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Wine and Food Pairing Guidelines

The Wine Lass with some guidance on food and wine pairing

Pairing wine and food is a process considered by some to be "part art, part science, part personal experience, part rumor, part insolence, part gossip, part education, part intuition, part serendipity and part luck." Add to that a few parts mentorship and patience, and you're on your way to divining the "right" wine and food pairing for nearly every possible dish in nearly every possible meal. Subtract asparagus, artichokes, ice cream, eggs and vinegar-bearing salads, and you're almost home free.

For specific wine and food pairing suggestions, please visit our Wine and Food Pairing section of The Wine Lass. Preparing and presenting our wine and food pairing section is an evolutionary process and one that we will continue to refine.

I've listed some books at the bottom of this page that you might find helpful, if you want to take wine pairing to a more in-depth level.

The first rule of wine and food pairing is that there are no hard and fast rules. That said, for those who want some basic guidelines to the art of pairing wine and food, we offer the following:

  1. When you serve wine with food, a certain synergy takes place as the wine and food interact. Knowing the tendencies - what reacts with what - will help you in your pairing decisions.
  2. Not even an army of the world's most prestigious wine experts can make you like a particular wine, no matter how much they praise it. If you don't like it, you don't like it. Don't feel obligated to buy it, taste it, or pretend you love it.
  3. "Acid to acid, robust to robust." In other words, choose an acidic wine to accompany an acidic dish, and a hearty full-bodied wine to pair with a hearty full-bodied entree.
  4. Did a guest bring a bottle of wine? If it's not the right pairing to what you're serving, open and serve it to your mingling guests before the meal.
  5. Remember these chilling times: five minutes for a red, 15 for a red Beaujolais, 25 for a white.
  6. You can safely force a chill on a newly-arrived white wine by placing it in the freezer for 15 minutes or so.
  7. If your dish is sweet, reach for sweet white and rosť.
  8. If your dish is salty, reach for aromatic or fruity white and rosť.
  9. If your dish is spicy, reach for crisp sweet wine.
  10. If your dish is smoky, reach for rich fruity sweet wine.
  11. If your dish is fishy, reach for dry aromatic full-bodied wine.
  12. If your dish is fiery, reach for crisp aromatic light-bodied wine.
  13. If your dish is tart, reach for slightly acidic aromatic wine.
  14. If your dish is fatty, reach for full-bodied acidic wines.
  15. Skip the wine pairing if you're serving asparagus, ice cream, artichokes, salad with vinegar dressing, or eggs (open a bottle of Sparkling wine or Champagne for eggs).
  16. Start your meal light and delicate; finish with robust.
  17. Serve light foods with light wines; serve beef, game and similar heavy foods with full-bodied wines.
  18. Serve dry wines before sweet wines, except when serving a sweet dish early in a meal.
  19. Serve white wines before red wines.
  20. Serve lower alcohol content wines before higher alcohol content wines.
  21. Serve delicate wines with delicately prepared dishes. Serve robust wines with heartily prepared dishes like roasts and grilled meats.
  22. Planning on serving spicy dishes? Avoid wines heavy in tannin which will convert spicy to heartburn and full-bodied wines that overwhelm out the spice. Look instead for a Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay or a German Riesling to pair with your spicy venue.
  23. Food acidity will mellow a certain amount of sourness in wine. Acidic foods pair well with acidic wines like Sauvignon Blanc.
  24. Avoid acidic wines when pairing cream sauce dishes.
  25. Avoid high alcohol content in highly humid weather. Tone your wine choice down to alcohol ranges similar to Riesling at 7-11%.
  26. When pairing with a sweet dish, select a wine that is sweeter than the food itself. This will keep the sweetness of the dish from overpowering the wine.
  27. Food sweetness will highlight a wine's astringency and mask fruity flavors.
  28. Food bitterness will increase the impact of wine's tannic acid.
  29. Food sourness will suppress wine bitterness.
  30. Food saltiness will reduce wine bitterness and astringency.
  31. Food saltiness can strengthen wine sweetness.
  32. Serve a wine paired to the strongest flavor. A sauce can often be the most dominant flavor. If the dish is heavily seasoned, pair to the strongest seasoning.
  33. For the best possible flavors, let cheese rest at room temperature for an hour or so.
  34. Well-aged cheeses like aged Cheddar, aged Jack, aged Gouda, Blue cheese and aged Brie pair well with full-bodied red wines, like Bordeaux, Chianti, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese.
  35. Rich cheeses like Gruyere, Boucheron, Muenster, Cheddar, Swiss, Camembert pair well with mid-bodied red wines, like Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel.
  36. Mild cheeses like Mozzarella, mild Cheddar, Swiss pair well with white wines like Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Semilion, Sauvignon Blanc.
  37. Salty cheeses like Blue cheese, Stilton, Roquefort, aged Cheddar pair well with dessert wines like Sauterne.
  38. Pungent cheeses pair nicely with sweet wines.
  39. Goat cheeses pair nicely with dry white wines.
  40. Soft cheeses like Camembert pair nicely with red wines.

Want to Learn More about Wine and Food Pairing?

Want to learn more about wine and food pairing? Here are some resources you may find handy for your personal wine library - or as great gifts for the budding wine enthusiast on your gift list!

How to Use the Wine and Food Pairing Tools

Select a food, flavor, taste, meal or grouping in the Wine and Food Pairing section. Suggested wine pairings appear in a box to the right. Click on a wine to view selections. Use browser's back button to return to this page.