How To Pair Wine With Food? (Basics for Beginners)

When you dine at restaurants, especially the fancier ones, the waitstaff would recommend wines that would go well with the dishes you ordered.

How do people figure out which wines to suggest? Well, here’s your chance to learn how to pair wine with food without breaking a sweat!

What’s Wine Pairing?

One of the best ways to intensify a food’s flavors is to serve it with the right type of wine. Putting these two together would balance, enhance and elevate any dining experience.

This is essentially what wine pairing is all about. It’s one of the main reasons why this whole concept came to be.

At first glance, you would think there’s not much thought that goes into the whole wine pairing business. However, you will soon find out how there are many elements involved.

Some people think they can just use whatever wine they have available and pair it with their food. While they are free to do whatever they want, it wouldn’t hurt to learn the basics of wine pairing, especially if they wish to amplify the different attributes in their food

While the idea of figuring out which wine to serve might be intimidating, don’t let it stir you away from learning something that would benefit you in the long run, especially if you are a foodie.

It also doesn’t hurt that there are studies about how drinking wine while eating your meals helps reduce the risk of developing diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes.

People have been producing and indulging in all kinds of wines since ancient times. Instead of drinking water, people opted to drink wine during their meals.

As times progressed, people figured that certain wines went perfectly with particular types of food or dishes. Nowadays, it’s not unusual for us to see winemakers and producers suggesting what kind of food works well with their wines.

Wine With Food: Master The Pairing

Before we get into the thick of things, you have to learn about the different food flavor profiles. You will have a better grip on wine and food pairing if you know what these are.

These flavor profiles are essential in determining which wines are needed to be paired with your dishes. Take note of these before shopping or choosing wines:

  • Alcohol
  • Bitter
  • Acidic
  • Sweet
  • Fatty
  • Salty

Pairing The Wine: To Complement Or Congruent


Wine pairing is like playing a game of mix and match with the various flavor profiles. Think of it as culinary and wine chemistry. Once you have mastered the fundamentals of wine pairing, everything else will come easy.

One of the easiest hacks is to pair flavors that complement each other. A great example of complementary wine pairing is with red wine and a piece of steak or any fatty meat.

The tannins found in bitter red wines can cut through the fat. Instead of being overwhelmed by the fat, the tannin in wine balances the taste and flavor.

Also, the lipids found in these meats can decrease the dry and bitter flavors that tannins leave you in your mouth. It’s like a win-win combination for anyone who has to indulge in such a meal!

As for congruent pairings, the flavors involved usually have something in common. If you are eating something sweet, consider pairing it with a sweet one. It is just one of many examples of congruent wine pairing.

Since the food and the wine share a common ground, their flavors are enhanced and intensified. With this kind of pairing, the goal is for the food not to overpower the wine’s flavor contribution.

The wine pairings you can do following the complementary and congruent guidelines are endless! If you are eating a multi-course meal, you will find these methods very helpful since you have a smorgasbord of dishes coming your way.

Wine Pairing Reminders

If you’re outside looking in, it might seem like a lot of rules come with wine pairing. Yes, there might be a few here and there, but trust and believe these are for your good!

Since you are more or less familiar with complementary and congruent pairings and the various food profiles, it wouldn’t be too difficult for you to remember some of these helpful wine reminders:

Heaviness And Lightness Of Food

When we speak of weight here, we don’t mean this in the literal sense. It’s more on how light or heavy the food is and how full the wine’s body is. These are important factors in determining the right wine pairings.

If the food falls more on the heavier side, then you might look into the full-bodied wine selection. It’s all about making sure that the food and wine have the same level of intensity.

If you pick a light-bodied wine for a bold and heavy food, then that’s usually not going to be the finest pairing from the get-go. If a dish has a sauce of some kind, factor that in as well. Remember that the key here is balance!

What’s In The Wine?


