Can the Food and Wine Pairing Rules

wine-food-pairingIncreasingly, I’m coming to agree with Anna Lee Iijama writing in Wine Enthusiast:

In a whirlwind of increasingly global food and beverage options, however, the landscape of pairing possibilities—and potential pitfalls—can be nerve wracking.

My suggestion? Stop following the rules.

Traditional wine/food pairings are fine but our wine and food options have expanded so much that the traditional rules like “what grows together goes together” are far too limited.

It’s more fun and more practical to allow happy accidents to happen by experimenting with adventurous pairings. Granted, occasionally, you might miss badly. But as long as you avoid serving very sweet food with a very dry wine, a pairing is unlikely to be disastrous. If a pairing is not working you can always treat the wine and the food as separate and enjoy each as if they were unrelated.

Most pairings occupy the vast middle ground of mediocrity—not soul stirring but not too bad either. The joys of finding an unlikely match far outweigh the risk of a bad experience.

And there is nothing wrong with a few less rules to follow.


  1. If planned, my general routine is to complement or contrast the recipe’s primary flavor/palate impact as determined by herbs, spices, sauces and the like, with a main goal of cleansing my palate between swallows.

    But inasmuch as we seldom finish a full bottle of wine, there are times when I will simply pull whatever is available in the refrigerator (nuke for 4 or 5 seconds, if needed) and pour some into a tumbler. Adventurous, and occasionally interesting!

    Your thoughts, Dwight, on nuking a cold, red wine?

  2. Hi Tom,
    I have never tried nuking a wine. I would worry about losing some volatile esters if it’s an expensive wine. But on the other hand agitating the molecules might produce more aroma.

  3. Couldn’t agree with you more. There are also times with the most obvious pairings fail too… and fruity/sweet whites aren’t limited to sweet or spicy food.

    When I was working as a sommelier I grew quite tired of the consumer expectation in wine & food pairing.

    So, Corbieres and fish? Why not?

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