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If you’re a novice, pairing food with the right kind of wine can be quite intimidating. This is because there are a lot of things that you need to factor in. For some people, certain flavors may not harmonize well. Others may have more sensitive palates. 

There are basic rules to follow to help you go from being a newbie wine night host to a sought-after dinner party host real quick.

 A cheat sheet to food and wine pairing 

While wine can be enjoyed on its own, pairing with its best food buddy makes the experience all the more satisfying.

Here are a few fundamental rules to follow to create a food and wine pairing menu that’s to die for. 

  1. Your wine must be more acidic than food.

The higher the acidity level of wine the better it is paired with food. Its acidity is an essential factor to consider because it enhances the wine’s crisp qualities. Also, acidity is a great palate cleanser.

  1. Your wine should be sweeter than the dishes you will serve.

Sweet wines are the best in the world, a lot of wine enthusiasts would say. Some of the finest ones include Moscato d’Asti, Sauternes, TBA and BA Riesling, Ice Wine, Rutherglen Muscat, Recioto della Valpolicella, Vintage Port, and PX Sherry. 

  1. The food and wine must have the same flavor intensity.

If you’re serving sweet, nutty desserts, for example, then you need to pair them with wines that are as sweet as the dessert, not sweeter than the food. This is to ensure that the wine won’t taste flabby.

  1. Bold red wines pair best with a rich meat.

This is the most basic rule of food and wine pairing – red wine goes with red meat. This is because the tannins in red wine help rid your tongue of the strong taste of meat, like beef and lamb. In other words, reds are a palate cleanser.

  1. Light meat is perfect with white wine.

As red wine is to red meat, so does white wine is to light meat. This means that it would be wise to serve Prosecco, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Viognier, Torrontes, Verdejo, or Garganega with fish, shrimp, or chicken.

  1. Balance fat with bitter wine.

Wines with higher acidity have a bitter taste and they are perfect for balancing the fat in foods like smoked salmon, steak, duck, and lamb. By drinking red wine with fatty foods, which coat the mouth with fat, the tannins in the beverage will strip them off from your mouth, leaving it cleansed and refreshed. 

  1. Base the choice of wine on the sauce, not the meat.

Sauces usually have intense flavors, which could overpower your palate. This is why you should choose wines according to the level of your sauces’ acidity. For example, peanut sauce and Off-Dry Riesling, balsamic vinaigrette and Sauvignon Blanc, Thai curry and Chardonnay, aioli and Rose, marinara and Sangiovese, black-olive tapenade and Zinfandel, and tikka masala and Pinot Noir. 

  1. Red wines create congruent pairings; whites create complementary pairings.

Generally speaking, red wines are more bitter and white wines have higher acidity. Consider this fact when pairing food and wine to save yourself a lot of time and effort.

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Congruent pairing vs. contrasting pairing

Basically, wine and food pairing does not have hard rules to follow. But to guide you in choosing which food to pair with what wine, you can go with a congruent pair or contrasting pairing.

What’s the difference between the two? Congruent pairing is choosing foods and wines based on flavor compounds that create a balance in your palate.Contrasting pairing is creating balance by picking foods and wines with contrasting or differing flavors.

Basic taste in foods

There are basic tastes in foods:

Bitter – associated with summer and is believed to stimulate the small intestine and heart.

Salty – associated with winter, it is proven to influence the bladder and kidneys. Salty foods include Umeboshi salt plum, sea vegetables, miso, and brine pickles.

Sour – associated with spring, it has a constructive taste that gives anyone a sudden burst of energy. These include sourdough bread, lemon, wheat, and vinegar.

Sweet – associated with late summer, it has a relaxing, nourishing effect.

Pungent – associated with autumn, it has that hot, dispersing energy that’s beneficial to the lungs. These include food like wasabi, ginger, daikon radish, and the like.

Basic taste in wines

Let’s explore the different characters and flavors of wines.

  •   Cabernet Franc – It has that earthy, savory qualities that have that coffee and black olives flavor.
  •   Cabernet Sauvignon – one of the finest full-bodied red wine grapes. It tastes like rich currants and black cherries.
  •   Gamay – best consumed while still fresh and young and during a warm sunny day. Make food more delightful by opting to work with Gamay.
  •   Grenache – this wine tastes fruity and full and is best paired with meat courses.
  •   Malbec – it has a striking undertone flavors of raspberry and mulberry, which are enhanced by oak barrels.
  •   Merlot – it’s very soft, spicy, fruity, and has less tannin than Cabernet.
  •   Pinot Noir – its fresh and delicate taste and fruity aroma make it perfect for those going to serve red meat.
  •   Moscato – it has mostly a sweet, fruity flavor.
  •   Sauvignon Blanc – it has a tart, acidic, and dry taste with a touch of tropical fruits.
  •   Zinfandel – its taste is typically zesty.
  •   Riesling – oftentimes, it tastes very sweet with fruit flavors but is much lighter than chardonnay. 
  •   Chardonnay – this dry white wine has that buttery, velvety, and fruity flavor.

All in all…

There’s really no wrong choice when it comes to choosing which bottle of wine to open. But by choosing the right type of wine, you will be able to enjoy your food better. Be sure to read this article to guide you in your search for the ultimate food and wine pairing decisions. 

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