Tips for wine and food pairings

Published on 1 April 2020 in Marti's Blog

All our couples know that Marti’s greatest passions are the fine wine and food. She has always been supported the future bride and groom during the creation of their wedding menu, sharing many tips on how to match wine and food.

Your wedding reception is surely one of the most important parts of the whole wedding, it has to reflect your personality but also well represent the excellent products of Italy and pay back your guests for the long trip they make to be part of your very special day.

Marti takes this big responsibility very seriously and make all her Sommelier knowledge and experience available to couples, granting an unforgettable taste experience to all the wedding group. Her partnership with the best chef brigades and top caterers makes the level of food and wine service very high and able to satisfy any palate. Believe us when we say that this care and attention for wine and food makes our agency absolutely unique in destination wedding world.


In today’s blog, Marti is going to share the fundamental, simple guidelines that will help you matching the wine and food in the best way.
Let’s start with the three most important rules for pairing:

1. Look for balance

Consider the weight, or body, or richness, of both the food and the wine. The wine and the dish should be equal parts, with neither overwhelming the other. If you balance the two by weight, you raise the odds dramatically that the pairing will succeed. This is the secret behind many classic wine-and-food matches.

Hearty food needs a hearty wine. Barolo complements grilled lamb chops because they’re equally vigorous; the dish would run fiercely over a crisp white wine. In contrast, a light Pinot blanc washes down a subtly flavoured poached fish because they have the same delicacy.

How do you determine weight? For the food, fat is the main contributor (also considering what comes from the sauce and the cooking method). For a wine, you can get clues from the colour, grape variety and alcohol level, along with the winemaking techniques and the region’s climate. (Wines with less than 12 percent alcohol tend to be lighter-bodied; those with more than 14 percent are heavier.)

2. Drink and eat your favourites

Choose a wine that you would want to drink by itself, rather than hoping a food match will improve a wine you don’t like. Same for food: look for what you like, after all, if you detest chicken, there is no wine pairing on Universe that will make it work for you.


3. Match the wine to the most prominent element in the dish

Identify the dominant character in the dish is very important; often it’s the sauce or seasoning, rather than the main ingredient. Consider two different meat dishes: Veal Fillet Chianti, with its browned surface and a sauce of dark wine and mushrooms, versus a Chicken Breast poached in a creamy lemon sauce. The caramelized, earthy flavours of the first call for a soft, supple red, while the simplicity and citrus flavours of the latter tilt to a fresh white.



Once you’ve considered these three important rules, you can get through more details.

First of all, it’s useful to understand the components from the grapes that make up a wine’s structure: the fruit flavours and sugar, which give wines a soft feel in the mouth, and the acidity and tannins, which give wines a sensation of strength. Of course, there’s the alcohol, which can feel softer in smaller amounts, harder in higher ones.

Red wines are distinct from whites in two main ways: tannins and flavours. Tannins are compounds that provide structure and texture to a wine; they’re responsible for that astringent sensation you feel on the sides of your cheeks, much like when you drink a strong cup of tea. Many red wines have tannins; few white wines do, unless they have spent extensive time in oak barrels.


White and red wines share many common aromas and flavours; both can be spicy, buttery, leathery, earthy or floral. But the apple, pear and citrus flavours in many white wines seldom show up in reds, and the dark currant, cherry and plum flavours of red grapes usually are not present in whites.

Here are some other pairing principles to consider:

Structure and texture

Ideally, good wine’s components are well balanced, but you can affect that balance, for better or worse, with the food pairing. Elements in a dish can increase or diminish the acidity and sweetness of a wine, and the bitterness of its tannins.

High levels of acidic ingredients, such as lemon or vinegar, for example, benefit high-acid wines by making them feel softer and rounder in comparison. On the other hand, tart food can turn balanced wines flabby.

Sweetness on the plate can make a dry wine taste sour, but pairs well with a bit of sweetness in the wine; as long as a wine balances its sugar with enough natural acidity.

