7 Famous Misconceptions about Food and Wine Pairings


If you always thought ethnic food couldn’t go with wine, or that sweet wines could only be paired with sweeter desserts, or that spicy food can only go with spicy wines or that you should never drink white wine with meat, this post it for you. Here are 7 of the most famous misconceptions about food and wine pairings.

Wine tasting at Bodega Beronia winery in Rioja, Spain

Food and wine pairings have always been relished side by side for centuries. For food and wine lovers alike, pairings that come from the same region are most likely to work well together. It’s an acknowledged fact that food that has developed along with wines from Old World wine regions are frequently complementary.

However, these traditional pairings can sometimes hinder the discovery of better pairings. Moreover, some know-how about food and wine pairings are downright incorrect. To educate yourself, read more about the most famous wine and food pairing myths. You can also learn a lot from attending wine tastings held at a wine shop in your city or wine tours at wineries around the world, like Yarra Valley in Australia, Bordeaux in France, Valdobbiadene in Veneto or Chianti wine valley in Tuscany.

Pasta and red wine in Modena, Italy

Misconceptions about Food and Wine Pairings

Asparagus and Wine Don’t Mix

The myth that wine should never be paired with asparagus is entirely false. Try an unoaked Sauvignon Blanc, Pouilly-Fumé, Sancerre, or even a dry Muscat. You can also opt to grill-roast the asparagus. This can be paired with a chilled red, light – Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, lightly oaked Tempranillo or Sangiovese.

If you want to know more about this wine and food pairing, you should check out the works of Francois Chartier, a Canadian sommelier. Furthermore, the esteemed Ferran Adria, regarded Chartier’s book, Taste Buds and Molecules, as a “groundbreaking work”.

Dessert wines should be sweeter than the dessert

Dessert wine, compared to the dessert it goes with, should consistently be sweeter. This is untrue, especially if you see food and wine pairings as the act of combining contrasts. This is opposed to the old view of assembling complementary flavors. Moreover, pairing a sweet dessert with a sweeter wine rarely creates a good pair.

Nevertheless, either wine or dessert should indeed be sweeter than the other. However, a sommelier has more options at her/his disposal compared to the pastry chef, who’s expected to create something sweet. A rich and sweet dessert can be effortlessly balanced by a full of crisp acidity and off-dry wine, which has moderate alcohol.

Dessert with vintage red Rioja wine at Rekondo restaurant in San Sebastian, Spain

Dessert with vintage red Rioja wine

Ethnic food and wine pairings

It’s either impossible or tough to pair ethnic cuisines with wine. People in the know will always advise you to avoid wine altogether when eating Thai, Indian, or Mexican food. Alternatively, you can pair these types of cuisines with a cold beer. Unquestionably, most locals in those areas would recommend you to accompany their ethnic dishes with beer.

Nonetheless, we exist in a time of consumer empowerment, where you are free to pair your Tamales with a Cabernet if you want. Speaking of Cabernet, you’ll be pleased to know that tannic, full-bodied red wine is an excellent match for spicy cuisines like Thai or Szechuan. These pairings are great for the tannin and spice will balance each other out.

Foie gras and Sauternes are the perfect pair

Are Sauternes and Foie gras really one of the perfect wine and food pairings? No, they are a bad match. Combining the liver’s excessive oiliness and the wine’s sweetness will result in sensory overload with neither interest nor contrast.

Although most Sauternes in great vintages will show balancing acidity, it’s still lacking to make a contrast. What’s worse is that this pairing typically shows up early in the meal, which effectively disrupts your palate for the other courses to come.

Never pair white wine with steak

The myth about white wine should not be paired with meat is incorrect. You can actually drink white wine with your savory steak. Countless sommeliers have clarified that a pleasant red will consistently taste mind-blowing together with steak. However, that does not mean you should disregard a well-chosen bottle of white.

You can go for a Chenin blanc or other fruity and full-bodied white wine to match with steak. The objective is to choose a white that has the strong characteristics of your ordinary reds. You can easily purchase quality whites that have a strong taste from collectors who are selling wine collections.

white rioja wine at Beronia winery in Spain

Spicy wines go with spicy food

Pairing spicy wines such as red Zinfandel, Australian Shiraz, or Argentine Malbec with hot and spicy dishes is not a good idea. These pairings could quickly push the level of spiciness through the top of your mouth!

It is acknowledged that spicy cuisines are effective in cutting through a wine’s sweetness. Thus, you can opt to serve a Riesling or Gewürztraminer with Asian dishes, or a Chenin Blanc or White Zin with Mexican dishes.

gymkhana indian restaurant in london

White wine goes with fish and white meat, red wine goes with red meat

The truth is that not every red wine works well with red meat. The same goes for white wine; it isn’t the best for fish and white meat. Wine pairing heavily relies on your sense of taste, which is why some pairs match, and some don’t.

However, there are still a few basics to follow, such as wines from the same region mostly complement dishes from the same area. Other traditional know-hows are fragile whites are great for fish cuisines, spicy shiraz matches well with hot and spicy meat cuisines, etc.

Woman with red wine at a London restaurant

Although getting recommendations on a particular food to combine with a specific wine is extremely valuable, it also has its downsides. The issue with recommended pairings is that they are mostly viewed as set in stone. Unfortunately, this way of thinking hinders the exploration of even better food and wine pairings. Nevertheless, there is an endless list of pairings just waiting to be discovered, so don’t hesitate to experiment and try new food and wine combo.

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post.

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