How to Pair Wine and Food for a Great Night In

Looking to throw the perfect dinner party for your friends and family? Well in addition to a great looking table (which you can set on the cheap!) and delicious menu you need the right wine to complement every dish! Believe it or not, there is a science that goes into food and wine pairing and high-end restaurants agonize over every pairing they suggest. However, you don’t need to be a sommelier or Michelin star chef to make a the right choice at the liquor store!

Here are 5 basic rules to following when pairing wine and food to create a delicious and complimentary menu:

Salty and sweet.

If you’re serving a lot of salty snacks like gourmet salami or pretzels than keep a bottle of sparkling wine or champagne on hand! Salty foods can turn high alcohol wines bitter, but even dry sparkling wines have a touch of sweetness to them and the salty foods can actually help bring out that sweetness. That’s why a lot of baking recipes call for a pinch of salt!

Stick with the same description.

If you can describe the flavor of your food and the body of your wine with similar adjectives than chances are it’s a good match. For instance, “the words rustic and rich describe Zinfandel, Italy’s Nero d’Avola and Spain’s Monastrell as well as chicken-liver mousse.” Or fresh sole with a lemon sauce and Sauvignon Blanc both have those sharp citrus flavors, so they also pair well. Or if you’re serving heavily seasoned meat, look for a red wine with lots of those same spicy notes.

Dessert wines need to be sweeter than your dessert.

With desserts you need to be sure that the wine actually tastes sweeter than your dessert, otherwise the dessert will strip the wine of its natural sweetness and leave you with a bitter or tart flavor. Moderately sweet sparkling wines go great with fruity desserts like tarts, for instance, because they enhance that fruity taste without being overpowered by the sugar.

Light sauce needs light wines.

Light citrus sauces pair well with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay because those are lighter wines and the two won’t fight each other. Rich, heavy cream and mushroom sauces are ideal with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. And meat sauces go great with heavy reds like Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah. Basic rule of thumb? Light wines – light foods; deeply colored wines – rich foods.

Fatty foods call for red wine.

There is a reason red wine and steak is such a classic combo. The tannins in red wine have a natural “drying” effect on the mouth. The tannins from the wine are essentially pulling at the fat molecules that naturally occur in your cheeks. The fatty steak keeps replacing whatever fat molecules the tannins are breaking down, creating the perfect complementary pairing. Red wines will almost always taste better with fatty foods and white wines better with less fatty foods.