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The beginner's guide to food and wine pairings

If you’re wondering how to pair food and wine, there are plenty of pairing methods to consider.

If you’re wondering how to pair food and wine, there are plenty of pairing methods to consider.

Published Mar 12, 2021


Let’s face it: The world of wine can be pretty intimidating. From full-bodied red wines to crisp dry white wines, the options on a wine menu are endless.

Things get even trickier when you add food to the equation. Which wine goes well with a sirloin steak and which one is best enjoyed with lamb loin chops? If you’re wondering how to pair food and wine, there are plenty of pairing methods to consider. But before you weigh up your options, it’s best to familiarise yourself with a few terms.

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Common Wine Terms

Acidity: The liveliness in wine that activates our salivary glands.

Body: A sensation that describes the weight and fullness of wine in the mouth. Wine can be light, medium, or full-bodied.

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Dry: Wine that consists of little to no sugar.

Tannin: Chemical compounds in wines that leave a bitter, dry, and puckery feeling in the mouth.

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Pairing Methods

There are plenty of ways to approach wine and food pairings, but all these pairings fall into either congruent or complementary pairings.

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Congruent Pairings

With congruent pairings, the food and wine share several compounds or flavours. This could be a sweet wine paired with a sweet dish, or a red wine with a buttery after taste paired with a buttery steak dish. The guiding principle with congruent pairings is to make sure the flavour of the food doesn’t overwhelm the wine.

One of the benefits of congruent pairings is that they allow the wine and the food to enhance each other’s flavour. If you’re looking to create congruent pairings, red wines are your best bet.

With aromas and flavours ranging from cherry to smoky, red wines are diverse and easy to pair with many popular dishes. For instance, a glass of full-bodied Syrah wine shares a similar flavour profile with some of your favourite grilled meats, making it a great congruent pairing.

Complementary Pairings

Complementary pairings, on the other hand, are based on food and wine combinations with no compounds or flavours in common. Instead, wine is paired with food that complements its flavour. The flavours in the wine are balanced by the food’s contrasting elements.

Rosé, white, and sparkling wine are excellent choices for complementary pairings. A sweet white wine paired with a spicy meal allows the sugar in the wine to balance out the dish’s spiciness.

Salty dishes are often paired with sweet white wine. The saltiness of the food brings out the wines fruity taste and aromas.

Like most culinary tips and tricks, opinions on the dos and don’ts of food and wine pairing differ. Think of this guide as a rule of thumb, helping you ease your pairing dilemmas. Personal taste will dictate a lot, so eat and drink to your hearts content and don’t be afraid to try new combinations.

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