Basic rules when pairing food and wine

What are the 2 basic rules when pairing food and wine?
When doing wine pairings, match the wine to the most prominent element of the dish. This could be the seasonings, sauce, or the main ingredient. For instance, chicken in a sauce with mushrooms has an earthier, richer flavor—so it’ll need red wine, but grilled chicken with a creamy lemon sauce would pair well with a white. That’s why most wine connoisseurs recommend pairing wine with the sauce of the dish instead of the meat.
Flavor Profiles To Consider When Pairing Wine
You got the basics down, but now comes the more nuanced part.
When it comes to food and wine, there are six main flavor profiles to keep in mind:
Each profile can be mixed and matched with another to create excellent wine pairing combos. For example, you can try a bitter, tannic wine with sweet food or to cut through fatty dishes. These flavor profiles & wine pairings will come in handy for dinner or special celebrations.
Quick Wine Facts:
Red wines have more bitterness.
White and Rosé wines have more acidity.
Sweet wines have mostly sweet notes.
Graphic showing Wine Pairing Flavor Profiles
Methods of Wine Pairing
Here are the two methods of pairing wine and food:
Congruent Wine Pairing
A congruent pairing is when you pair two similar flavors together that amplify each other and create a good balance—like Chardonnay and creamy mac and cheese.
Contrasting Wine Pairing
Also called a complementary pairing, a contrasting pairing is when one flavor cuts through and balances out the richness of the other. Mac and cheese can work great with Chardonnay for an overall creamy, rich experience, but mac and cheese can also go great with a sharper Pinot Grigio.
Graphic showing popular food and wine pairings
What Makes a Good Wine Pairing: 10 Pairings You’ll Love
So, what makes a good wine pairing? Consider this your cheat sheet, or your wine pairing guide. It’s tough to remember what goes with what—especially because there are dozens of wine types out there—so here are some tried and true pairings:
1. Chardonnay and Salmon
Chardonnay is a great wine pairing with Salmon. A dry, medium-bodied Chardonnay pair great with light meats like fish and other seafood in flavorful sauces.
2. Cabernet and Red Meat
As mentioned before, a rich wine needs a rich dish. That’s why Cabernet and red meat pair so well together.
3. Pinot Noir and Earthy Flavors
Pair a deep Pinot Noir with earthy, savory flavors like mushroom dishes or hearty pizzas.
4. Pinot Grigio and Seafood
Pinot Grigio and light seafood dishes work perfectly together because of their light, delicate flavors.
5. Sauvignon Blanc and Tart Flavors
Sip a piquant Sauvignon Blanc and pair it with a tart dressing or sauce for a flavorful zing.
6. Rosé and Cheesy Dishes
When it comes to cheese, Rosé is your go-to because it has the acidity of white wine while still maintaining the fruity notes of red.
7. Sparkling and Salty Flavors
Sparkling wines usually have notes of sweetness in them, perfect for complementing salty foods.
8. Riesling and Sweet, Spicy Flavors
Lightly sweet, many Rieslings help balance spicy dishes while complementing sweetness as well.
9. Syrah and Spiced Dishes
For heavily spiced dishes, choose Syrah to help finish out the flavor of your dish.
10. Zinfandel and Rich Plates
The richness of Zinfandel complements the richness of foods like pâtés, mousses, and terrines.
A good rule of thumb is to pair red wines with red meats and fatty, hearty dishes. White wines are best with lighter flavors, perfect for fish and poultry.