Wine Exists for Food

by Lisa Elbert, Tastemaker in Residence


In my opinion, wine exists for food. My reasoning? Put simply, it is no coincidence that the world’s two most famous wine growing regions, France and Italy, are also the home to some of the world’s most exquisite cuisine. Food brings life to wine, and vice versa. The purpose of pairing is to take advantage of the effects that one component can have on the other; to enhance the other in such a way so as to create the perfect marriage. 

It is, however, important not to be ruled by rules. In addition to understanding the basic taste interactions between food and wine, it is also important to understand that taste sensitivities vary from person to person. Personal preference plays an equally large role in the interactions between food and wine.

Below you will find what I have learned to be the primary food and wine taste interactions:

Sweetness in Food: sugar increases the perception of bitterness in wine. As a general rule, try to select a wine with a higher level of sweetness when serving any dish containing sugar.
Suggested varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon, Port

Umami* in Food: increases the perception of acidity in wine.  
Suggested varietal: Rioja, Pinot Noir

Acidity in Food: increases the perception of body and fruitiness of wine. A high acid dish can make the wine fall flat. Matching the acidity of the dish with a high acid wine can enhance fruit flavors.
Suggested varietal: Sauvignon Blanc, Champagne

Salt in Food: increases the perception of body in the wine. Salt is a wine-friendly component.
Suggested varietal: Chardonnay, Cava

Heat in Food: increases the perception of bitterness and alcohol burn. It is always smart to serve spiced foods with wines containing residual sugar.
Suggested varietal: Riesling, Sauternes

*Umami is a savory taste that many people find difficult to pair. Included in this category are mushrooms, eggs, smoked seafood and meats, and asparagus.