Wine and Food Pairing Principles

How do food and wine interact? This graphic shows the interactions.

  • On the left side, you have each of the food taste sensations (salt, sweet, acid, bitter, umami and spicy).
  • On top, the components of wine that can be affected by food (fruit, sweet, acid, bitter, alcohol and body perception).
  • In the crossing point of each pair, a symbol to show how the food affects the perception of the wine component: increasing it, decreasing it or no effect.

Wine and Food Pairing principles in What VINO

2 Practical Examples

  • SALTY FOOD:  imagine your are eating an appetizer with olives (mainly salty). Then, you can drink a light bodied wine because salty taste of food will increase the sensation of the body of the wine. If the food were sweet (in the second line of the graphic), it will make the wine taste flat or watery. Also, if the wine has a high acidity it will be soften by the salty flavor of the food. This is why a light, fresh white wine goes perfect with olives but also why it’s not a good dessert wine (assuming dessert is sweet).
  • SPICY FOOD: now imagine your are eating spicy noodles. If you drink a very tannic wine (bold red wine with plenty of oak flavor, for example) it will feel unbalanced and will dry your mouth unpleasantly, as the spicy taste increases the bitter sensation of wine. On the other hand, with a fruity and sweet wine instead, the spice in the food will compensate these characteristics of the wine.

Wine and Food Pairing Principles

Wine and Food! Millions of people have enjoyed them together for centuries.

In theory, we can enhance the pleasure of food and wine by paring them according to a few guidelines. The different tastes of food affect the way the components of the wine are perceived.

So, what happens when you place food in your mouth? Your taste buds react to the levels of sugar, salt, acid, bitterness, etc. of the food… So that the taste of the next thing you eat (or drink) can be altered. This is the principle behind the sense of wine-food pairing: depending on what you eat, the perception of components in wine is different. The taste of food affects the taste of wine much more than the other way around.

What are the main tastes we can perceive in food? Salt, sweet, acid, bitterness and umami (a savory taste enhanced by some cooking techniques which can be found in mushrooms, asparagus, cheeses, smoked seafood, cured meats). Spicy should also be included (though not a taste) as it’s a mouth feel that affects the perception of wine.

That said, it’s important to remember 2 things:

  • People have different sensitivities to flavors and textures and over this, different preferences.
  • Food is more complicated than just a taste: when you have more than one dish on a plate (main dish plus sides), you should pay attention to which one is the predominant and which are secondary.

…So, even when we follow the rules, pairing success is never granted.


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1 Comment

  1. This is a great guide! Really useful and well-explained.


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