The combination of food and wine

The goal is to increase the pleasure of the senses. Some wines are successful in enhancing the flavors of a dish, while others seem to create bad tastes.
The combination of food and wine

A bit of history

Until the end of the 18th century, it was unthinkable to combine wines and dishes, simply because there were too many dishes served at the same time. Wine was only tasted at the beginning or the end of the meal, or on a specific occasion: an event (celebration or victory), for a person (election, birthday). Since then, the number of dishes served has been reduced and therefore much easier to accompany with wine.

The perfect marriage does not exist

The perfect marriage does not exist

This agreement has always been complex because each wine is typified according to its region, its terroir. As for the dishes, they offer a whole range of tastes depending on how they are prepared and it is not easy to find exactly the right match.

The marriage between the dishes and the wines is quite complex. The flavor of a wine varies a lot depending on its origin, its maturity... and the dishes offer a wide range of tastes depending on how they are prepared.

In short, it's difficult to always aim right! All the more so as the season and the occasion may also have to be taken into account. In summer, we prefer a fruity white and in winter rather a powerful red...

Some marriages seem to make sense. Thus, one will spontaneously tend to accompany delicate dishes with a wine with subtle aromas, solid dishes with a robust wine. Fish is more likely to be served with white wine and game with red wine, even if these laws are not immutable. In the same way, one should not believe that only Sauternes can be drunk with foie gras or that only red wines can be drunk with cheese, under the pretext that "everyone says so " !

Who knows how to taste never drinks wine again, but tastes secrets.Salvador DALI

The different types of agreements

The general rule for a good, very good or perfect match is that the dish is enhanced at the same time as the Intense Aromatic Persistence (IAP) of the wine is increased.


Nothing moves, neither the wine nor the dish, not very exhilarating.


The wine distorts the dish, or conversely, it is of course the agreement to be avoided.


The wine and the dish go in the same direction. Each enhances the other, more or less, in the same gustatory register.


The wine and the dish play in different registers, but their respective characters, by colliding, modify the balance of one and the other and harmonize in one of the two registers.


It is the chord in opposition pushed to its paroxysm. The balance of the dish and the wine is so modified that harmony is created on a third register of flavors, which is neither that of the wine nor that of the dish.

The different types of agreements
The combination of food and wine

Intense Aromatic Persistence

In the tasting of a wine everything, absolutely everything, is subjective, whether it is the visual, olfactory or gustatory sensations, only one component is objective, the Intense Aromatic Persistence. It is a measurable quantity, comparable from one country to another and from one taster class to another, with a unit of measurement called "caudalie".


How is Intense Aromatic Persistence calculated ?

We put the wine in the mouth, taste it, spit it out or swallow it, this phase is not important. Then we chew, or rather we chew by counting them, that is to say that the mouth is empty and we chew by opening the mouth slightly, without concentrating on chewing either, because when we concentrate on it the speed increases.

The Intense Aromatic Persistence corresponds to the number of chews counted between the ingestion of the wine and the first return of saliva. It is very difficult to explain what a return of saliva is. Experiment, you will see it for yourself: at a certain moment you feel very clearly, more saliva in your mouth and that is when you have to stop counting.

How is Intense Aromatic Persistence calculated ?
How is Intense Aromatic Persistence calculated ?

Why is this notion of Intense Aromatic Persistence so important ?

This Intense Aromatic Persistence is very interesting for several reasons, first of all it is the only objective quality criterion of a wine, secondly you can like or dislike the flavors of the wine, but the longer the Intense Aromatic Persistence is, the better the intrinsic quality of the wine.

Why is this notion of Intense Aromatic Persistence so important ?

How does Intense Aromatic Persistence evolve over time ?

This Intense Aromatic Persistence is immutable over time, that is to say that it is the same for very young wine as soon as it is blended as it will be bottled, then on the bottled wine, then after 10 years, 20 years, 30 years. The Intense Aromatic Persistence does not change while all the other components evolve. However, this Intense Aromatic Persistence can change over a very short period of time with the influence of a dish: a good match is where the wine and the dish are not altered and where the Intense Aromatic Persistence of the wine is increased.

How does Intense Aromatic Persistence evolve over time ?

The aromas of the wine

The examples of aromas as well as the examples of dishes in harmony with wines at a given stage of aromas are obviously not exhaustive and some dishes can be combined with another stage of aromas than the one defined. Of course many of these dishes can be combined with white wine. The examples given are simply to make sure that there is no mistake.

Each red wine, whatever it is, goes through 3 types of aromas according to its ageing: primary, secondary and tertiary aromas :

Primary aromas

The primary aromas are aromas of fruit, flower, vanilla, mint, English candy, incense, eucalyptus. To these primary aromas, we can associate grilled andouillette, eggs meurette, black pudding with apples, shepherd's pie, veal liver, roasted ham, tripoux, roasted chicken and lamb navarin.

Secondary aromas

The secondary aromas are aromas of spices, roasting, leather, cinnamon, dead leaves, earth, moss, humus, all undergrowth aromas. In the roasting process, toasted chocolate, toasted bread and coffee are obviously used. To these secondary aromas we can associate mushrooms in fricassee or pie, roasted lamb, beef carrot, grilled prime rib, suckling pig, naked game, grilled duck breast and duck confit.

Tertiary aromas

Tertiary aromas are essentially animal aromas, hair, venison, civet, mushrooms and especially truffles. One can add musk which is very rarely found but which falls into this category. On these aromas, we can associate lamb confit, beef stew, tournedos with marrow, wild duck, game birds, roast pigeon with spices, coq au vin.

