How to pair food and wine

Wine is usually drunk with a meal. However, to enhance both the wine and the dish, it is important to find the right match between the two. To help you choose a wine for each course, here are some tips.

A horizontal and a vertical pairing: what is the difference?

Food pairings: horizontal harmony

Horizontal pairings between wine and food involve taking into account only the wine and the dish that accompanies it.

But to find the match made in heaven, certain rules apply.

Firstly, there is a principle that could be referred to as ‘equivalence’, between the strength of the wine and that of the food. So, a light wine accompanies delicately flavoured food and a full-bodied wine accompanies strongly flavoured foods.

Also, wine and food should be mutually enhancing and not compete with each other. The aromas must create a certain harmony. So, if a dish displays multiple aromas, it is preferable to choose a wine with little complexity and vice versa.

To avoid mismatches, follow the terroir rule which is to serve a local wine to accompany a typical dish. For example, a white wine from Cassis is the ideal companion for bouillabaisse.

Food and wine: vertical harmony

When pairing food and wine, it is also recommended that you consider vertical harmony, which involves taking into account the wines and dishes served in succession. The aim is to create perfect harmony throughout the meal.

The order in which the wines are served then stems from a combination of several rules:

● serve white wines before red wines;

● serve young wines before age-worthy wines;

● serve dry wines before sweet wines;

● serve cool wines before wines at room temperature;

● serve wines from the least alcoholic to the most alcoholic.

Also, when it comes to vertical harmony, there is one essential principle whereby “the wine you drink must never make you miss the one you have just drunk”.

Generally speaking, it is recommended not to serve more than three different wines during a meal, as this may confuse your guests’ palates.

It is therefore preferable to move up the range towards the premium end as the dishes are served.

Food pairings – summing up

To put theory into practice, what follows are various suggestions for absolutely perfect food and wine pairings.

As an aperitif, to liven up your taste buds and those of your guests, we recommend serving a light and, maybe sparkling wine.

Whether as a starter or a main course, shellfish and fish pair wonderfully with white wine. The same wine can be served both for the aperitif and the starter.

For the main course, if you serve meat, you can serve a relatively full-bodied red wine with red meat. To accompany white meat, opt for a white wine or a light red.

When the cheese platter comes out, the choice of wine may differ depending on the style of cheese. Red wine is often recommended with this course, but a sweet white also makes a great match for goat’s cheese or blue cheese for example.

For pudding, sweet or noble rot wines are ideal.

Now you have the fundamental principles for pairing food and wine during your business or family meals.