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Why does wine or beer pair better with matching food?

This has always stumped me; however should not be confused with the question: "what goes with wine or how to pair wine?" I know that in theory, heartier wines pair well with heartier food; and that light, refreshing wines should pair with light, refreshing food. In practice, I agree that wines or beers tend to pair better with matching qualities in food.

Whereas with all other beverages, I always feel that contrasting pairings work best. Dessert for me always requires a black, robust cup of coffee; and a cold, sweet Coke always goes very nicely with a savory lunch. The reason why these pairings work so well is because of their contrasts.

So, what is so special about beer or wine that they pair better with food of similar characteristics?

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se9562423 years ago
Very sweet wines will always go with desserts.
Other pairings depend on all of the components of the dish. Fish and poultry will go with white wines, or light reds, like pinot noir. Heavy meats go with tannic red wines.

As far as the contrast and complementing of food and wine, usually contrasting flavors that are paired are a sweet or fruity wine (reisling, Chenin blanc, a rose) with a smokey, salty, or spicy dish.

Champange or sparkling wines can also be used to cleanse the palate so can be paired with fattier things such as a cheesecake or different cheeses.
Jack893 years ago
Yes, the perfect wine and food pairing will make you feel even more delicious
i know for some foods, like deserts when you eat them a layer of fat will form on the tongue, so you need something like a strong coffee to go with it, the coffee can cut into the fat and you appreciate it better.

The coke is probably something to do with the temperature. The cold changes the flavor "profile" so other flavors are more dominate.
Like warm milk tastes different than cold milk.
So just break the food down into components and how they affect the senses on the tongue. Then break down the beverage, the sugar content, alcohol content, temperature.
FoolishSage4 years ago
Flavour pairing is very similar to colour pairing. If you look at a colour wheel you will notice that colours that go well together are usually:
1- shades of the same colour (varying tones of blue)
2- neighbouring colours within the same shade (orange with red and yellow)
3- for the more adventurous, opposites across the wheel
4- natural pairs (green & brown like a plant)

There is just something about these methods which inspire a positive feeling in us when we see them either because they reinforce each other or complete each other.

How does this translate to flavour? There are 5 base flavours (sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami -"meatyness") but just like with primary colours these can be combined into a rainbow of sensations. Lets look at flavour like the colours:
1- different intensities of the same flavour (salty fries with a salty burger)
2- similar flavours of equal intensity (earthy chestnuts with meaty steak)
3- opposite flavours (bitter coffee with sweet desert)
4- natural pairs ("greek" salad made with a range of native greek plants)

Beers and wines are just like any other flavour on the plate. The trick is to create a flavour wheel in your head to find out which would pair well.
N.fletch (author)  FoolishSage4 years ago
I really like your color analogy; colors do not have to be exact opposites of one another in order to be aesthetically pleasing, sometimes the colors compliment the others with their similarities and not their differences. Thanks!
It is all about the effect you want to achieve. Sometimes you want something to reinforce a certain flavour, sometimes you want something to cleanse your pallet sometimes you want something to balance out a meal.

Something I didn't mention before is that unlike colours flavours can be dynamic. Try this experiment some time:
Find a tart & astringent red wine and some fatty & creamy cheese. Then:
1 -Have a drink of the wine, think carefully about the flavours
2- Eat some cheese
3- Have another drink of wine.

You will find that the exact same wine has somehow changed flavours! This is because the fats in the cheese have partially blocked certain flavour receptors in the mouth which make the wine loose tartness.

It is like trying to pair a t-shirt which changes colour depending on the colour of your pants :D
quatch4 years ago
I don't know, but I'm willing to guess. From your examples at the end I'd say you are looking for palette refreshers for your regular beverages. The complimentary wine/beer then would be looking to enhance/modify the food taste rather than let you have many first-tastes.
N.fletch (author)  quatch4 years ago
You are right, I usually appreciate the contrasting flavors in beverage and food because it "re-calibrates" my palette in a sense and makes the next bite a "first taste".