Pairing Wine with Food
When pairing food and wine, the goal is synergy and balance. The wine
should not overpower the food, nor should the food overpower the wine.
Food and wine pairing is achieved when the flavors and characteristics
of both the food and the wine are enhanced, yet each preserves its
fundamental integrity and character. And, sometimes we choose wines as
much to match the mood as the food. Wine and food don't always have to
be technically perfect together to be delicious anyway. Pairing food and
wine together well doesn't require "a set of rules" as much as having
good instincts. And good instincts can be acquired - drink lots of
different kinds of wine with different kinds of dishes and pay attention
to the principles that emerge.
- Pair great with great, humble
with humble. A hot turkey sandwich doesn't need a pricey merlot to
accompany it. An expensive crown rib roast may just present the perfect
moment for opening that powerful, opulent Yakima Valley syrah you've
- Match delicate to delicate, robust to robust. A
delicate Oregon pinot noir will end up tasting like water if you serve
it with a dramatically spiced dish like curry. Dishes with bold,
piquant, spicy and hot flavors are perfectly cut out for bold, spicy,
big wines. Thus zinfandels are great with many Mexican dishes.
if you want to mirror a given flavor or set up a contrast. Chardonnay
with lobster in cream sauce is an example of mirroring - both are
opulent, rich and creamy. The contrast that would be fascinating is
Champagne, which is sleek, crisp and sharply tingling because of the
- Dishes with fruit in them or a fruit component to
them - pork with sautéed applies, roasted chicken with apricot glaze,
duck with figs - often pair beautifully with very fruit-driven wines
that have super fruity aromas. Gewurztraminer, muscat, viognier, and
riesling are in this camp.
- Saltiness in food is a
great contrast to acidity in wine - think of a high-acid German riesling
with an Asian dish containing soy sauce. Saltiness is also a stunning
contrast to sweetness. Try that Asian dish with a Washington riesling
that's slightly sweet, and watch the food and the wine pull together in a
- A high-fat food, something with a lot of animal
fat (grilled steak), usually calls out for an equally rich, intense,
structured, and concentrated wine. Here's where a well-balanced red wine
with tannin such as a good quality cabernet sauvignon or merlot works
- With desserts, consider sweetness carefully. The
dessert should not be sweeter than the wine. Think about pairing a
not-too-sweet fruit or nut tart, with a fairly sweet wine.
are some fairly simple principles, meant only as a guide. The real
excitement is in the experimentation. Don't be afraid to do the
unexpected. Wine aids in digestion and helps calm the mind and spirit!
Certified Wine Professional
Return to Marilee's Washington Wine page