6 Tricks to (Sound Like You Know How to) Pair Wine with Food

science of wine food pairing

So what makes some foods great with white wine, and others perfect for enjoying with a bottle of red? The answer lies in food science. The reason why some wines pair badly with certain foods lies in the chemical composition of the food. Certain chemical compounds are known to affect the way in which we experience taste.

1)     Don’t be a victim to foods that can fool your palate

A good example of a food which fools out palate is artichoke. It contains a compound called cynarin that tricks our senses. Some people find that eating artichoke makes them detect flavors which are not there. Artichoke is extremely likely to clash with sweet wine, as the palate often experiences sweetness even though there is none present. The wine then becomes unpalatably sweet when drunk with this food. Other people experience the opposite affect while eating artichokes. This means that everything starts to taste extremely bitter.

Another food that can fool the palate is asparagus. This contains a chemical called mercaptan. As this is a sulfur compound, the flavor of wine is often affected by a vegetal taste. The iodine in fish dishes reacts badly with the tannins present in red wines. It has a tendency to flood the palate with bitter, metallic tastes.


2)     Tannins are great with fatty foods

The classic steak and fries is a great accompaniment to full bodied reds for a very good reason. Fatty foods work extremely well with the tannins in red wines as they tend to cut through the fat. This will make your steak feel more tender.

3)     Acidity can be good for lighter meals

Some people tend to shy away from wine with a high acid content. However, wines with good acidity like Muscadet or Sauvignon Blanc are the perfect accompaniment to light summer salads, creamy sauces, and light fish courses. In fact, you can cut out some calories by using a splash of white wine directly on your salad instead of a fatty and sugary dressing.


4)     High alcohol lowers the flavor profile

You should never pair bold, high-tannin or high-alcohol wines with delicate dishes. They will flood the palate and make it difficult to appreciate the meal. Keep your high alcohol wines like Port and Madeira for after the meal during dessert.


5)     The “Red wine with red meat” fallacy

Don’t fall victim to the groupthink that red wine should only be drunk with red meat, and white wine only with white meat. In fact, there are many pairing which you might not think would go well together, but due to the food chemistry are fantastic partners. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Roast Chicken with Beaujolais.
  • Prosciutto Ham and Melon and dry Muscat.
  • Dark Chocolate Mousse with Madeira.
  • Spicy Hot Curry with Grenache or Zinfandel.


6)      Keep your meal simple and the wine will be the star

Perhaps you want to show off a particularly special vintage with friends over the perfect dinner. If so, the golden rule is not to get too carried away by making a complex menu. When there are too many flavors to distinguish, the character of the wine is likely to be overshadowed. Bombarding your guests with a variety of different flavors will challenge their ability to appreciate the vintage. The more complex the dish, the more this is going to cloud the wine tasting palate.


Follow these tricks and you’ll be better pairing wine – and food – in no time flat. -JS

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2 Responses to “6 Tricks to (Sound Like You Know How to) Pair Wine with Food”

  1. Nancy Smith April 2, 2013 at 3:43 am #

    Wow I learned a lot from such a short article. I will definitely bust out this advice next time I’m out at dinner. I’ll show my boyfriend what’s up. “Oh, honey, you’re ordering a burger? Try a glass of this Super Tuscan, the tannins will cut the fat nicely” HAHAHAAA

    • Jeffrey Shaw April 2, 2013 at 3:47 am #

      Good one Nancy! Thanks for the comment. Let us know how your boyfriend responds to your new-found knowledge.

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