There is only one real rule: If you like a food and wine pairing, it works. If peanut butter and Sauvignon Blanc tickles your fancy, go with it. Simple as that! (But you might want to get friends something else to drink … )

In fact, there are some simple ‘guidelines’ that can help you navigate this complex, often daunting, task of wine and food pairing. And knowing some of these basics can also get you away from that old adage that you can serve only white wine with fish and red wine with meat. One has far more options than that.

Here they are:

ONE: PLACE. Is there a traditional food for that wine region? Chances are high the local wine will go very well with that! Oysters with briny Muscadet sur Lie, elegant Pauillac with roast lamb, Chianti with pasta e fagioli

TWO: STRUCTURE, or how the wine ‘feels’ in the mouth. This gets into the real ‘science’ of food pairing, and includes acidity, sweetness, weight (or body), tannins.

  • Acidity in food should be matched in the wine.
  • Acidity can cut through lighter, fatty dishes like salmon, cream sauces or pork tenderloin.
  • A wine should be as sweet or sweeter than the food (and by this I mean sugar, not fruitiness).
  • Off-dry or sweeter wines pair great with spicy foods.
  • Match weightier dishes with weightier wines (and vice versa).
  • Or don’t. Contrast a weighty dish with a lighter wine (or bubbles), just make sure the wine is intensely flavored if you do.
  • Tannins require meat.
  • Avoid tannic wines when eating salty or spicy foods.

THREE: FLAVORS (which are really aromas). This is the most subjective of the three guidelines, but one can get more creative here!

  • Contrast your flavors (Sweet and sour, salty and sweet, savory and sweet)
  • Or don’t. Match them: Echo a flavor in the food: a peppery note with a spicy wine.
  • One of my favorites: pairing with cilantro? Pick a wine that has lime and citrus notes in it … delicious.

I will actually be putting this all to practice for members of the distinguished Lotos Club tomorrow evening … stay tuned for the menu and what worked.

Ligurian feast