When food is paired well with wine, having a bite of food will make you want a sip of wine, and having a sip of wine will make you want a bite of food. You experience a wonderful seesaw reaction between the combining flavors. Meals then become less of a chore and more of an entertainment of the senses, which is one of the reasons why we love what we do; we’re passionate about crafting wines that make a meal memorable. \
Finding this reaction is easy when you remember these 10 food and wine pairing commandments:
- Experiment, experiment, experiment. While there are general rules of thumb to keep in mind when pairing wine and food, the first thing to remember is that experimentation is king! Don’t be afraid to explore unusual combinations of aromas, tastes, and textures. There is no single one wine you are “supposed” to drink with every dish, especially since everyone has different tastes. Have fun trying different wines with different foods, and you’ll create an arsenal of terrific pairings ready to be shared.
- Match your weights. The weight of your wine should be in balance with the weight of your food, otherwise one will overwhelm the other and the seesaw reaction you’re in search of is lost. Think of how intense your flavors are. A full bodied, intense wine will stand up to the strength of a hearty dish; a delicate meal needs a lighter bodied, elegant wine to mirror its subtle flavors. Keep the weights equal.
- Mirror or contrast. Many people think that you can only eat and drink similarly flavored things for a pairing to be a success. We say, contradict those flavors, too! You can mirror or contrast a meal’s flavor with wine and find that the pairing is beautifully balanced. Chardonnay and a lobster bisque are an example of mirroring; they are both rich and creamy. Try juxtaposing those flavors with a sparkling wine, whose acidity and carbonation offer a totally different experience, and your palate might just scream with delight.
- Build up. When chefs design a multi-course meal, they generally develop the flavors so they increase and intensify each step of the way. Wine should be organized the same. Wake up your palate at the beginning of a meal with a lighter bodied wine, and “arc” your pairings so that as the meal progresses, you are drinking lighter to fuller bodied and drier to sweeter wines.
- Sugar and spice makes everything nice. Like spicy foods? Look for off dry wines. These wines will be sweeter and have residual sugar (sugar that was not converted into alcohol in the winemaking process). The sweetness of the wine will counteract the spiciness of the food, creating a balance. When dealing with off dry wines, make sure the wine is sweeter than the dish, otherwise the wine will appear sour or bitter.
- Method of production. You’ve decided on salmon for dinner, great! But are you having it cold and raw, baked with lemon, or grilled on a cedar plank? Don’t pop a bottle of wine until you know how you will be preparing your entire meal, since the way you cook food can drastically change its flavors and texture.
- Acidity and fat. If your dish has a lot of natural fat in it, you cooked it in butter or finished it off with a good drizzling of oil, pair it with a wine that has a higher acidity. Not sure how to measure a wine’s acidity? Have a sip of wine, swallow, and open your mouth. Does your mouth fill instantly with saliva? High acidity. Does it take a while before you notice anything? Low acidity. Fatty foods need a concentrated wine to balance their weight; add an acidity that will cut through the fat and your palate will thank you.
- Acidity and salt. Salt and acidity create an amazing one-two punch. Acidity decreases the perception of saltiness; saltiness decreases the perception of acidity. There are countless examples of how these two flavors enhance each other: Champagne and fried chicken, sauvignon blanc and oysters, an Italian red with pasta Bolognese.
- Consider condiments, sauces, and sides. While steak may be the dominating flavor of your dish, remember that the coffee rub you marinated it in or the spicy lemon couscous you are serving it with will change the overall flavor entirely. Often the accompaniments of a meal provide more unique or extreme flavor additions than the main. So if your sauce or side has a powerhouse flavor, use that as your wine pairing inspiration.
- Think regional. One of the most basic philosophies to follow is enjoying wine and food that are made in the same region. People have been imbibing wine for hundreds of years. Your great-great-grandmother wasn’t searching through a worldly cellar to find a wine to serve with her dinners. She chose a wine that was made nearby. Trust that the food of a region will taste great with the wine of that region. It’s a complementary flavor story.
We recommend pairing the act of cooking with the act of drinking wine. Rosé is the ideal apéritif to sip on as you are preparing your meal. Our favorite dinner pairing? Lamb and Syrah. The combination of the delicate, earthy flavors of the lamb matches beautifully with the peppery boldness of the Syrah. Keep some syrah around for after dinner, when it becomes the perfect pairing for popcorn topped with fresh cracked pepper.