Six Rules for Perfect Wine Pairing

Six Rules for Perfect Wine Pairing

Let’s face it – your cooking is already on point. From broiling the perfect filet of salmon, to sautéing succulent veggies, to building the perfect cheese board, you’ve got it down pat. But before you pour the wine at dinner tonight, it’s time to put down the two-buck chuck (no offense, Charles) and step away from the wine glass. Here at GiftTree, we think delicious dinners deserve to meet their match in delicious wine. Here are six rules for perfect wine pairing – you’ll be pairing your mouth-watering dishes with equally tasty wines in no time. Onward!

Rule #1 🍷 Pair Bold with Bold, Light with Light.

Serving meat as your main course doesn’t automatically mean “pour the Zinfandel”. If the protein you’re serving is on the lighter side like seafood, poultry or pork, it should be paired with a light-bodied wine. But light-bodied doesn’t always mean white wine! Many red wine varieties are famed for their lightness, including Pinot Noir, Barbera, or Gamay. Most seafood – shellfish, salmon, flaky white fish – pairs well with whites, but heavier, meatier fish (like tuna steaks or swordfish) or fish that really tastes like the sea (think anchovies) pair perfectly with light-bodied reds. Big flavors like steak and red sauces, or powerful spices like paprika and cumin call for fuller-bodied red wines such as Zin, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz. While it’s a white wine, Chardonnay is still considered full-bodied and goes great with heavier sauces like Alfredo or Hollandaise. Overwhelmed yet? Not to worry – just follow the title of this rule, and if you’re looking for a quick guide to glance at, check out this awesome chart by Wine Folly.

Rule #2 🍷 Balance the Acidity. 

Let’s say you’re dipping crusty bread in balsamic vinegar, having tacos with pickled red onions on top, or serving a salad with creamy, tangy slices of goat cheese. When the food you’re eating has that certain bite – you know the one – that tang that makes your jaws tingle and your mouth water? Pair it with a wine that also has an “acidic tang” to it. Sauvignon Blanc (especially New Zealand Sauv Blancs), Albariño and Garganega are dry white wines with high acidity. Higher-acidity reds include Sangiovese and Pinot Noir, which go great with acidic tomato sauces.


Rule #3 🍷 Don’t Let The Wine Overpower the Food (or Vice Versa). 

It’s all about finding balance. Perfect food and wine pairing starts at the characteristics of a wine and the components of a dish. These tried-and-true methods will consistently make for great pairing: the wine should be sweeter than the food, the wine should have the same flavor intensity of the food, bitter wine + fatty food, sweet wine + salty food, and it is always better to match the wine to the sauce rather than the meat. No matter what you’re serving, when cuisine is served with a perfect companion wine, where neither one dominates the other, you’re guaranteed to make food and wine fireworks.


Rule #4 🍷 Offset Spicy Food with Sweet Wine.

Spicy cuisine such as Thai, Indian or Mexican needs a sweeter wine that has a little bit of sugar to cool it off. Sweet wines such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Grüner Veltliner and even Moscato (all whites) are sure to take the edge off of those hell-ishly spicy dishes like Pad Prik, Vindaloo or Salsa Verde Chicken. Avoid wines that have high oak (such as Chardonnay) which can detract from the food. And definitely avoid high alcohol content (such as Bordeaux), which can actually accentuate the heat negatively. Ever had a spicy meal turn painful? No fun. Stick to wines with an ABV under 12%.


Rule #5 🍷 Serve Your Wine at the Right Temperature.

You wouldn’t serve cold chili con carne, right? Just as the food you serve is piping hot, chilled to perfection or whatever the recipe calls for, serving wine at the appropriate temperature enhances not only the wine, but the food you’ve prepared, too. Champagne and sparkling wine, Rosé and most (but not all) white wines should be served chilled, between 45 – 49ºF. A misty fog of condensation should form on the glass when it’s poured. It is a common misconception that red wine should always be served at room temperature – this idea is actually misunderstood. When wine was first created, it was stored in underground cellars, which are always slightly cooler than room temperature. Red wine is meant to be served on the cool side, somewhere between 55-63ºF. This handy blog from Kendall Jackson has a really helpful chart that shows when you should stick your wine in the fridge before pouring!


Rule #6 🍷 Properly Aerate Your Wine and Use the Right Wine Glass.

This is sort of two rules in one. First, give your wine plenty of time to breathe before taking the first sip. Sommeliers recommend opening a bottle 30 minutes to an hour before serving. This way, the real flavors and bouquet of the wine can be released and fully develop. Recently, a few of us at GiftTree headed to a wine glass demonstration hosted by Riedel. We couldn’t believe the difference in taste when transferring the same wine from one glass to another. Notice how a wine glass is tilted while you drink? The shape of that glass sends the wine to different parts of your palate. So a French Sauvignon Blanc tasted absolutely divine in its classic egg-shaped glass. But when poured into an Oaked Chardonnay glass, the wine turned watery. The aroma and flavor completely dissipated.  Many wine lovers seem to believe that we don’t like a certain varietal. However, the truth is they may not have had it in the right glass! Really, it’s the best way to taste a wine it in its true form. Riedel has a wonderful guide on their website to get you started – search by varietal and see what glasses come up!


One more fun option: Match the Cuisine Region to the Wine Region.

This is just a fun option that adds a little more interest to the table. There’s something to be said about grapes from the same region as the cuisine – they’re destined to be enjoyed together! So if you’re serving beef bourguignon, pour on the French Bordeaux! Having Paella? A deliciously dry and fruity Rosado from Spain will make all the flavors pop. And pizza night is just calling for a bottle of Chianti.


We hope this has been a helpful post! By following these six simple rules, you’ll be matching the flavors on the table with the flavors in your glass. Bon Appétit!

Explore our collection of renowned favorite wines and lesser-known boutique bottles here.

Comment Below

What’s your favorite wine and food pairing to sip and savor?

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *