Basic Tips for Pairing Foods and Wines

Maggie Harmon

image1_compressedMost of us are rather impressed when a wine steward or sommelier tells us which wines go best with specific foods. Yet there are some very simple rules of thumb that can help even a new host or hostess appear quite knowledgeable when having a small dinner party and wanting to provide proper guidance to each guest.

In general, it’s important to know about each food’s fat content, acidity, salt and sugar content – and which country or region first served it. This knowledge can help you choose the best wine to complement the main dish that you’re serving.

Here are some useful suggestions that should help you and your guests makes good choices for your individual palates.

Know where the food you’re serving was first served or originated

image2_compressedWhen you’re serving Italian pasta, you can quickly research which wines taste best with such food, especially if you know which regions of a specific country first served it. Therefore, if you’re serving a form of pasta covered with red sauce, there’s a good chance your dish will go well with a Sangiovese – first traced to the grapes produced in central Italy and now to one or more common American wine brands.

Be sure to check on a food’s acidity level

Wines that are low in acidity are usually paired best with rather acidic foods. Likewise, if you have a wine that’s quite high in acidity, you would want to serve it with food that has a low acid content like skinless chicken, turkey, fish, and low-fat red meat. Most vegetables and fruits such as apples, bananas, melons, peaches, and pears are also rather low in acids.

Try to pair salty foods with sweet wines

Many of us enjoy foods that combine both salty and sweet flavors – such as peanut butter cups. That same principle holds true when serving foods high in salt – you’ll want to pair them with a wine that’s rather sweet. For example, consider serving a port or sauterne wine when serving some salty blue cheese and crackers.

Aimage3_compressedttempt to match the wine tannins with the fat content of food

Perhaps the best example of this type of pairing is serving a cabernet sauvignon with steak. The proteins in the meat’s fat help soften the tannins present in this type of wine.

Pairing a food’s fat content with a wine’s acidity is also often helpful

You can successfully use this rule of thumb by serving some type of champagne (which is normally high in acids) when you prepare a plate of deviled eggs.

Choose an especially sweet wine to go with a very sweet dessert

When you fail to observe this advice, you will often cause the wine you’re serving to taste rather dull. So, if you’re serving angel food cake with icing, try serving a sparkling white wine like Moscato Dasti.

Following this advice as you begin to learn more about wines should eventually help you make much more learned guesses when ordering less familiar wines and foods, especially when traveling or eating new types of tasty foods.