Pairing food and wine properly requires examining these six criteria prior to choosing complements.
Fat: Wine is fat-free, while meats and dairy items can be rich with fat. Balancing it with acid and tannin creates an effect where the fat softens the tannin, setting the palate for the sweet, fruity elements within the wine.
Acid: Acidic wines provide zest, brightness, and certain sweetness in the same way that a squeeze of lemon can brighten the savory character of a fish filet. Balancing acidic characters like Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc requires less interaction with other acidic elements like vinegar.
Salt: Salty foods require savvy pairing choices. Use your imagination! Sweet wines like Sauternes and certain Rieslings and Gewurtztraminers pair well with salty Bleu cheeses, while sparklers cleanse the palate alongside salty appetizers like oysters and caviar.
Sweetness: Consider the level and source of the sweetness. Light fruits match well with rich, even boozy, wines like Chardonnay and California Pinot Noir. Desserts with considerable levels of sugar require greater thought, however. A milk chocolate-based dessert would be harder to pair, while contrasting bitter chocolate-based desserts do well with fruity Zinfandels.
Bitterness: It is wise to think about the bitterness of a chosen wine when pairing it with a bitter food. They won’t necessarily complement each other, but work as a team to cancel each other out.
Texture: How light or heavy is your wine? Light wines pair best with light foods. Consider acidic white wines with lightly dressed salads, or Kabinett Rieslings with salty Bratwurst. Heavier reds and white wines excel when paired with heavier foods.