Different Types of Pairings

When it comes to wine and food pairings, Experts tends to talk about Five different types of pairings:

No Match

This is when the combination causes an unpleasant experience. Generally, when some of the basic taste components miss-match completely.

Practical Example
If you have ever had wine left over from the main course that you then try with the very sweet dessert. Suddenly the wine that was so enjoyable just a moment before, taste sour, bitter and high in alcohol. The wine has not changed, but the dessert has changed your palate.

Neutral

Some pairings are not made to be fantastic, they are made to be safe, to be neutral. Here the basic taste components match satisfactory, but nothing more.

Practical Example
For simplicity’s sake many generic wines today are made to be neutral. To make them food friendly in general, but also sadly unremarkable. If you are looking for a wine to bring to the buffet this is the way to go. It will not be remarkable, but neither will it be unpleasant.

Refreshment

Sometimes the dish in itself is so complicated that pairing it with a complex wine would just be too much. In such a case, you want a refreshing pairing where the wine works as a refreshing addition.

Practical Example
Sweet and sour dishes with a half-dry, high acidity aromatic variety (traditionally Riesling). The residual sugar in the wine helps to subdue the spices of the dish, while the acidity refreshes the palate between bites. Here a light lager would be the beer lover’s alternative.

Good Match

A food and wine pairing reaches the level of a Good Pairing when the basic components of the food and wine matches each other. When the taste components are balanced and neither texture overwhelms the other. Preferably the aromas should furthermore match, but at least not disturb each other.

Practical Example
Countless… This is what you usually get if the Sommelier at your favourite restaurant knows what they are doing. It is nice and balanced and neither the wine nor the food takes away from the other. Preferable, they might even be able to add to each other. Here the traditionalist would count a Boeuf bourguignon with an aged Pinot Noir and many other regional, traditional pairings.

Synergistic Match

This is where the magic happens! This is where the whole experience (the wine and the food together) is superior to the sum of its individual parts. Here the starts align and everything in the food and wine combination matches. But also, more than that, they bring out something new from each other, something unexpected, something magical…

Practical Example
Here, more than anywhere else, individual preference shines through. Despite that, there are countless classical examples that has survived the test of time. The most iconic one (to me) is blue cheese and sweet white wine. Once, I saw a grown man cry form pure pleasure when combining Gorgonzola with a Tuscan dessert wine made from Malvasia and Trebbiano. You cannot beat that.