When it comes to wine, the perceived experience will not always correlate to the reality.

For example, perceived sweetness is a factor many tend to be confused by. They think that perceived sweetness automatically equals actual sugar content, but the relation is far more complicated than that. Perceived sweetness is affected by many other factors, like acidity, alcohol, tannins, and effervescence, while actual sugar content in unchangeable.

A good example for this is traditional Coca Cola, which contains a staggering 106 grams of sugar per litre. Which in the wine world would equal an averagely sweet Sauternes dessert wine. Of the dessert wine you would enjoy a sip or two after dinner, since most people find it far too sweet to even drink a standard glass of it (100ml). While consumers of Coca Cola happily would consume a big bottle on their own (500ml). Here the actual sugar content is more or less the same, but the perceived sweetness is completely different.

Conclusion: Balance is the key to everything!

A good dessert wine should have a remarkably high acidity to balance the high sugar content. If it does not, it will only taste syrupy and overly sweet. For red wines, a bit of residual sugar in the wine can be an amazing flavour enhancer (especially in wines from warmer climates), as long as that sweetness is balanced with the acidity, the tannins, and the alcohol.

Furthermore, preference will have a strong influence on the perceived experience. There are some regional differences in preference, while other are completely personal. For instance, comparing the preference for bitterness between Europe and North America is an interesting example. Europeans in general love bitterness, as seen in their black coffee, heavy red wines, and often bitter dishes. While North Americans in general prefer sweeter, creamier alternatives.

No matter what your personal preference is, you will always have to take this into account when contemplating your pairings. If you do not like astringent red wines, then no matter how great the pairing could be, you would most likely not enjoy it. But of course, you should always remain open to trying new things, because our palates are everchanging.