A Beginner’s Guide to Wine Pairings

In your online culinary school, you’ll surely learn how to pair your dishes and sides. However, you may not cover how to pair wines with your delectable dishes. Sometimes, pairing the wrong wine with your meal can hinder your enjoyment by masking certain flavors or highlighting the wrong ones. With so many different wines out there – and all of the blends – it can get pretty complicated very quickly! Here are some guidelines for pairing your wine and food in a way that complements both the dish and the beverage:

Pair a dry wine with a creamy dish.Pair a dry wine with a creamy dish.

Phrases to know
If you go to a wine tasting at one of Austin’s many wine bars, you’ll hear other tasters using a variety of buzzwords. Knowing these phrases will make it easy for you to know exactly what type of wine to ask for when shopping for your next dinner party:

  • Body: A wine’s body describes how light or heavy it tastes, just as an olive oil is lighter on your pasta than a rich alfredo. When pairing wine and good, you’ll want to pair items with similar bodies.
  • Texture: Yes, all wines are liquid, but texture encompasses more than that. When you take a sip of wine, think about whether your mouth feels refreshed or dry. If it’s the latter, that wine has tannins. Dry wines with tannins tend to go better with savory or fatty dishes because they contrast.
  • Acidity: Some wines are tangier than others. If you’re eating a meal with a lot of zest, like something with citrus or vinegar, you’ll pair it with a wine with equal or lesser acidity. This way, the flavor of the wine won’t get lost amongst such a strong-tasting meal.
  • Sweetness: You’ll notice that some wines are very sweet, while others border on the bitter. A sweet wine pairs well with a spicy meal because the sugars can cut through the spice, and because sweet wines tend to have a lower alcohol content. The more alcohol in a wine, the spicier your meal will taste.

What if the meal is a combination of these things?
If your meal consists of a light, spicy sauce on a dense pasta, or a zesty entree with rich side dishes, you may find yourself wondering where you can go from there. In this case, choose a wine that matches with the dominant part of the dish. Pair the wine with the entree, not the side.

Wine Folly broke the complicated directions regarding wine pairings down into simple equations. The first descriptor is of the wine, and the second of the meal:

  • Acid + acid: Pair acidic wines and dishes.
  • Sweet + salty: Pair sweet wines with salty dishes to balance each other out.
  • Bitter, acid, alcohol + fat: Pair bitter, acidic, or high-alcohol wine with fatty food. The fat will cut through these qualities.
  • Bitter – bitter: Never pair two bitter items together.
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