Tannins interact with fats, salt and spicy flavours. Rich, succulent dishes such as steak diminish the perception of tannins, making a robust wine such as a Cabernet seem smoother, as do lightly salty foods like Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. However, very salty foods increase the perception of tannins and can make a red wine seem harsh and astringent; salt likewise accentuates the heat of a high-alcohol wine. Very spicy flavours also tend to react badly with tannins and high alcohol, making the wines feel hotter; such dishes fare better with fruity or lightly sweet wines.


Flavour connections

This is definitely the funniest side of pairing! The aromatics of wine often remind us of foods such as fruits, herbs, spices and butter. You can create a good match by including ingredients in a dish that emphasize the aromas and flavours in a wine. For a Cabernet, for example, currants in a dish may bring out the wine’s characteristic dark fruit flavours, while a pinch of sage could highlight hints of herbs.

On the other hand, similar scents can have a reset effect balancing each other out so that other aspects of a wine come out more strongly. Serving earthy mushrooms with an earthy red might end up giving more prominence to the wine’s fruit character.


The importance of the age

Aged wines present a different set of textures and scents. As a wine matures, the power of youth eventually subsides; the tannins soften, and the wine may become more delicate and graceful. Fresh fruit flavours may give way to earthy and savoury notes, as the wine takes on more complex, secondary characteristics. When choosing dishes for older wines, tone down the richness and big flavours and look for simpler fare that allows the nuances to shine through.

General tips

Matching by weight is the base of the old rule about white wine with fish and red wine with meat. That made perfect sense in the days when white wines were mostly light and fruity and red wines were mostly tannic and weighty. But today, color-coding does not always work.

To make your own matches, start off on the traditional paths and then make your little changes. Don’t get stuck on Sangiovese with red meats—look up and down the list and try Primitivo or Amarone della Valpolicella. Instead of Pinot Noir with sautéed mushrooms, try a Barbera or a Morellino di Scansano. That’s the way to put a little variety into your wine life without straying too far from the original purpose. Your experiments will be surely paid back with a lot of satisfaction and good experience!!!


A little Italian Wine Vocab

Sure, lots of servers and sommeliers speak enough English to get by. But if you’re navigating a wine store or a wine menu on your own, a few little words can be a big help. Not to mention, knowing the Italian makes it fun!

The most important word? “Vino” (wine), of course! To describe what kind of wine you want, just put the adjective after the noun.

“Vino rosso”: red wine
“Vino bianco”: white wine
“Vino rosato”: rosé wine
“Vino amabile”: a medium-sweet wine
“Vino dolce”: sweet wine
“Vino secco”: dry wine
“Vino abboccato”: semi-dry wine
“Vino corposo”: a full-bodied wine
“Vino aromatico”: aromatic wine
“Vino frizzante”: semi-sparkling wine

As for reading the label, “azienda” means estate, “anno” is the year, and “produttore” is the producer. “Gradazione alcolica” is the alcohol percentage, and if you see “imbottigliato all’origine,” it means the wine was bottled by the producer. “Vendemmia” means harvest (i.e. the vintage), and “vitigno” means “vine.”



A few key pairings

Light and Aromatic whites:

• Sauvignon Blanc and blends
• Vermentino
• Pinot gris
• Riesling
• Prosecco (sparkling)
• Franciacorta (sparkling)


Delicious with antipasti, Mediterranean salad, fish or veggie risotto, light fresh seafood dishes.


Medium weight and textural whites:

• Chardonnay
• Fiano
• Arneis
• Verdicchio


Delicious with fresh figs with blue cheese and prosciutto (ham), richer seafood dishes and soups, creamy pastas, roasted vegetable dishes.


Light to medium weight and savoury reds:

• Merlot
• Sangiovese
• Nero D’Avola
• Pinot Noir
• Primitivo (Zinfaldel)


perfect with mozzarella, cherry tomato and basil pizza, cold cuts, mushrooms dishes, tomato and herb based pastas.


Richer and fuller bodied reds:

• Barbera
• Montepulciano
• Barolo and Barbaresco
• Amarone della Valpolicella


perfect with classic pasta alla Bolognese and richer style pasta dishes, sharp and seasoned cheeses, anything grilled on the barbecue.