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Pairing Basics

When entertaining, the idea of preparing a dish and serving the appropriate wine with it can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned host or hostess.  Click here to discover a range of recipes created by our Executive Chef Dana Liljequist and wine pairings recommended by our Winemaker Colin Pennington.

Wine’s primary purpose is to compliment food and to take it to new heights.  When tastes in food are balanced, the wine will remain relatively unchanged, just as the winemaker intended.  That is our standard objective; finding the food and wine pairings that leave the wine tasting as close to the winemakers intention as possible.

To understand how wine interacts with food, we need to look at the food in terms of taste.  Any specific dish will contain one or more of the five basic tastes:  sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory.  These dominate tastes in the food and will have a profound effect on the taste of the wine.

Pair Sweet/Spicy/Savory Foods with Light Wines

Dishes that are sweet, spicy, protein dominant or low in salt will make a wines texture stronger.  The wine will have more of an acidic taste and if the wine has been aged in oak barrels, it will also seem more bitter.  Red wines will also become more tannic.  Therefore, the recommended style of wine for these dishes is off-dry and light styles of wine.

Pair Acid/Protein Dominant Foods with Crisp and Fruity Wines

Dishes that have dominant acidity will make a wine milder or softer.  You will perceive less acid in the wine, which will make a wine milder or softer.  You will perceive less acid in the wine which makes it taste milder and sometimes more anomic or fruitier.  Since these foods are also usually low in salt, the wines should not have as much oak influence or tannin.  For these dishes, crisp, light intensity wines will pair best because they also tend to be relatively high in acid. 

Pair Balanced Foods with Most Whites and Most Reds

Dishes that are seasoned properly with salt will not only develop more complex flavors in the food, but will pair well with the widest variety of wines.  If a dish is also high in sweetness and protein, the addition of some acidity is quite common in many cuisines.  This develops more flavor and another result is that it balances the dish so that it does not react with the wines acid balance as much.  Dishes with this balance of salt seasoning and acidity will pair well with all wine categories.

Pair Desserts with Sweet Dessert Wines

Virtually all desserts are sweet and not a lot of salt is added to them.  The general rule of thumb is to serve a dessert wine that is sweeter than the actual dessert.  This is because they are all acid balanced and the acid will become more pronounced when you have a sweet dessert.  When the wine is sweeter, you won’t notice a change in the wines acidity as much.  Most people assume that a sweet wine will combine with the sweetness of the dessert but actually it is just the opposite.

Click below for recipes & pairings.