Three Wine Pairing Principles

In my opinion there are no wine pairing principles. The only true fact is your taste and your preference. So why am I naming this blog post wine pairing principles? The answer is very simple and you might be surprised!

At San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival.

At San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever ordered an expensive bottle of wine that didn’t match with your meal? You know what I mean, you paid a lot of money and the wine came burning down your throat or just didn’t harmonize at all. We all made this experience; at least I did until I knew better. There is a simple trick, which would harmonize any wine to whatever dish you choose, but I’ll get to this later. Here are the key facts that wine might doesn’t taste or match with certain foods, later I will explain how to make any wine taste with any dish – promise!

Three Wine Pairing Principles:

  • Salt: Hardly any savory dish wouldn’t taste without the use of salt. Herein lies the key: If the food is bland than your wine won’t taste either. (some exceptions apply)
  • Acidity: It is difficult to pair a wine with food that doesn’t have acidity. (some exceptions apply, will explain)
  • Umami: Is an amino acid that makes food taste incredibly good. Umami literally means “pleasant taste”. It is nothing else but monosodium glutamate, which actually occurs naturally in many foods such as tomatoes, green tea, spinach, cabbage, soy sauce and seaweed – just to name a few. Our tongue has receptors that can taste umami the same way it can taste sweet, sour, spicy or salty. In short food with a high amount of umami is difficult to pair with wines, if you don’t know the trick. Which I will explain just now. By the way I’m an opponent of MSG. Never used it and never will.

Here is the answer:

  • If your wine doesn’t taste or harmonize with your food chances are that one of the following ingredients are missing or not enough: Acidity and or salt, it’s that simple.

By acidity I mean lemon juice or any other acidic liquid. Let’s say you are eating a pepper steak, which is heavily crusted with cracked black pepper (I love it), paired with a red wine. The black pepper will most likely over power the red wine and the tannins will drive your throat crazy.

  • Solution: Squeeze a few drops of lemon juice over your steak and I guarantee you the wine will match perfectly to your steak.

Now the exceptions: Dessert, aha you might say. Most desserts are usually made with little acidity or salt therefore it doesn’t pair with wine, right? Wrong – ice wine for instance, which is one of many classifications for Riesling fits perfectly to dessert. I don’t want to get too deep into each wine. That I leave for another time.

I love wine since I have become a chef. These and other facts, which I have learned by attending many wine tastings and wine seminars, have helped me gain more knowledge about wine paring. I learned and understood the importance of cooking with the same wine that my customer would drink. Try this and it will blow your mind. Try a good bottle of wine not a $ 7.00 bottle.

Many years ago a customer brought me to wine pairing and its beautiful adventures. This customer came in ones a week with 2 or 3 small bottles of wine. I’m talking about expensive bottles. He asks me if we could conduct a wine tasting every two weeks, after the service was finished. I would cook the food and he would bring the wines to the restaurant, which the two of us would pair with the food. I agreed and we conducted wine pairings unmatched I have ever experienced. Up to this day I like to remember this great wine pairing experience.  That said I like to emphasize that I’m not a sommelier, rather a humble chef who enjoys a good wine paired with good food.

I would love for you to test these facts the next time you enjoy a bottle of wine with a meal and good company. It doesn’t matter if it’s white or red wine, fish or steak. Maybe you have your own little trick to match wine with your food. I would love to hear it. Leave a comment! Thanks

I would like to acknowledge that one of my best wine seminars I had ever been was in Las Vegas during a Chef conference in 1999. The wine seminar was hosted by Tim Hanni a brilliant wine Educator from Napa Valley.



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  1. That was very interesting. I don’t know a lot about wine but now I know to add some salt or lemon if I think the wine is lacking. It’s not the wine’s fault, it’s the food.
    Suzanne Perazzini recently posted..Custard Fruit Tarts – grain, nut, dairy and refined sugar-free and an announcementMy Profile

    • Hi Suzanne,
      While many wines can be enjoyed without food, pairing them with bland food can become a challenge, simply if they just over power the food by tannins or acidity. Nonetheless, there are a few wines, which are unbalanced and are not a fit for wine pairing.

  2. Like, Suzanne, I don’t know much about wine…so I’m soaking up any info you offer! Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  3. Frank – thanks so much for the wonderful compliment! My book is finally out – Why You Like the Wines You Like: Changing the way the world thinks about wine. There is a link at my website if you don’t mind me providing it: and information on the physiological and psychological factors that determine our preferences and, of course, umami taste. Thanks again! We have learned so much since 1999. Let me know if you are ever in the Napa valley and we can catch up.

    • Hi Tim,
      It’s my a pleasure. I am the one who have to be thankful. I’m grateful for you stopping by and saying hello. Good luck with your new book, I can’t wait to read it. I have never been in Napa Valley, but if I have the chance to visit I will certainly let you know. Cheers.

  4. Thanks for these great tips. Now I know what to do when the wine doesn’t match the food. So simple yet brilliant. I can’t wait to try it out. Great post.