The Basics of Food and Wine Pairing

Did you ever notice when you drink wine that it can change the flavor of the food? Food and wine pairing is all about balance. The idea is to not let the characteristics of the dish dominate over the features of the wine or vice versa. While there can be any number of combinations, and a lot of it is down to individual taste, a few basic flavor profiles should be kept in mind when experimenting with different options.

Even if you’re new to drinking wine, understanding these aspects will enable you to make great food and wine pairs in the future.


All wines have different levels of acidity and alcohol. Foods that are sweet and fatty normally go well with wines with higher acidic/alcohol content. Italian wines usually have high levels of acidity, because of this they are considered great food wines.

Tannic Wines

Wines that are high in tannins are some of the most popular, and most expensive wines in the world. These varieties of wine should ideally be paired with sweet (but not too fatty) food items.


Salt usually doesn’t mesh with acidity in a wine. So, if you are having a dish with considerably high saltiness, make sure you don’t have too much of an acidic variety of wine.

Tips for Pairing Food and Wine

Various places around the globe have some signature food and wine combinations. Nevertheless, the fundamentals remain the same everywhere.

Red Meat and Red Wine

Red meat (beef, lamb, etc) and red wine is a pretty straightforward combo. It works well because red wine softens the proteins in the meat and enhances the flavor of the fat. This is due to tannin, a chemical compound normally found in different red wine varieties.

Light Meat and White Wine

Light meat (chicken and fish) and white wine work in much the same way as red meat and red wine. The acidity of the white drink enhances the flavor of the meat, especially fish which tastes fresher. Just like you squeeze lemon juice over fish for better taste, white wine has a similar impact when drunk with fish (and chicken).

Sweet Food and Sweet Wine

Other than some exceptions, sweet wines and sweet food items are a very good pair. A common example is sweet wine and fruit-based desserts. As a rule of thumb, if the same adjective can describe both a food item and a wine variety (in this case “sweet”), then those two are likely to go well together.

Wines and Sauces

Choosing the appropriate wine with meat dishes (both red and white) that have a heavy sauce can be complicated. In such scenarios, you are better off considering the sauce rather than the meat when making a food-wine combo. This will lead to a better experience. Otherwise, your meal might be messed up because some sauces interact badly with wine. For instance, a bitter sauce and bitter wine will give your meal a rather unpleasant taste. So, go for contrasts in such cases. For example, bitter sauces will be more favorably matched with sweet wines. In the same way, sweeter-tasting sauces should be enjoyed with more acidic wines.

Common Food and Wine Pairing Techniques

The majority of food and wine combinations fall under the below-mentioned categories.

Congruent Pairings

Congruent pairings include food and wine that share various flavors and compounds. These include red wine and a buttery pasta dish (because of the buttery aftertaste of the liquor), sweet wine and a fruit tart, etc. The idea is to make sure that the food flavors don’t overpower the wine; because the drink becomes bland if this happens. A congruent pair enables the food and the wine to enhance the taste of the other. Red wines are usually ideal for congruent pairings. This is primarily because of their diversity of aromas and flavors (ranging from smoky to cherry).

Complementary Pairings

On the contrary, complementary pairings involve food and wine varieties that have almost nothing in common. Instead, as the name suggests, these types of wines and food items complement one another. Balance is achieved due to the contrasting nature of the flavors.

To that end, you should consider white, rosé, and sparkling wine for complementary combinations. For instance, consider a sweet white wine variety combined with a spicy dish. The sugar in the drink will balance out the spiciness of the dish.

Pairing salty items with sweet white liquor is another popular complementary food-wine combo. The saltiness decreases the sweetness of the wine. As a result, you get to enjoy its fruity flavor and aroma. For the perfect pairing, try a glass of Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay with fried foods like chicken, french fries, or even salty, buttery popcorn.