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Wine Chemistry 102:
What It Means for Pairing


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Now that you have successfully passed Easy Food & Wine Chemistry 101, it's time for the next lesson. What do these different components of wine mean for pairing food with wine?

Sugar - A lot of people have the misconception that off-dry or slightly sweet wines are for woosies who don't really like wine. If you are not a woosie, and you like big, bold foods, make these wines your friend. That sugar is about the best thing to stand up to hot, spicy or salty flavors.

Alcohol - My tip here is more on what to avoid, than what to do. If you have a wine that's 'hot' - meaning it has a high alcohol level that burns your palate like a hard liquor does - it's going to be really hard to pair with food. Stick with wines where the alcohol doesn't show through.

Acid - Getting the right balance of acidity is a key part of cooking as well as food and wine pairing. Like salt, if you don't have enough acidity in a dish, it just tastes flat. If you don't have enough acidity in your wine, it may have a pleasant enough taste on its own, and it's most likely going to also taste flat with food. Opt for wines that have a good acid structure that's appropriate for your dish.

Tannin - One of the primary characteristics of tannin is that they bind or shrink proteins. Which means they interact in a special way with protein-heavy foods, such as aged cheeses and rich, red meats. The tannin also helps cut through the fat of these foods, making both the rich food and the strong wine more palatable and enjoyable together. Wines with low levels of protein are generally more suitable for white wines (no tannin) or low-tannin red wines.

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