The Complete Guide to Wine and Food Pairing

wine and food in the table

There is truly no greater pleasure in this world than good food paired with an exceptional glass of wine. The right wine can elevate your dining experience from everyday to unforgettable, but it takes an expert touch to truly understand the subtle art of a perfect pairing.

If you’re new to wine and food pairings, it can seem intimidating to learn how to make the proper selections, but don’t worry – it really isn’t as complicated as you might think. At the end of the day, it’s hard to go wrong if you have a truly great wine, but there are certainly pairing options that work better than others, and all it takes is a little time and dedication to properly understand them. That’s why we’ve put together a complete wine and food pairing guide – to help you take your pairings to the next level.

Our Ultimate Wine and Food Pairing Guide: The Basics

First things first: it’s important to understand the value of a good pairing. Think of wine and food pairings as different instruments in a song. Individually, they might sound nice, but it’s when they come together that true harmony is created.

wine and dessert as featured in bricoleur vineyards

Why Does Proper Pairing Matter?

Proper wine and food pairing is important because it takes an ordinary experience and makes it an extraordinary one. If you choose a wine that does not pair well with your food, you are losing out on an element of delight. The proper food and wine pairings bring out the best in each other, making your overall dining experience magical.

How to Begin Planning Your Pairing

When planning a wine and food pairing, you first must decide what you are planning the pairing around. Are you hosting a specific meal and looking for a wine that will go perfectly with the evening? Or is there a bottle of wine that you’ve been dying to bring out, and you’re looking for the culinary touch that will make the wine sing?

Decide what’s most important to you within the wine and food pairing and proceed from there.

Types of Food and Wine Pairing

When you first begin to learn about wine and food pairings, the different jargon can be confusing. Here are the two most common types of wine pairings to consider when planning your pairing.

set of wine glasses being poured with wine in the table outdoor

Congruent Pairings

A congruent wine pairing is created when pairing food and wine that share flavor compounds. This works to enhance flavors, such as pairing your dessert with a sweet wine. Generally, congruent pairings are avoided when working with particularly bitter flavors.

Contrasting Pairings

In contrasting pairings, the principle that opposites attract is key. By wisely choosing food and wine options that contrast, you can create a perfect balance of flavor that is truly exceptional.

Understanding Taste Components

To be able to craft congruent or contrasting pairings, however, it’s vital to have a proper understanding of taste components so you have an idea of how different foods and wines will interact. It may sound complicated, but it’s actually simple – you’re just honing in on the predominant aspects of a food or wine.

white wine and a special delicacy  served in the table as featured in bricoleur vineyards

Taste Components of Food

The taste components of food can be quite intricate. Over 20 tastes can be found in food, which sounds overwhelming to someone new to wine pairing. Lucky for you, there are only six taste components that matter when crafting food and wine pairings:

  • Sweet
  • Salt
  • Acid
  • Bitter
  • Spice
  • Fat

A food will generally have several different taste components. Are you serving fatty, salty meat? Or perhaps an acidic, sweet fruit dessert? Think through the elements of the dish that you’ll be serving and identify the taste components at play.

It’s also important to keep in mind whether a dish is light or heavy, as this can also have an impact on pairing selections.

Taste Components of Wine

While food has six different taste components, there are only three that you need to keep in mind with wine:

  • Red wine is more bitter
  • White wine and Rosé are more acidic
  • Sweet wines are predominantly sweet

By understanding the taste components in different types of wine, you’re better equipped to select the best wine and food pairings.

Our Favorite Food and Wine Pairings

a delicious meal with wine pairing served in the table as featured in bricoleur vineyards

No wine and food pairing guide is complete without recommendations! Here are a few of our favorite food and wine pairings to give you some extra inspiration as you dive into the world of pairing.

Vegetable Stew & Pinot Noir

A warm and comforting congruent pairing, a hearty vegetable stew pairs well with a silky Pinot Noir. The earthy undertones in the Pinot Noir align perfectly with the vegetables and herbs in the stew, crafting a pairing that truly enhances the flavor of both.

Cobb Salad & Sauvignon Blanc

On the other end of the vegetable spectrum, a light Cobb salad goes perfectly with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Light, not overpowering, the fresh zest and citrusy nature of a Sauvignon Blanc pairs beautifully with a delicious, fresh salad.

Salmon & Chardonnay

Salmon and other light seafood dishes need a unique wine to complement their flavor without overwhelming it, and Chardonnay fits the bill. A dry, medium-bodied Chardonnay is a great go-to pairing when planning a seafood meal.

Steak & Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s a classic pairing, but it’s a classic for a reason – nothing pairs better with red meat than a rich Cabernet Sauvignon. The two need each other’s depth to truly shine, and nothing else can match the intensity in such an elite way.

Oysters & Brut Magnum

When selecting a wine to pair with salty, rich oysters, the ripe, full flavor of Brut Magnum is an excellent choice. The creamy texture and refreshing aroma of the Brut Magnum is the perfect contrast to the oysters for a pairing you’ll love.

Aged Gouda & Rockpile Zinfandel

No wine and food pairing guide is complete without a wine and cheese pairing, and we love to enjoy aged gouda with a bottle of Rockpile Zinfandel. Its complex array of flavors is the perfect choice to serve with your favorite gouda cheese.

Crème Brûlée & Chardonnay

No meal is complete without dessert, and we love pairing a delicious crème brûlée with a great bottle of Chardonnay. Creamy and sweet yet acidic, it’s the ideal selection to finish off your meal with a flourish.

a wine and food pairing outdoor with a special bricoleur wine

FAQs: What to Know About Food and Wine Pairings

Still unsure about food and wine pairings? Here are a few of our most frequently asked questions.

What is wine and food pairing?

Wine and food pairing is the art of choosing wine and food selections that work well together for a culinary experience that will delight the palate.

Can I pair wine with vegetarian or vegan dishes?

Absolutely. Wine is not meant to only be enjoyed with meat – you can pair wine with pasta, salads, fruit, and even desserts!

How do I know which wine to pair with which food?

There are several different pairing methods. You will want to either craft a congruent pairing (in which the food and wine have similar taste components) or a contrasting pairing (in which the food and wine have opposite taste components). At Bricoleur Vineyards, we always recommend basing your food selection around your choice of wine.

a chef preparing the delicious food and wine pairing

Bricoleur’s Approach to Wine Pairing

At Bricoleur Vineyards, we believe in taking a wine-first approach to pairing. When you hold a bottle of wine, you’re holding a finished product, carefully crafted to peak excellence. Food, on the other hand, can be modified with different spices and culinary techniques to better match the wine. While it’s common for chefs to prepare a meal and then ask a sommelier to then find a wine to pair, we take the opposite approach – our culinary choices are crafted to best complement our wines.

Experience the Art of Perfect Pairings at Bricoleur Vineyards

At Bricoleur Vineyards, we only use the freshest seasonal ingredients to show off our perfect pairings. We offer a variety of tasting experiences to give you the best opportunity to explore premium Sonoma County wine. Enjoy Rooted, an immersive wine and culinary experience in which you’ll enjoy a seasonal six-course wine and food pairing of six of our wines and six artisanal dishes, or Soaring, a wine flight experience that will expose you to three of our best wines paired with locally sourced small bites.

Or, take part in our elite tasting experience, Atelier Bricoleur: an exclusive, multi-course wine and dinner experience that takes place after-hours at our very own Chef’s table. You’ll enjoy world-class food and wine that will leave no doubt in your mind that Sonoma County selections are truly unmatched.

Visit us to experience the art of a perfect pairing for yourself.

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