Food and Wine Pairing 101: How to Pair Wine with Your Meal

Pairing wine with food has been a topic of debate for decades.  The art of proper food and wine pairing hasn’t strayed from its original intent, however: to enhance the taste of your meal as a whole.

While food and wine pairing may be considered an art, understanding the basics will give everyone and anyone the power to make the best choice.  Whether you’re new to pairing wine with food or you’re a seasoned “expert,” these food and wine pairing tips from can help you on your journey to enjoying your dish for all it’s worth.

Basic Principles of Successful Food and Wine Pairing

A guide to getting more out of a meal by knowing the basic principles of food and wine pairing.

By Jackie Dodd



The general consensus among most wine drinking, food-loving humans is: “Drink what you like”.

True. For the most part, but viewing wine as an additional ingredient to your dish, knowing how the food and wine interact will give you more control of the experience of your meal.

You adore a dry cab, as well as super spicy red curry but what do they do to each other? Do you know how to pick a wine that can enhance your meal, rather than detract from it? Drink and eat what you like is always a good rule, but if you like several types of wine, knowing which one to pick can highlight that meal that you adore, and vice versa. Where do you even begin?

While there is certainly room for interpretation when it comes to taste and experience, knowing a few basic rules will have you on the path to pairing like a pro.

The Basic Principles of Successful Food and Wine Pairing

Rule one: Acid needs acid

Any food with a high acid level, something you just want to squeeze a lemon onto, is a perfect match for a high acid wine. If you are serving Chicken Picatta, or pasta with tomato sauce, opt for a Barolo, Sauvignon Blanc or Chianti. Serving a high acid wine with a meal like this, and you will bring out the citrus notes of your food. This is also a great rule to keep in mind if you are a red wine person, who wants to pair with an acidic pork or chicken dish. Choose a high acid, low tannin red for a nice Red Wine, White Meat pairing. Think that dish you made needs more acid? Serve with an acidic wine to increase the taste of the acid in the dish.

Rule Two: Tannins Need Fat

First of all, what IS a tannin? It’s the astringent component in red wine that give it structure. This is what can cause that bitter, pucker feeling in the back of your throat. This needs fat for balance, fat will soften the tannins and bring a smoother feel. Serve a bold Cabernet with a nice fatty piece of Prime Rib.


Rule Three: Fish Goes with Acid, Not With Tannins

 We have all heard the old rule of: White Wine for White Meat, Red Wine for Red Meat. The reason for that is acid and tannins, not color. If you are serving fish, think of the wine as you would a squeeze of lemon on top (high acid wine) rather than a sprinkle of cheese (tannin heavy red wine).

Rule Four: Pair Wine With Dominant Flavor, Not Necessarily The Meat

This is another reason to ignore the old rule White for White, Red for Red. Just because you have pork on your plate, doesn’t mean that is the flavor that will stick around. Is that pork being served in a robust red sauce? Or is that beef being served with a creamy lemon sauce? If the sauce on your plate is the dominant flavor, pair to that, not the meat.


Rule Five: Heat Needs Sugar

This is the best example of wine paring going awry. Serving a super spicy dish with a high alcohol, tannin heavy wine with will set your guests on fire, two great elements producing a catastrophe combination when mixed.  Alcohol intensifies the heat. If however, you cooked a dish that is much more mellow that you have intended, pair with one of those high tannin, high alcohol wines to crank up the heat. But, for the most part, you want to stick with a sweeter, low alcohol wine. Even if you don’t like sweeter wines, you will be surprised at how those sugars are altered with introduction of the heat. Try a Gewürztraminer or a Riesling.

Rule Six: Sweet Needs Sweeter

You want the wine to be sweeter than the dessert. Even if you are not drawn to the sweeter wines, taking a sip of a rich, sweet port before, and after, a bit of a dense fudgy cake completely transforms the flavors of both elements.


When you’re learning how to pair wine with food, you understand why it is a wonderful thing to know.  When you understand how the flavors complement each other, you learn firsthand how much more wonderful your meal can be.  Wine is not just a beverage to enjoy with your meal, but it’s an ingredient that can be used to enhance your dish.

Wine should be an extension of the dish that you – or your favorite restaurant – created.

Here are some food and wine pairing guides to further you along on your journey to the perfect meal:

Food and wine pairing doesn’t have to be a mystery and, in fact, it shouldn’t be.  And now that you know the basics of pairing food with wine, you can revel in the taste and splendor of the perfect couple.

When you want to enjoy the array of wines at Ceres Bistro in Worcester, Massachusetts, don’t be afraid to ask your server for their advice.  We love helping guests get the whole experience with the perfect food and wine pairing.  By the glass or by the bottle, you won’t be sent home without a pleased palate.