How to Pair Wine with Food

Let's talk about pairing wine with food, shall we? When paired correctly, food and wine create a relationship similar to Chrissy Teigan and John Legend's marriage. Essentially, food and wine can balance the components of the dish and the characteristics of a wine. (And for the record, we are not suggesting we want to eat Chrissy and John, but we would be down to drink with them, of course.) While there is a lot of information out there about great wine and how to pair it with food, here are some takeaways we think are the most important. 

The Basics

Wine and food pairing is a big deal to a lot of people. The main objective of pairing wine and food is to enhance the dining experience. Many pairings result from a region's cuisine and wine merging due to being produced in the same location. It isn't a coincidence that Italian food often tastes even more delicious with Italian wine like Pinot Grigio. 

There are many different suggestions on various websites, books, and magazines that share how you should pair wine and food. In fact, at fancy restaurants, there is even someone called a sommelier to tell you exactly which wine goes best with your food. But here are our three main takeaways. 

Our first suggestion is to choose a wine you'd want to drink regardless of the food. Why? Because if you burn your meal (like we often do), at least you'll be able to enjoy your drink. That's why we stick to one of our girls, like Bev Gris. Also, if you hate red wine and love white wine but are making steak, who cares if wine experts say the two don't taste good together? Pretty sure you'll still have a good time! 

Our second suggestion would be to look for a balance. The wine should have about the same flavor intensity of the food. That's why most people suggest pairing red wines with boldly flavored meat and white wines with lighter intensity foods, like fish and chicken. 

Our third suggestion would be to identify the most dominant character in the dish, whether it's the sauce, seasoning, or cooking method, and find a wine that matches that. Because we already talked about Chrissy Teigan, it feels natural to use one of her recipes as a reference. Her Slow Cooker Chicken Stroganoff, with its tender chicken and creamy mushrooms, goes perfectly with a glass of red wine. In contrast, her Butter Sheet Pan Salmon and Asparagus, with its tender salmon and juicy asparagus, was made for Bev Gris (or white wine) but mainly Bev Gris. With spicy food, you probably want to stick with acidic wines. 

Diving Deeper into Flavor Profiles 

Wow, you want to know more. Okay, we'll keep talking. Nothing brings us more joy than talking about ourselves. 

When good food and wine pairing works, it's often that the two don't overpower one another. Keep in mind that everyone has different taste preferences. Still, wine and food can ultimately complement or contrast each other and make a delightful pair as long as they don't veil each other's individual tastes and characteristics. 

Four primary descriptors of wine affect a wine and food pairing. These are the ones you should be aware of. 

Sweetness: pretty sure you don't need us to define this for you. But what you should know is that sweetness is the opposite of dry. 

Acidity: A big deal for white wines because the high acidity created in winemaking is what makes them refreshing and crisp. Lower acidity makes wine taste' fat.' Acidity plays a significant role in food and wine pairing due to the complex ways to heighten other flavors' perception. 

Tannin: A big deal for red wine. The higher tannin wines are inky and bitter, while the lower tannin wines are soft and smooth. In many ways, tannins give wine their structure, and a puckering sensation in your mouth quickly perceives them. 

Body: This is the weight and viscosity of the wine. A full-bodied wine is thicker, and a light-bodied is, I am sure you can guess, thinner. For example, with zero sugar and very fluid, Bev is a light-bodied wine. 

Now that you know the main terms necessary and used when discussing wine and food pairings, let's go through tips and tricks you can always use when creating a delicious meal. 

Red Wines and Red Meats: As we discussed earlier, one of the most elementary tips is that red meat and red wine are made for each other. Why? Because due to its tannins, red wine softens the proteins in meat and enhances the flavors of the meat's fat.  This means that a burger and a Merlot or a roast and a Cabernet Sauvignon are a great pairing. The body of your wine can definitely affect what you pair it with— a light red like a Pinot Noir can work with lighter dishes, while a Syrah works great with a stew. And obviously, if you cooked with a Bordeaux, drink the Bordeaux as the winemaker gods intended.

White Wine and Light Meat: The acids in white wine enhance the taste of fish and chicken. White wine has the same effect that lemon has on chicken and fish; its acidity almost makes the meal taste fresher! So the next time you have a chicken on the grill, pull out a Sauvignon Blanc or a Riesling, and your salmon fillet is just crying out for a glass of buttery Chardonnay on the side. Something like Chablis is traditionally served with cheese in Burgundy, but you could try it out with Asian cuisine. 

Sparkling wine? This one does it's own thing. That said, you can't go wrong with champagne and brie. 

Same Adjectives: If you can use the same adjective to describe your food and wine, the food pairing will likely be delicious. For instance, fruit-based desserts taste amazing with fruity wines, whether they're sweet wines or not. Dry wines tend to go better with savory dishes.

Other Ways You Might Want to Try pairing 

Pairing food and wine doesn't have to be a science experience. So get creative with it! If you have a Tuscan wine, make Tuscan food. Like we can't wait to have Chrissy Teigan's Patatas Bravas with Spanish wine, like Sangria. 

While so far, we've mainly discussed congruent pairing of food and wine, for some wine drinkers, the complimentary wine pairings can bore their palate. For the more adventurous drinkers and eaters, there is another pairing type: contrasting pairings. While congruent pairings create a balance by magnifying your food and wine's shared flavors, contrasting pairings produce a balance by creating a balance of taste and flavor. Think sweet foods and acid wines or spicy dishes with something light and sweet.

To use a food example, think of tacos. Say you have delicious, bold carne asada tacos that you devour with some homemade guacamole. Both of these food items are filled with a bold, rich flavor, but to add a light crispness, you add some lime juice on top. Do you notice how the addition of lime juice adds to the spice and intense flavors? This is how contrasting wine and food pairings work. A standard and popular contrasting flavor pair that goes well together is greasy, salty food and acidic white wine. Think a dry riesling or an astringent Gewürztraminer with your french fries.