3 Tips for Pairing Food and Wine

3 Tips for Pairing Food and Wine

Elevate your food and wine pairing experience with these delicious tips and recipes from Wine Guide and Guest Blogger, Jenna M Shreve.

Wine pairing should not be intimidating. Julia Child’s said it best, “Wine is meant to be with food—that's the point of it.” And since a person’s palate is subjective, it is possible to enjoy any varietal of wine with nearly any variety of food. However, there is some science behind the art of perfectly pairing wine with food – finding balance to prevent one from overpowering the other. Together we will explore basic concepts for marrying wine to food along with pairing suggestions and recipes.

Compatible Flavors and Intensity

Quite possibly the simplest way to select a wine is by choosing a varietal that offers similar flavors to that of the food. A wine that is high in acidity is best paired with a wine that offers similar intensity with acidity. If the plans for dinner include a scrumptious Pineapple Chicken over a bed of rice, pairing it with the crisp, citrusy 2021 Jitterbug, Sauvignon Blanc with its similar tropical fruit flavors will enhance the dining experience. Sauvignon Blanc is known to have a strong food-wine identity and although Jitterbug is a more delicate and prettier take on the varietal, it is still jazzy with fruity succulent freshness. Indulge your senses with this dynamic duo and experience the sweetness of the pineapples amplify with every savor and sip. 

Perhaps you are a lot like me and not above pairing wine with brunch especially when the occasion calls for it – like a day that ends in ‘Y. But all kidding aside, a Blueberry Cream Cheese Pastry Braid is one of my most favorite brunch pastry that is a meal in of itself. And nothing I like more to start my day off than to pair a ‘brunchie’ pastry with a delicious tannin-packed Shiraz like our 2022 Hot Ticket that is bottled with sustainably grown grapes from South Eastern Australia. Even with the peppery kick tickling on the tongue which Shiraz is known for, this succulent easy-going bold red is fruit-forward bursting with dark berries making it the perfect pairing for this rich, delicate pastry.

Besides pairing foods with wines that share similar flavors, consider pairing with similar intensity that intrigues the palate with a complexity that goes beyond the typical fruity or even floral notes; sweet goes with sweet, acidity with acidity, and spicy with spicy. Please keep in mind, considering something to be spicy on the palate is much different than that of something that displays a significant amount of heat. It can be spicy but not hot just as it can be hot but not spicy. Spicy generally means that it is full of flavors and aromas of spices similar to cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, anise, and of course pepper (to name only a few). And this is true of both food and wines. The intensity of flavors in foods plays a vital role when pairing to wine. When the magnitude of the flavors is key to the taste of the food, choosing a wine for the same reason with similar flavor strengths will heighten the enjoyment when paired together.

A great spiced dish that my family has enjoyed on many occasions is Black Pepper Beef. And what better to pair with this than our newly released 2021 Whiskers, which is a unique 5 component red blend sharing characteristics of rich tannins, dark fruit, and black currant spices just tickling the senses. Bold dry red wines are often best to stand up to that of a bold peppery dish. However, to make this intense flavored pairing work, chill the wine. That’s right – in this scenario, the colder the better. However, to avoid over chilling the wine to the point of muting the aromas and flavors, remember to pull it from the fridge and pop the cork about 10 minutes prior to serving.

Similar Weight

When pairing food with wine, consider the weight of both. Yes, weight does matter. Lighter bodied wines call for lighter dishes whereas fuller bodied robust wines call for richer and heavier dishes. Although you could enjoy a wine with whichever food you wish, choosing to pair a bold red wine with grilled sea bass would not only overpower the food but might cause it to taste more tannic. Pairing based on weight of both the food and the wine helps to prevent the enjoyment of one being lost to the other. And equally as important is the weight of the sauce – light, olive oil, and creamy white sauces are best paired with white wines and tomato-based sauces are best served with red wines. Therefore, although pasta may be considered a heavier food, it really is just a blank canvas. And pairing it with a pasta dish would rely on the ingredients that are used to dress it up.

Having become a version of a pescatarian/vegetarian over the past year, I’ve had to up my game with food and wine pairings, especially since I do tend to gravitate toward bolder red wines. Adding flavors through sauces has allowed for more options to pair red wines to meals. One of my favorite pairings is this extremely satisfying Vegetable Baked Pasta – even my meat loving family could not seem to get enough – and of course, pairing it with our gold winning 2021 Small Hours, Zinfandel for the win. Made from sustainably grown grapes, this bottle is rich and jammy packed with juicy berry flavors with its lush, smooth full-bodied style making it an excellent choice for this flavorful tomato-based pasta dish. 

Looking for something a little lighter but packed full of flavor? We have you covered. ‘Wine’ not dine the night with memorable conversation with family and friends around the dinner table as you enjoy Salmon with Avocado Salsa and our 2021 Zapatazo, Torrontés Riojano bottled from a sustainably farmed, family-owned winery in Mendoza, Argentina. With aromas and flavors of fuzzy ripe peach rime, and other stone fruits like nectarine and apricot including mild hints of white flower, this light-bodied crisp white wine begs to be paired with lighter cuisine and anything avocado. 

Contrasting Flavors and Intensity

And unlike it sounds, pairing food with wine that have contrasting flavors and intensities is still complementing of both as one will cut through the other creating balance. A wine high in tannins as typically found in full-bodied red wines are best balanced when paired with fatty foods by cutting through the richness and smoothing the flavors in the mouth. The same could be said of white wines higher in acidity.  And why wines are often served with meat and cheese charcuterie boards. But this is only the start of contrasting pairings and how they compliment one another.

Let’s take a moment to explore sweet wines. Residual sugars occur in wine when the fermentation is stopped early during the winemaking process. Consider enjoying sweet wine with intense heat pairings. The culprit behind the spicy heat sensation is the capsaicin in chilis and when pairing with a sweet wine, the residual sugars coat the palate taming this effect. One of my favorite recipes packed full of flavor and heat is Bacon Jalapeño Meatballs (which I have also made using a plant-based alternative). And whether serve as an appetizer or for a scrumptious meal, your tastebuds will undoubtably thank you when you pair it with our Double Date, Sweet American Rosé from sweet grape region of Finger Lakes, New York. This juicy red berry pink drink with a hint of caramel nuttiness offers a delicate sweetness with a creamy finish. 

And as we begin to enjoy our warmer months, nothing screams summer and poolside sippin’ like this easy mashup that is the epitome of contrasting flavors and intensity – Double Date Lemonade. This adulting sweet tart boozy lemonade simply calls for 1 bottle of Double Date, 3 cups lemonade (more or less to taste) and fresh sliced strawberries and lemons combined in a pitcher. Dress this up for special occasions with frozen cubes of edible flowers using cocktail ice molds. Want to know if you will enjoy this unexpected palate pleasing duo – simply sample a small lemon wedge and then a tasting of Double Date and wait to be amazed. This delightful demo has won over many hosts and their guests at tasting.

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Want to explore more wine and food pairings? Ask your Wine Guide to set up a Sommology-inspired, free wine tasting event, or click here to get connected with a Wine Guide today!

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