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Wine pairing: when food ingredients request harmony!

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

Who said it was easy to know and pick the perfect food match for your wine?

First easy thing to bear in mind...

Don't sweat it!

Do you have pleasure?

Yes or Not

Treating yourself and enjoying the pairing remains the highest priority in terms of food and wine pairing. And everyone is different as we all have different palates that will react differently to each flavours, creating a wide range of chemical reactions within your mouth according to your pairing.

Why? Because our palate is way too COMPLEX!

The saliva plays a wide and complex role in our daily life: it lubricates, it regulates the pH, mineralizes, digests our food but it also plays an anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-pain role.

Did you know that there are almost 1200 proteins in our mouth? Imagine what happens when they encounter food ingredients paired with wine, the chemical reaction that can be provoked for our 400 taste receptors?

We all have different sensitivities but genetically, we are all pre-coded with common points:

Naturally, like animals, we have an instinct and an addiction to sweetness. This comes originally from the breastmilk that we discover during our first years in life! And, through our food education, we developped an appreciation for saltiness.

On the other hand, we have a natural defensive across all living beings on earth to protect against bitterness (a flavour that is originally toxic in certain plant species).

The olfactory memory of the fetus and the newborn develops from the first moments in life since they already have a natural attraction for the smell of their amniotic fluid!

A little anecdote from a study carried out in Germany:

For decades, baby bottle-milk in Germany was flavoured with vanilla.

Some researchers offered two types of ketchup to a group of adults. Quickly, we were able to distinguish those raised on mother's breastmilk and those raised from a baby bottle during this period:

Ketchup with a hint of vanilla was preferred by those who were bottle fed while regular Ketchup was preferred by those who were breast fed! This is how this famous sauce was flavoured in the period of bottle-fed adults!

To guide you in your wine and food pairing, here is a simple rule in 4 steps:

accords mets vins gras du saumon acidite rosé accord de contraste similitude et saveurs

Think colour pairings

Pink food with rosé wine? Yes!

A pink fish like salmon with a Cabernet d'Anjou or a rosé de Provence? Some smoked ham like Serrano or Italian Prosciutto with an Italian rosé Bardolino chiaretto or a Rioja rosé wine?

Some white food with a white wine? Yes!

An elegant white fish with a dry and fine white fresh wine or a white meat in their simplest versions!

Red food with red wine? Yes, you see, it is pretty easy!

Some red meat with a full body red wine or a red fish with a light red also like Tuna fish!

Here below a bream fish with a white fresh and fruity wine from Dão region in Portugal, a bacalhau (grilled fish with a meaty texture, quite heavy and mouthfilling) can blindly pair here either with a red or white wine (think also food texture and presence in mouth in addition to the colour) and a Clairet rosé from Bordeaux with fine deli like Serrano ham!

Think regional pairings: local food, local wine!

accords mets vins les fromages vins blancs gras acidite accord de contraste similitude et saveurs vin du Jura et Comté

There is nothing better than just thinking about local food with local drinks:

A Camembert with a cider from Normandy

A Munster cheese and an Alsatian Gewürtztraminer

A cassoulet from Toulouse and a South-West Cahors

An Entre-deux-mers and oyster from Bassin d'Arcachon

A yellow wine from Jura and the local famous Comté cheese


Food ingredients taste the le terroir, the region and will get along perfectly within your palate!

Think about balance of textures and power

accords mets vins les fromages vins blancs gras acidite accord de contraste similitude et saveurs

Some tannins, some body and mouthfeel presence like deli, red meat? It will go well, in terms of weight in your mouth, with a powerful red wine while the the lightness of a white fish will not overpower a light and fresh white wine. On the contrary, these two together will reach harmony... As a consequence, think about power and textures!

Speaking about texture, the fat of the cheese takes up the lead in the mouth but also creates a protective film in the palate. The encounter of the proteins of the milk from the cheese with the tannins of a red wine can create an unpleasant chemical reaction in the mouth and bring out the bitterness, even a harsh and soapy side! This is why it is more pleasant to associate cheeses with white wines... Even better, the freshness of the bubbles will balance the fatness of the cheese wonderfully! Dare sparkling wines! But beware, with more than 300 existing cheeses, it is still necessary to think by category of cheese (fresh, dry cheese, pressed paste, blue cheese...) and integrate the intensity and textures of these in relation to the styles of the wines.

Sometimes, pairing based on similarity can work ... (the minerality of Chablis and the freshness of goat cheese)

While other times, daring to use pairing of contrast is risky but can reach the "nirvana" tasting level ... (the sweetness of a Sauternes with the spiciness/bitterness of Roquefort blue cheese!)

Finally think about finesse pairing

Accord régional: pizza sicilienne et vin sicilien (Corva à base d'Inzolia et Grecanico), burrata (fromage frais) et vin blanc frais!
Local pairing: Sicilian pizza wine (Corva from Inzolia & Grecanico), burrata (fresh chesse) & fresh white wine!

If the cassoulet is not known to be fine and rather more heavy, you will hardly feel the glass of a Chablis that you would be served with. This very light and fresh white wine will disappear in favour of the fatty meal! Yes, there is an imbalance ... One is not fine, even rustic and heavy, while the other is fine and light.

Does the food seem light to you and show a beautiful delicacy? Then, it would deserve a wine of the same balance!

Finally, you can take a step back on these 4 axes and instigate all of your pairings from two angles of approach:

A combinaition that highlights the flavours: a dish with fatness will be in ideal combination with the freshness brought by the acidity of a wine. The acidity will cut or even eliminate the feeling of fat in the mouth. For example, a fish with a butter sauce will be enhanced by the acidity of a dry white wine.

A combinaition of harmony according to the principles that we often hear "with a heavy cuisine, a full-bodied wine while with a light and simple cuisine, a fresh and elegant wine". This is how we can make a "luxurious" pairing: Champagne with caviar or salmon eggs ... In addition, the bubbles reduce the strong taste of fish and the carbon dioxide CO2 reinforces the sensation of freshness. on the iodine side! Oysters and bubbles are also harmonious!

Finally, a few indicators on the enemies of wine, at all costs!

> Clove garlic is a serial killer

> Along with artichoke, endive, spinach

> Grapefruit is a suicide bomber

> As well as vinegar sauce within your salads!

Source: lecture Le goût du vin, Emile Peynaud et informations recueillies lors de mes formations au sein de L'Ecole du Nez Jean Lenoir aux côtés de Gabriel Lepousez et de la Revue du Vin de France Academy aux côtés de Franck Thomas.

Cerveau et odorat, Comment rééduquer son nez, Moustafa Bensafi et Catherine Rouby

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