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Pairing Wine with Food – Your Basic Guide!

Pairing Wine with Food – Your Basic Guide!

How to pair wine with food

When the thought of pairing wine with food it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience. There is so much information on the internet, it can only confuse a person. Everyone has a different opinion on what wine to serve with what dish.

Today my wine-loving friends, I am not going to tell you what wine must go with what. Rather I will do my very utmost best in how to guide you. There is no need to panic as there’s no right or wrong way in pairing wine with food. Each person’s pallet is different, hence selecting a wine is more of a matter of how can I put it … personal taste?

Having said that, there are a few things you need to consider when pairing wine with food. To start pairing you need to understand the concept of taste. Your mouth has hundreds of taste buds. You will find them on the sides of your cheeks, the roof of your mouth, and even the insides of your lips, however, your tongue is sensitive to a specific taste. The taste sensations I like to call it  comprises of 5 sensations:

  1. Sweet
  2. Sour
  3. Bitter
  4. Salty
  5. Umami

(To find out where you will find these taste areas please feel free to click here for more detail)

Each of these taste sensations will change our perception of the taste in the wine. This will affect your wine and food pairing – for example: 


Sweet food will increase the sourness, bitterness and the acidity of the wine. In this case, the sweeter foods will make the wine appear to be less sweet or fruity and drier than what it actually is.


Acidic foods will decrease our perception of sourness in the wine. This will make the wine appear to be richer, mellower, and slightly sweeter.


Bitter foods will only highlight the bitterness of the wine. Food with higher salt content will tone the bitterness and make it appear sweeter.


Foods that are salty will need a wine that has a touch of sweetness.


Umani foods will increase the perception of bitterness in wines. Saltiness with Umani will neutralise the bitterness.


wine and food pairing
Earthy flavoured foods will pair well with an earthy wine like a Pinot Noir or a Sangiovese

A few other important factors to considering when pairing wine with food:

When you select a wine, here are a few tips for assisting you in choosing the right wine for your food:

It is all about balance. One should not overwhelm the other. They need to complement each other. For example, you can have a light salad with a full-bodied Bordeaux styled wine. That just won’t work at all.
Light food = Light wine
Heavy foods = Rich/Full Bodied Wine

Once again it is all about balance. Powerful flavoured foods need to be matched with a wine that is full of flavour. Delicate foods need a wine to be delicate.

Food that contains citrus or vinegar requires a wine to be acidic or it will taste flat. Likewise, very rich or oily foods also requires a wine to be more acidic as it will cut through the heaviness of the food.

Foods on the more salty side need a wine that will be on the slightly sweeter side.

Foods sweet needs a wine to be sweet or it will appear to be less sweet.

Flavour pairs:
Match flavour profiles of a wine to a specific food. For example a Sangiovese because of its cherry tomatoes undertones will pair perfectly with tomato dishes. Or do you smell chocolate in the wine, it will pair perfectly with that chocolate dessert.

Asking yourself these questions when purchasing/tasting a wine for a food pairing, will help you in deciding the right wine with the right meal:

What is the body of the wine? Does it feel light or heavy and complex?
What flavour profile does it offer? Are there citrus, berry or apple undertones?
What is the character of the wine? Is it dry, fruity, or acidic?
What is the intensity of the wine? Is it big and bold? Or is it more on the soft and delicate?

Quick Cheat Sheet Guide in Wine Pairing

 Salty/Appetizer:   Serve a champagne or sparkling wine. The touch of sweetness pairs really well with the saltiness. 
Spicy/Smoked Foods:   Spicy hot food (like Indian, Thai or Mexican dishes) requires a wine sweeter and lower on alcohol. The sugar counteracts against the heat of the dish and lower on alcohol as alcohol often intensifies a chilli’s heat. A Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Natural Sweet or Special Late Harvest will pair well with these dishes. Rich and spicy foods (but no heat) requires a wine with intense flavours and have a certain spiciness to it like a Shiraz or Cabernet Franc or even a Pinotage 

 Acidic Foods:  High in acid wine will pair well with these dishes. Normally a lovely Sauvignon Blanc will go super well with these dishes. 
 Fish/Shell Fish:  A lovely off-dry white wine like a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc or even a Rose will pair well. Avoid the oaked white wines and never ever pair Red Wine with fish. The Tannins in red wine will make the fish appear to taste like tin or metal. Not good at all. 
 Lamb  Will pair lovely with a Natural Medium Red Wine, so we looking at a Merlot, Pinot Noir or Shiraz 
 Beef  Any good red wine will go super well with beef. You can’t go wrong with a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Bordeaux Styled Wine or even a Pinotage. 
 Earthy Foods:  Require a wine that has earthy undertones so a Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo or even a Sangiovese will go really well with mushrooms, tomatoes, truffles and beetroot. 
 Desserts:  This one will depend on your dessert. A moderately sweet sparkling wine will emphasize the fruit in desserts. Others will enjoy a Nobel Late Harvest, Muscat, or other types of sweeter wines.


wine pairing with food

 Cheese and Wine Pairings

 Goats Milk  You will need a high acidic wine so you can’t go wrong with a Sauvignon Blanc
 Cream Cheese  A fruity /Sweet Red will go well. You can try a young Pinot Noir, Port, or even a light fruity Chenin Blanc 
 Soft Cheese like Brie and Camembert Slightly tricky but you can have a wooded Chardonnay, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux Styled Wine will do very well. 
 Blue Cheese  Pairs well with a sweeter wine like a Nobel Late Harvest, Port or Sherry 
 Sharp and Hard Cheese  Cheddar (12months and older) Parmesan, will pair very well with a Cabernet Sauvignon, Boudreaux Styled or even a fruity Pinotage.

Most importantly my friends remember the number one rule:


4 thoughts on “Pairing Wine with Food – Your Basic Guide!

    • Author gravatar
      Amazing stugf
    • Author gravatar
      I am alone tempted to try fish with red wine just to experience the metallic effect. So interesting! So basically red wine with red meat, and white with white. :-)
      • Author gravatar
        Hmmmmm, don't think it will taste nice! But yes you are correct, the general colour formula is red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat. However, that is not always the case for example... if you choose to go for duck, it can be paired it with either a red or white wine. Duck just goes and proves this theory wrong. As duck is more of a gamey type of meat and has an earthy flavour, it is paired very well with a Pinot Noir or a Merlot. Or it can also be paired with a lovely fruity white wine like Gewürztraminer or a Late Harvest Riesling. :)

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