Thoughts and ideas from The Black Olive
5 Tips for Food and Wine Pairing
November 1, 2019 at 12:00 AM
by The Black Olive

Having fun, experimenting, and being open-minded are the secrets to a fun and successful food and wine pairing night with friends, family, or even only you. Before you search for "wine nights near me," take a few minutes to read up on food and wine pairings. You'll get more out of your special evening when you do.

Some restaurants will make suggestions on their menu about wines that pair well with signature dishes. Other wine pairings near you might charge a fee to pair your wine with each course during your meal. But we want to let you in on a little secret:

While the overall strategy behind the pairing is complex, understanding the basics and key tips for making the perfect pair on your own are quite simple to grasp.

From a glass of dry champagne to an earthy, hearty meal, we have the down-low on how to experience the best food and wine pairing near you.

Here are a few of the top tips to get you started:

1. The wine should always be sweeter than the food.
A sweeter food with a less-sweet wine pairing will often tend to taste bitter and tart.

2. Bitter and bitter should never mix.
We alluded to this in tip no. 1, but not only should the wine generally be sweeter, but if a bitter food is what your palate desires, then a bitter wine is an absolute “no.” Our taste buds are incredibly sensitive to bitterness, meaning they will get overwhelmed easily. The more tannin in a wine, the more bitter it is. So, if a bitter wine is your drink of choice, look for a fatty, umami food to balance it out.

3. Always pair an earthy wine with earthy food.
This is the exact opposite of our last tip. Bitter and bitter are a no, but earthy and earthy are a go. Old World wines are notably better with food because of their very earthy and tart flavor, making them a very bold flavor selection should they stand alone. Pairing them with any food is generally a good rule of thumb, but pairing them with something even more earthy than the wine is best.

4. Champion the wine.
Start every wine and food pairing by determining what the best characteristics of the wine are. Then, focus the pairing on complimenting those characteristics with all food choices.

5. If a sauce is involved, match the sauce.
Generally, wine and food pairing tips are designed to match the wine to the meat, however, this tip is the exception. If there is sauce involved, pairing the wine to the sauce trumps pairing it to the meat. The thought process behind this is that the meat has either been marinated in the sauce for a while and has taken on the flavor profile of the sauce. Therefore, the sauce will be what you taste the most, making it logical to pair it to the sauce first and foremost.

Red Wine Basics

People are often intimidated by red wine. It can be incredibly complex, dry, bitter, peppery, and so many other flavors depending on what you select.

But when paired correctly, red wine can easily become your new favorite.

Here are some examples of red wine and food pairings:

• An earthy, old-world pinot noir with something even more earthy, such as mushrooms

• A cabernet sauvignon with a slice of juicy red meat, such as lamb

• Malbec with a bold, heavily spiced sauce

White Wine Basics

Typically, a glass of white wine will create a refreshing contrast to a dish. This is also true for sparkling wines and rosé.

As a general rule of thumb, white wine pairs best with light-intensity meats and white meats.

Here are some examples of white wine and food pairings:

• A silky chardonnay with a fatty and delicious fish like salmon or any other kind of seafood in a lush, creamy sauce

• A glass of dry champagne with saltier meat, or really, anything salty

• A dry rosé with a rich, cheesy dish

What other wine and food pairing tips would you add to our list?