How to Pair Food and Wine

You know those people who can order any dish off a menu and know exactly what wine to order with it? They make food and wine pairing look easy. But for the rest of us, figuring out how to pair wine with fish and other foods can be a daunting task. So pour yourself a glass of your favorite wine and get ready to learn about some delicious combinations. If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry! We’ve got some tips to help get you started.

Key Elements Associated With Wine and Food Pairing

Several elements are involved when pairing wines with food, as explained below.


Acidity is often thought of as the "tanginess" or sourness associated with wine, and it can help cut through fattier dishes by cleansing the palate (i.e., cutting through oil). An acidic wine also balances the sweetness of some foods.

Alcohol Content

Generally speaking, the higher the alcohol content in a wine, the more full-bodied its texture will be, and thus it can stand up better to rich and dishes.


Tannins are what makes your mouth "dry" after you drink wine. Usually, you find red wines to have more tannin. As a rule of thumb, the stronger the tannins in a wine, the greater it will complement bolder flavors.


The sweetness in the wine refers to the residual sugar which makes the wine sweet. A sweet wine tends to have a heftier body. Sweet wines are best for two types of dishes: even sweeter dishes or spicy foods. Sweet wines are best paired with desserts and or contrasting strong flavors. Sweetness also helps calm down the heat in a meal allowing other flavors in the dish stand out.

Basic Tips for Pairing Wine with Food

The following tips can be used to help ensure a good pairing.

Choose a Wine to Complement the Flavor of the Food

The goal when pairing wines with food is always to complement the dish’s flavor, not overpower it. Ensure that the flavors of what you are serving go well together so that your wine will also complement it rather than fight with the flavors.

Do Not Make Assumptions When Picking a Wine

Many people default to thinking about red wines when pairing food because they believe reds are more suited for heavy foods like steak or lamb chops. However, most wines go well with various dishes, and there is no "rule" that reds must be paired with meats. White wine can taste fantastic with salmon and seafood, for example. So if you prefer a white wine with your meat, you may be in good company!

Do Not Make Assumptions Regarding the Wine’s Color

The color of wine has little to do with its flavor profile or whether you should pair it with certain foods or not. The color of a wine is determined by age or skin contact. Some grapes are just darker in color than others. Wines like Nebbiolo are light skinned, and thus softer in color. But don’t let that grape fool you, it’s got some crazy big tannins.

Go for Classics When Unsure

When you are unsure about whether a certain pairing will work or not, look at what classic pairings already exist between specific foods and wines. The culinary world is well aware of wine’s benefits for enhancing flavors in dishes, so much effort has gone into determining which foods and wines offer a perfect pairing.

Learning how to pair your favorite wines with your favorite foods can enhance your enjoyment of both. At AJA Vineyards, our wine tasting events and wine tasting packages are a great way to learn this skill from a certified sommelier. If you live in the Southern California area or plan to visit in the near future, check our Upcoming Events page for wine tastings and other fun events!


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