Food and Wine Pairings 101: Summer Edition 

Wine & Food

Have you ever noticed how a wine changes depending on what you’re enjoying it with? Picture this scenario: one day you’re having a glass on the patio while catching up with friends and you just love the wine you are drinking! The next time you’re at the store, you are excited to buy that same bottle to pair with tonight’s meal. You slave over dinner set the table, and pour yourself a glass of wine. All of a sudden, the wine tastes completely different than you remember it. Maybe you like it more, maybe you like it less. What happened? This is the power of pairing food and wine! Creating a perfect wine pairing can be intimidating, but understanding the basics will help.

Understanding Your Palate 

Most palates discern five basic tastes: sweet, sour, umami, bitter, and salty. Sometimes you’ll see sour and acidic or umami and fat interchanged. However, a number of descriptions about wine have nothing to do with taste, but rather refer to the wine’s aromas.
Prepared with tasting notes and the wine’s label, you’ll be able to pull together enough information to create a pairing, without even tasting the wine.

Homework You’ll Actually Want to Do

Under normal circumstances, we would suggest you do this next time you order a glass of wine while sitting at the bar. But seeing that it might be a while before you’re doing that again, you can easily do this experiment at home! 

Gather your supplies – you’ll want something sweet, sour, umami, bitter, and salty. At the bar, these are all things your bartender usually has readily available as garnishes. Sweet – cherries, sour – lemon, umami – mushroom, bitter – olives, salt (self-explanatory). Pour yourself a glass of wine; any wine will do! Spend a few minutes enjoying it and familiarizing it on your palate. Now, you’re going to take a sip of your wine and taste one element at a time. Sip, then eat a cherry, and so forth, paying attention to how the wine changes with each sip. Depending on which wine you’re drinking, some of the elements will make the wine worse, and some will make the wine better. Hence, why choosing the right foods to pair with your wine is essential.

Pairing Basics

Now that we understand why pairings are important let’s talk about the basics of wine pairing. This will help you craft wine pairings with confidence on your own! 

Complementary vs Congruent Pairings 

There are two general types of pairings: complementary and congruent. A complimentary wine pairing is when you pair a wine that differs from the food, adding a complement to the food. A congruent pairing is when you pair wine with something similar to the food. For example, pairing a buttery Chardonnay with buttery popcorn is a congruent pairing –butter + butter = two similar flavor profiles. Pairing buttery popcorn with crisp, acidic Champagne is a complementary pairing– butter + acid = two different flavor profiles that work well together.

In general, 

  • complementary pairings are used with red wine. 
  • congruent pairings are used with white wine. 
  • the wine should be sweeter or more acidic than the food.
  • bitter/acid and fat is a good pairing. 
  • keep the wine and food at similar intensity levels. 
  • it’s very difficult to pair chocolate, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts with wine. 

The Perfect Summer Menu with Tayson Pierce

We hope you’ve enjoyed this primer course on food and wine pairings. We’d love to answer any questions you may have. Now, without further ado, our recommendations for the perfect summer menu with Tayson Pierce wines!

Try pairing our 2017 Rothchild Rosé with delicious, epitome-of-summer watermelon and feta salad. The acidity in the wine offers the perfect complementary pairing with the creamy feta. The Rosé is more acidic than the watermelon, and they’re similarly mild in intensity.

Is there anything more summery than the perfect BLT? Our 2017 Chardonnay is the ideal match for this classic summer sandwich. Feeling something extra? Add an avocado, making a BLTA, or try this swordfish BLT! Our Chardonnay is a great balance of creaminess (from malolactic fermentation) and acidity. The BLT works with both components. The creaminess complements the avocado and mayonnaise, while the acidity from the wine cuts through the fat from the bacon. It checks all the boxes and is seriously one of our favorite summer pairings! 

Last but not least, our 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon is an excellent complement to grilled steak and veggies. Cabernet is usually paired with grilled meats because very few wines are as equally intense and rich as grilled steaks are. Additionally, grilled meats are full of umami flavors, as is Cabernet. We love this smoky take on classic grilled steak, with the addition of fresh eggplant – a true sign of summer! 

It’s Your Turn

You’ll know quickly if you make a mistake with a wine pairing, but hopefully, with this basic crash course, you’ll be able to identify where you went awry! Our top recommendation is to just keep trying. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. That means you’re going to need more wine! You can browse our collection of Napa Valley still wines and Champagnes from France here. Make sure to tag us on social media in your next pairing!