With so many different foods and wines to choose from, food and wine pairings can be tricky. But when you have a solid understanding of flavors and pairing methods, the process of deciding what goes with what becomes less difficult. Read on to learn the basics of food and wine pairings and to enhance your dining experience.
Food and Wine Flavors Explained
There are six main flavor profiles to consider when you’re pairing food and wine. Below, we’ll explain each profile in more detail:
You can find salt in many foods, including seafood, potatoes, cheeses, and pasta sauces. Salty foods go well with acidic or sparkling wines.
You’ll find acidic flavors in both food and wine. Wines with this flavor pair well with sweet, salty, or fatty foods. You can pair acidic foods and wines with one another, but your wine should always be more acidic than your food to avoid the illusion of blandness.
You’ll only find fatty flavor in food, not wine. Fatty foods are best when you pair them with acidic or bitter wines, which complement the fatty flavor well.
Bitter wines are best when you pair them with foods with contrasting flavors, such as a sweet food. Due to the overpowering nature of a bitter flavor, you should never pair bitter foods and together. Such a pairing would only magnify the bitterness of each, making each less appealing.
Sweet foods and wines go nicely with acidic foods and wines. You shouldn’t pair sweet and bitter, as the sweetness will highlight the bitterness. You can also pair sweet foods and sweet wines together, but the wine should always have the sweeter flavor.
You can find spicy flavors in certain foods, which are pairable with a variety of wine flavors. Spicy flavors increase bitterness and acidic flavors in wine and decrease sweetness.
Basic Wine Flavors
Now that you know the basics of flavor profiles, here’s an overview of the flavors in three common types of wine:
Red wine is typically bitter in flavor and best paired with foods with heavier textures, such as rich, fatty meats.
White, Rosé, or Sparkling Wine
White, rosé, and sparkling wines are lighter and more acidic in flavor. White wines are often paired with foods of lighter texture, such as fish and white meats.
Dessert or Sweet Wine
Dessert and sweet wines are sweet in flavor and best paired with other sweet flavors.
When you’re pairing foods and wines, keep in mind the two core pairing methods: congruent and complementary pairing.
In a congruent food and wine pairing, the food and wine share one or more flavors. For example, a very sweet wine will enhance the sweetness of a sweet dessert, and acidic wine will enhance the flavor of an acidic food. Just remember, the flavor of the wine in a congruent pairing should always be stronger than that of the food, or else you risk the wine losing its flavor and tasting bland.
Complementary pairings combine different food and wine flavors that serve to enhance one another. An example of this sort of pairing would be the combination of a salty or spicy food with a sweet or acidic wine. In such a pairing, the extremes of each flavor balance one another out.
One of the best ways to practice the basics of food and wine pairings is by taking a food and wine cruise. Schedule a tour with us aboard the Grand Victoria, and allow your palate to experience an array of new combinations.