pasta and Pinot Grigio
5: fatty food likes alcohol
Big bold flavors can benefit from big bold wines. e.g. BBQ and Zinfandel
6: spicy food likes sweet
Anything dry will get completely washed out from spicy foods, so you need a sweet wine. Plus it can help cool down that pad Thai that you ordered too spicy cuz you were trying to look cool. e.g. Thai food and Riesling
7: sweet food likes sweet
Dry wine with sweet food is awful: it makes the wine taste sour and bitter. Wines should always be as sweet as your food. Never again will you pair wedding cake and Champagne, because you officially know better! e.g. cheesecake and Sauternes
8: acidic foods like acid
Kinda like the sweet concept: your wine should have as much acid as your food so the wine doesn’t taste flabby. e.g. Goat Cheese and Sauvignon Blanc
Step 2: match weight, just like boxing
Would you eat sushi and spaghetti and meatballs on the same plate? Unless you’re at a Vegas buffet, probably not. That’s because their weights don’t match: sushi is light and delicate, and spaghetti is rich and filling. One (I’m looking at you spaghetti) would overpower the other. Same thing for wine.
Just like foods, wine has weight; it’s how heavy a wine feels in your mouth. And you should do your best (with a few exceptions) to match your wine and food weight. The chart below compares the weight of some dishes to wines. It’ll give you an idea of some pairings that may go together. And the spectrum overlaps with white and red; full-bodied whites feel about the same in terms of weight as light-bodied reds.
Light delicate oysters with light-bodied muscadet? Check. Full-bodied Chardonnay with rich decadent lobster? Check.
Lean lighter meats like chicken with light-bodied Pinot Noir? Check. Fatty bold meats like steaks with Cabernet? Check. Get it?
Step 3: match or contrast
Do you want your wine to complement your food or bring something new to the table? Earthy Pinot Noir goes great with earthy mushroom risotto. Spicy Thai food is balanced by fresh, crisp, honeyed Riesling. Decide if you’re an “opposites attract” or a “stick with what ya know” kinda person: matches are safer, but contrasting can be more exciting!
And that’s it! Like anything worth doing, it takes some practice. But as practice goes, eating and drinking isn’t so bad. And if you need any help reach out on any platform (Facebook, insta @visforvino) and I’ll help ya myself!
If all else fails, remember what us winos learned from the start: IF IT GROWS TOGETHER IT GOES TOGETHER. Wines from the same place and the dishes they come from almost always make good pairings. If you haven’t already, download the FREE ULTIMATE WINE PAIRING GUIDE for all this information and more. Until next wine,
V is for Vino | Watch. Learn. Drink.
“The Show to Pair with Your Wine”
Also published on Medium.