Wine Pairing Made Simple

A few simple rules to understand that will have you feeling like a pro pairing wine and food in no time.

Food + Drink The Wine Files Brian Webb

This article was published on March 14th, 2020

Thanks to the growing foody culture that has hit cities worldwide, more and more people are feeling compelled to turn into food connoisseurs. There’s a lot of good food and drinks out there, and it is totally worth endeavoring to learn how to consume them properly. 

Wine pairing is just one part of the glorious foody world; unfortunately, it is one of the more intimidating parts because there are so many options to choose from. The pressure can be even more intense in the LGBTQ community because there are a lot of stereotypes espousing the refined gay food critic. 

But pairing wine does not have to be intimidating. There are a few simple rules to understand that will have you feeling like a pro in no time. 

1. Unapologetically Drink What You Like 

As previously stated, there are a lot of options when it comes to wine, and you’re not going to enjoy each and every one of them. No matter what the experts say, it’s most important that you enjoy what you’re drinking; otherwise what is the point? Just make sure that while you’re drinking what you enjoy, you’re not avoiding trying new wines – there are a lot of possibilities out there.

2. Know the Wine Basics

Wine is evaluated according to the various elements that determine how it feels overall in your mouth. This is normally divided into acidity, sweetness, alcohol level, body, and tannins. You’ve probably heard all of these terms before, but here’s a quick rundown.

Acidity
Technically, all wine is acidic. It typically ranges between 2.5-4.5 on the pH scale. There are different types of acid in wine, like tartaric acid, citric acid, and malic acid. Learn to taste the acidity in wine by monitoring your mouth for the pucker feeling you experience when sucking on a lemon. You should be able to develop a benchmark after tasting several wines. Generally speaking, whites are more acidic than reds.

Sweetness
Tasting the sweetness in wine is a bit more obvious; it is a result of the residual sugars used in the wine making process. When we talk about wines being dry, we mean they’re not sweet. The level of sweetness, fat, and saltiness balance the sour taste of the acidity in wine.

Alcohol level
We tend to taste the alcohol in wine towards the back of our throats. Higher alcohol wines tend to have a bolder and oilier taste, while lower alcohol wines ten to have a lighter body.

Body
Wine body is a bit of an abstract concept. It is the amalgamation of all the elements contained in the wine that describe the texture or weight of wine in your mouth. Full-bodied wines tend to have complex, rich, and well-rounded flavors that linger.  Light-bodied wines are more subtle and watery.

Tannins
Tannins are the phenolic compounds in wine, and they give it a bitter, herbaceous, and astringent taste. 

3. Identify the Basic Taste Profile of the Meal

There are more than 20 different tastes in food, but only six you need to worry about for pairing wine: acid, salt, spice, bitter, sweet, and fat. You want to break every dish down into its most primary tastes. A prime rib will have salt, and fat, while a Caesar salad will have acid and bitterness for example. 

4. Decide Which Type of Pairing to Experience

There are two categories of wine pairing, complementary and congruent. The former is about making nan interesting taste by playing against the taste of the dish. Champagne is a highly acidic wine but will combine with the salt and fat of French fries to make a new complete taste. The latter is about emphasizing the taste of the dish by enhancing its flavors. Pairing a bold red wine with a steak is a great example. 

Wine pairing is more art than science. Everybody’s palette is a little bit different, and everyone enjoys different wine and food. The best way to improve at wine tasting is to drink more wine and try it with different foods.


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