Another key to a successful wine pairing is knowing the features that play big roles in the wine’s taste. It makes pairing food and wine less complicated if you are acquainted with these things

In selecting a wine, you should focus on these attributes.

  • Acidity
  • Sugar
  • Tannin

The level or content of these acidity, sugar, and tannin in wine affects its flavor profile. These contribute to how dry, bitter, sweet, and acidic wine is.

So before pairing food and wine, perhaps you can dive into these details first. It would make wine pairing so much simpler if you know what you are dealing with.

Wine Pairing Mistakes To Avoid


It’s perfectly normal to make wine pairing blunders, especially if you aren’t used to it yet. As you learn more about it, the fewer your errors will be. With that said, look into the common pairing mistakes that people often commit, so you can avoid them today and in the future.

Dessert Sweeter Than Wine

One of the highlights of a meal is the dessert. And since desserts generally fall on the sweet side, your wine should be too. A common mistake people commit is choosing a wine that’s not sweet enough for the dessert.

If you end up with an acidic wine, you won’t be able to fully rejoice in the sweet and delightful taste of your dessert. There are a lot of sweet wines in the market that are perfect with the saccharinity of your dessert.

Heat It Up: Spicy Food And Spicy Wine

Can you imagine how uncomfortable your taste buds would be if you paired spicy food with spicy wine? Avoid falling into this mishap, and drink the correct one with your spice-laden meal.

A wine containing high levels of tannin and alcohol exacerbates the spice, leaving you with a fire in your mouth. Unless your spice tolerance is very high, it’s better to stick to something sweeter.

Serving And Pairing Wine At Wrong Temperature

When it comes to serving wine, its temperature matters. The correct temperature range ensures that you are getting the right flavors of the wine. The same principle applies when it’s time to pair it with food.

Even if you got the correct wine for the food, you won’t be able to get the benefits of the wine’s flavors because they would have degenerated due to the shifting temperature.

Revel In Red: Red Wine Pairing


If we were to figure out the different red wines out there, it would take forever, especially if we were trying to pair it with food. Let’s make your life easier by using this red wine pairing cheat sheet.

Red Wine Flavor Profile Food Pairing
Cabernet Sauvignon Dry with medium to high tannins


Red Meat

Hard Cheeses

Pinot Noir Delicate


Fatty Fish

Semi-soft Cheeses

Malbec Full-bodied

Fruity and Juicy

Dark Meat Poultry

Steak and Lamb

Shiraz Rich and Bold



Grilled Meat Dishes

Bold and Salty Cheeses

Merlot Full-bodied

Medium Tannin level

Lean Poultry Meat

Hard Cheeses

Tempranillo Spicy and Savory



Tomato-based dishes

Sangiovese Dry

Red fruit flavors

Hard Cheeses

Mediterranean dishes

especially tomato-based


Wonder In White: White Wine Pairing


Since we have a red wine pairing guide, it’s only fair we come up with the white wine version. You can use this wine life hack as a reference in the future!

White Wine Usual Flavor Profile Food Pairing
Chardonnay Full-bodied

Dry or Medium Dry

Acidic Food



Pinot Grigio Light-bodied



Delicate Cheeses

Fresh vegetables

White Fish

Sauvignon Blanc Aromatic


Medium – Medium High




Moscato Fruity and Sweet

Usually low in alcohol

Light desserts

Works with Spicy, Salty and Bitter dishes

Riesling Can be dry or sweet

Fruity and Aromatic

Chinese and Thai dishes

Seafood like salty fish

Gewürztraminer Dry or Semi-sweet to Sweet




Spicy Food

Sémillon Sweet

Citrus Notes

Works well with pork, chicken and fish

Cream-based dishes


Perfect Combination: Wine And Food

If you have the opportunity to revel in delicious food, don’t miss out on the chance to pair them with wine. You can dig deep into your knowledge of how to pair wine with food or just let your instinct take over. Whatever you end up with, the most important thing is you enjoy yourself!


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