Pairing wines with food has long been a complicated and confusing affair. For many years, people have left this to a sommelier in a restaurant, thinking it’s simply too confusing to be worth the effort.

Contrary to that, it’s actually much simpler than you might think. In this article, we’re going to take you through our basic guide to pairing wine with food.

If you love cooking and food as much as we do, then you’ll know that there are two different ways to pair tastes: congruent and contrasting. Those are some big, fancy words, so let’s break it down.

A congruent pairing is one where both items have similar flavours and compounds in their makeup. A good example of this could be beef and mushroom. Both of those foods have rich, dark flavours, and so they pair together very well.

A contrasting pairing is one where the items have few shared compounds, but because they’re so opposing in their flavours, they compliment each other well. A good example of this is the pairing of coconut and lime. Coconut is rich, decadent, and creamy, while lime is sharp, acidic, and tart. These two flavours pair together well as they each offer something which supplements the other’s flavour. Another classic example of this style of pairing could be in salted caramel: the salt offers a new depth of flavour that is totally not present in the caramel. Using that knowledge, it can be applied when selecting your wines.

Try to identify the main flavours in both your wine and your food. For example, is the wine mostly sweet, bitter, or acidic? Is your food mostly salty, piquant, or fatty? When you’ve identified the main flavours in your food, it’s a matter of selecting a drink which will either have a congruent or a contrasting pairing.

For the sake of argument, let’s pick a classic French dish: Escargot. Typically, the snails are served in a rich garlic and butter sauce, so the overall flavour is quite rich and fatty – quite the decadent entrée. If you wanted to create a contrasting pairing, you’d be wise to choose a white wine with high acidity like a chablis or a sauvignon blanc. This acidity will stand out against the rich, fatty quality of the escargot, cutting through beautifully, and allowing you to appreciate them both more.

If you wanted to create a congruent pairing, you would want to choose a wine with a creamy quality. That will match the creaminess of the buttery sauce, making the whole meal much richer and more decadent.

Whichever choice you make in that case is completely up to you and your selection will enhance different elements of your meal. Pairing food and wine enhances the dining experience. It can really be quite simple, and we’d be happy to help you choose from our carefully selected wine list of local and French wines.