Do opposites attract, or does like love like? In the culinary dating world, wine and food court each other, and like the real dating world, the answer to that question depends on personal preference. While classic rules such as serving white wine with light fish may be true, understanding how these rules are based on the wine and food flavors will allow you to mix and match more.
The five basic tastes are sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami (savory). To create a tantalizing tension between the flavors of your meal, try pairing wines that complement the food’s properties for a more well-rounded flavor palate. The classic Cabernet Sauvignon and steak pair well because the tannins (the property of the wine that makes it drier) and the fattiness of the meat balance each other out. To cut the saltiness in foods, select an acidic, un-oaked wine, or even a slightly sweet champagne. If you have a strong, spicy dish, a strong, spicy red wine could overpower the taste buds, so try a fruity wine such as Gewürztraminer or Riesling instead.
However, if you want to expand one note of a dish into a strong chord, try pairing like with like. A peppery Zinfandel matches nicely with grilled steak in pepper sauce. Moscato’s sweetness goes well with dessert-but make sure your wine is sweeter than your dessert. If not, the wine will end up tasting tart and unpleasing. Because of this, pairing red wine with chocolate is harder than you think, so one tip is to try pairing wine with chocolate that has a higher cacao percentage since it is less sweet than milk chocolate.