The Seven Deadly Sins of Wine and Food Pairing

From The Lecture Series: The Everyday Gourmet — Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking

By Chef Instructor Bill Briwa, The Culinary Institute of America

Did you know — there are seven types of food that should be avoided if you want to serve wine with your meal. We call these the seven deadly sins of wine and food pairing. How many are you guilty of?

Image of wine and food pairing

There are seven types of food that are “hard” on wine and should be avoided if you want to serve food with your meal. But once you know what the issue is with the food, you can often find a solution or a workaround. The seven deadly sins of wine and food pairing are chiles, vinegar, eggs, spinach, artichokes, asparagus, and soup.

This is a transcript from the video series The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

Chiles

Chiles are an irritant. Tannin, alcohol, acidity, and astringency are all irritants. If you rough up your palate with too much spicy food, wine can hurt, but when you find spicy food on your plate,choose a wine that has low alcohol, no astringency, no tannin, and maybe a little bit of sweetness.

Learn more about how to make wine an integral part of a compelling dining experience

Vinegar

Vinegar is spoiled wine, and it makes sense that you shouldn’t pair spoiled wine with wine. However, if you add vinegar to a stew to make it less rich and more acidic, because vinegar does not define the dish, it shouldn’t be a problem to drink wine with that dish. In that case, vinegar is simply a seasoning, but if you add so much vinegar to a dish that it dominates the dish, then that dish will probably not go well with wine.

Eggs

Eggs have a coating quality that can coat your palate, especially when they are a bit undercooked, and with a coated palate, wine will just slip right by and you won’t even notice it. What you may notice is that there is a sulfurous compound in eggs that can play up the sulfur that is inherent in the wine-making process, and it becomes unpleasant. Instead, consider putting eggs into a quiche, which is defined by the roasted and buttery flavor of the crust and by the cheese, bacon, and onions. Because eggs don’t define a quiche, it should be fine to drink wine with it.

Spinach

Spinach has a compound called oxalic acid that can make wine seem sort of metallic, so when you eat spinach, make sure that you redefine it in some meaningful way. For example, a few leaves of spinach added to a stir-fry or spinach that is sautéed with garlic and herbs would not be a problem in terms of pairing spinach with wine.

Learn more about the extreme variety and versatility of stocks and broths

Artichokes

Artichokes can make wine taste sweet because of an enzyme called cymarin. Therefore, you should steam artichokes, take off the petals, and dip them into mayonnaise. It’s less important what you dip into the mayonnaise and more important what the mayonnaise tastes like. If you remove the heart of an artichoke, cut it up, and add it as a garnish in a veal or lamb stew, for example, you can still drink wine with that dish—which is all about the deep, rich flavor of the stew and not about the few pieces of artichoke that you added to it.

Asparagus

Asparagus can make wine taste awkward by almost robbing it of its fruity qualities. To redefine the asparagus, you could cook it so that it becomes defined by the cooking technique that you choose to use. If you grill it, you will taste the char and a little bit of smokiness, and if you sprinkle some parmesan cheese and some thyme on top, you might not even recognize it as asparagus anymore and can certainly drink wine with it.

Soup

Soup is basically a beverage, and in classical French cuisine, you would not pair a wine with soup because it would be a beverage paired with a beverage. However, this guideline probably refers to clear soup, such as a consommé. If you have a rich, hearty soup—such as a minestrone with cheese and olive oil on top—and you eat it with another piece of cheese or with some crusty bread, there are plenty of wines that you could find that could be paired with it.

Learn more about combination cooking

Foods Not to Pair with Wine

The Six Steps of Wine-and-Food Pairing

  • Taste the wine and make sure you know what defines that particular type of wine
  • Pay attention to the weight and intensity of the wine
  • Decide what you’re going to cook—what’s going
to define your food
  • Choose a cooking technique; each distinct technique will bring something different 
to your food
  • Build relationships 
between the food and wine to bring the match into focus
  • Season the food appropriately so that when the food is properly seasoned, the wine tastes great

Common Questions About Wine and Food Pairing

Q: What food best goes with red wine?

Depending on the varietal of red wine, the tannins are what to watch. Typically the leaner the meat the lighter the wine; however, many low tannic reds go great with vegetarian stews or oily fish like mackerel.

Q: What foods are best with white wines?

The best foods for white wines vary, but most light foods and fishes go perfectly well with lighter varietals like Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blancs.

Q: When tasting wine, why do people spit it out?

Spitting wine at a tasting is so that the palate doesn’t wear out as fast, and it is usually a sign that the person didn’t like the wine enough to let it hit the back of the palate where the most detail and a re-creation of drinking a full glass derives.

Q: Why do foods pair with certain wines?

Wine and food pairing is all about the tannins and proteins. Foods with ample fat and protein react to the tannins and exaggerate various flavor profiles and the feeling of the wine itself, with the best pairings making it softer on the palate.

This article was updated on 1/13/2020

Keep Reading
The Tomato—Fruit or Vegetable?
Fresh Fish: The New Frontier of Flavor
Stocks and Broths—What’s the Difference?