Community /


The opinions expressed in these blogs are solely those of the people who wrote them, and do not represent the views of WPSU or Penn State University.

Food and Wine

Food and Wine Pairing - Part 2

Posted by Ted Liberti on 06/11 at 01:43 PM

As promised in the last edition of our wine blog, I want to share with you additional considerations to match wine with food successfully. Remember that the key is “balance” so that neither the food nor the wine overpowers the other. Additional elements to consider are:

‘Chewy’ Meat and Tannins
Tannins in red wine reacts with protein.  Foods with a high protein content, particularly rare red meat, will soften the effects of a wine’s tannins on the palate.  This is why wines from high-tannin grape varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah/Shiraz, go well with roast meats, stews and steaks - think grilled porterhouse, roast rack of lamb or stewed goat meat dishes.  Light, fruity red wines with low levels of tannin, like Beaujolais and Valpolicella, will complement white meats because these are low in proteins and lighter than meats such as lamb and beef.

Salty Foods and Sweet or High-Acid Wines
Salty foods are enhanced by a touch of sweetness.  Think of classic combinations like prosciutto and figs.  The same works with wine. Roquefort cheese and Sauternes, or Port and Stilton are famous matches in the realm of food and wine pairings.  Salty foods also benefit from a little acidity.  Salty foods such as olives, oysters and other shellfish go best with crisp, dry, light-bodied white wines.  Although neither sweet nor high in acid, Fino Sherry is a classic accompaniment for olives or salted nuts.  In fact, Fino, Manzanilla and Oloroso Sherries make dashingly wonderful food and wine pairings with many Spanish Tapas dishes such as olives, Manzanilla almonds an other local Spanish fare served within the Jerez sherry wine region of Spain.  As with many food and wine pairings, always heed local cuisine and wine classic combinations as they have been honed over many centuries of culinary and wine tradition.

Fatty/Oily Foods and High-Acid Wines
Wines with a good level of acidity can be superb with rich, oily foods, such as pate.  One classic food and wine pairing is French Sauternes and how well they work with foie gras.  For an easily accessible food and wine pairing, fetch a good duck or goose liver paté mated with a classic French Sauterne* made from classic Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes affected by Botrytis cinerea, aka noble rot.  With such a pairing, the weight of both wine and food are similar, and the acidity in the wine helps cut through the fattiness of the paté.  This is also an example of matching a sweet wine to a savory food.  Crisp wines such as Riesling and unoaked Italian Barberas can make a good match with fatty meats such as duck and goose.  When eating fried foods, one needs to pair wines with high acidity, because the cooking method increases the fat content.  For a quick guide to wine and food pairings pointing to these pairings see -

Key Flavors in the Food and the Wine
The flavor character of a food can sometimes complement or contrast with flavors in the wine.  Often the dominant flavor of the food is in the sauce.  Smoked foods need wines with enough character to cope with the strength of the smoking.  Lightly smoked salmon is a classic partner for Brut Champagne; smoked meats like pork can benefit from some slight sweetness in the wine like that found in some German Rieslings; smoky barbecued flavors suit powerful oaked wines like Australian Shiraz.  The stronger the smoke, the greater the oak can be when pairing wines and smoked foods.

Spicy foods are best matched by wines that are made from really ripe, juicy fruit, either unoaked or very lightly oaked (many spices accentuate the flavors of oak).  Wines such as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc can work well with highly spiced foods, as can ripe Chilean Merlot.  Spicy wines, such as Gewurztraminer from Alsace, NY State, Germany and the world’s cooler classic Gewurztraminer growing regions can also complement spicy dishes. **  Note that hot spices like chili reduce the sweetness in wine and can make dry red wines seem more astringent. 

Fruity flavors in food can be matched with fruity/floral wines.  For example, a Muscat might be paired with a fruit salad.  These guidelines and recommendations should avoid disastrous combinations, but individual taste is the final consideration.  Experimentation is the only way to really discover what really makes a great food and wine pairing.  With these broad guidelines, some culinary imagination and adventure, one can have surprising results; ample learning and most importantly fun.

References:  Wine & Spirits Education Trust – London, England – Wine and Food Pairing

Books to consult when trying to best pair wine and food. (Purchases of these books benefit WPSU.)

Wine Food & Friends(2006) – great for healthy food recipes from this Cooking Light Wine and Food pairing tome.

Perfect Pairings: A Master Sommelier’s Practical Advice for Partnering Wine with Food

* For more on Sauterne dessert wines, see

** When describing a wine, ‘spice’ can mean a number of different aromas and flavors such as white pepper, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

Join us on Sunday, September 19, 2010 for the Second Annual WPSU Wine celebration. This tasting will feature a variety of wines from the world’s greatest vineyards, and a selection of unique and premium wines, wine accessories and art will be offered in both live and silent auctions throughout the afternoon.


{name} Author: Ted Liberti
Bio: Ted Liberti developed a passion for fine wines while living in London in the 1980s and while working with Jean-Pierre Tardy, Le Bec-Fin's former executive chef and Maître Cuisinier de France, during his restaurant's 1986 Chaîne des Rôtisseurs food and wine competition dinners in Bucks County, PA. He gained further French wine knowledge while working in Paris in the early 1990s. Starting in 2006, he has conducted educational wine tastings for Italian, French, Spanish and South American wines. A Mount Nittany AWS member, Ted has done much self-study and is currently working toward his advanced Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) certification. His wife Jan's passion beyond travel, food and wine is gourmet healthy cooking. They recently returned from the Rhône/Provence wine harvest in southern France.


Leave a Comment

Commenting is not available in this section entry. « Harner Farm in State College Orzo with Asparagus and Peas »

Most recent entries

Jamie Oberdick's avatar Local Food Notes for January 30
Friday, January 30, 2015
By Jamie Oberdick in Local Food Journey
Jamie Oberdick's avatar 10 great varieties to add to your seed order list
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
By Jamie Oberdick in Local Food Journey
Local Food Journey's avatar Being a vegetarian in State College
Friday, January 23, 2015
By Local Food Journey in Local Food Journey
Linda Weaver's avatar Upcoming events for wine enthusiasts in February and March
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
By Linda Weaver in Local Food Journey



Latest Photos