How to Artfully Group Food & Wine

Perfect Your Pairings

For culinary creatives and wine connoisseurs, being able to pair a dish with an appropriate wine is a useful skill to have. It can take any dish – and wine, for that matter – from drab to delicious, ordinary to outstanding. But with endless possible combinations, how do you know what will work and what will leave your dinner guests with a bad taste in their mouths? The answer is not as complicated as you may think. 

When pairing food and wine, there are six basic tastes you should focus on: salt, acid, sweet, bitter, fat, and spice. Knowing which of these flavors are prominent in both your food and the wine in question is step one in making a thoughtful pairing. 

Now that you’ve identified the flavors that are present in your meal, it’s time to decide whether you want to create a congruent or complementary pairing. Congruent pairs match the dominant properties of the food with those of the wine. An example of this would be pairing a pasta with a creamy sauce with a creamy wine such as a chardonnay. Complementary pairings, on the other hand, pit two opposing traits against each other to create balance and interest. This could be choosing a high acidity wine to go with a dish that’s high in fat or picking a wine on the sweeter side to drink alongside a salty snack. 

In general, red wines will carry more bitterness, while white, rosé, and sparkling wines will have higher acidity. If your head is still spinning with options, let these tried-and-true tips guide you the next time you go to prepare a pairing.

  • The wine should be more acidic than the food.
  • The wine should have roughly the same flavor intensity as the food. 
  • Red wines pair best with bold-flavored meats, while white wines work well with fish or lighter meats like chicken.
  • Balance bitter wines with fat.
  • Serve a wine that is at least as sweet as the food you’re serving.
  • If using a sauce, pair the wine to the sauce, but if not, pair it to the protein in a dish. 
  • White, rosé, and sparkling wines more often create complementary pairings, while red wines more frequently lend themselves to congruent pairings.
  • Pair low-alcohol wines with spicy foods.
  • Try a crisp white or sparkling wine to cut through the oil of fried foods.
  • Most importantly, have fun and drink what you like!