Flavor Interactions

Recent research on flavors has shaken up the old theories which favored the existence of four basic flavors, namely salty, sweet, sour and bitter. Each flavor is perceived by more or less specialized taste buds.

Advances in physiology revealed that complexes could form between the various molecules and create tastes that could not be classified in one of the four categories. However, examples are not legion: such as liquorice or glutamate, or even certain molecules on the borderline between salty and bitter.

However, their presence in the kitchen is more limited, so for obvious educational reasons, we can still be satisfied with the old classification of flavors.


The salty may come from the food but the condiment is generally added and dosed by the cook

In this respect, it is better to add salt during cooking than at the table, unless you want to use the crunchiness of coarse sea salt to contrast with the softness of a salmon for example.


Sweetness sometimes comes from the staple food but more often from an addition

A distinction should be made between fast sugars, which can be tasted in fruit and sugar, and slow sugars found in starchy foods (bread, beans, potatoes, pasta and rice...). The latter sugars have little sweet taste.


The acidity of vinegar, sorrel or lemon is easily identifiable

It is necessary to gauge its balance. Well dosed, it is refreshing, too high, it becomes squeaky. The aromas that are added to this acidity, those of lemon or spices and balsamic vinegar, modify and even diminish the acidic sensation.


Bitterness is never very pleasant when isolated

It must be balanced by salt and sugar. It then becomes subtle and sharpens the appetite.


All these flavors are perceptible because the compounds that trigger them are soluble in saliva, a mandatory step before their action on the taste buds. Once dissolved, these compounds can act on the nerve endings of the papillae, attaching more or less firmly: the length in the mouth is no other than that !

Dullness, precision and intensity of taste

Dullness, precision and intensity of taste

Equally important is the intensity of perception: modern foods, pre-cut and packaged on supermarket shelves, may look good but are often hopelessly bland.

You only need to eat a ripe tomato from a vegetable garden and a calibrated tomato ripened in a greenhouse, out of the ground, to understand what intensity of taste is.

Precision of taste is another notion. This same tomato - the first of course - has par excellence the taste that this fruit must have, each species presenting variants around this dominant flavor. One will then speak of purity, of an authentic product, of mature aromatic expression, and one will engrave this impression in one's memory.

The aromatic power of the sauce

The aromatic power of the sauce

A distinction must be made between sauces made from the same elements that make up the dish and sauces that are superimposed on the main food. The sauce, made from the cooking juices, captures all the aromas of the meat simmered in it.

It can of course be enriched with wine and herbs. The result is a dish where everything is melted, where the flavors blend with harmony and unity. After a long cooking time, the only thing that distinguishes the sauce from the meat is the addition of some different ingredients.

A mayonnaise sauce is added to the cold white meat, but it is not made with the same meat. It is then a juxtaposition of flavors, aromas and textures that blend together when successful, but also sometimes oppose each other during hazardous encounters. Such a sauce is often the carrier of the main aromas, intended to make up for the blandness of the food.

The aromatic power of the sauce
Wine at the table

Wine at the table

Wine at the table varies according to personal taste, cultural habits or the imprint of the region. Tastes and colors can be discussed endlessly. Personal preferences are often marked by education, cultural or socio-professional environment.

Regional habits carry even more weight, but while they enrich and define the personality of the gourmet, they are the source of alliances that are not always the happiest. For example, drinking a Cahors with goat's cheese: the goat makes the wine appear more astringent, which Cahors can very well do without. It is also surprising to see the greatest Italian red wines confronted with the tomato which is so rich in Italian cuisine. Cultural habits often prevail over so-called expert analysis, because this same tomato is never the friend of a tannic wine.

The ability of each individual to perceive flavors and aromas also builds personal tastes. The thresholds for perceiving saltiness, sweetness, acidity or bitterness are different from one individual to another, leading to varying preferences.

It is therefore important not to deny a preference for sweet dishes or a repulsion for bitterness.

The tyranny of solid over liquid

The tyranny of solid over liquid

The first difficulty in tasting wines at the table comes from the impregnation of the mucous membranes and taste buds by the food. In general, solid food, due to its texture and richness in elements that line the palate, communicates taste sensations that last longer than liquid food.

The tasting of a wine after a bite of a dish is therefore considerably modified by it, and the first sip may be extinguished if the taste sensations of the dish are too intense. Even bland food influences the taste of wine by exacerbating one or another of its components.

On the other hand, a high-flavoured food will lessen the sensation due to the alcoholic strength of the wine, a high-fat dish will erase its tannins. A bit of cold cuts, a few cubes of Gruyère cheese or an assortment of dried fruit will make many mediocre wines look like decent vintages.

Normally a spicy food will reduce the wine to a purely thirst-quenching role, taking away its personality until it has washed its mouth from the fire of the dish.

The taster has two solutions: taste the wine or marry it with the dish

If he wants to taste the wine for himself and wants to bring out all its qualities, then he will taste the wine before eating the dish and will fix his sensations outside the food. He will of course have rinsed his mouth of the impressions of the previous dish with a glass of water or preferably with breadcrumbs.

If he is looking for a hedonistic tasting, he tastes not the wine but the wine-dish pairing and seeks to follow the conversation he is having, he will alternately savor a bite of the dish and a sip of wine, studying the marriages, contrasts or interactions between the different sensations.

Once the dish is finished, it is always interesting to taste the wine again on the finish and let the sensations gently fade into the mouth. The wine then takes over the starring role and the dish, the role of highlighting.

The tyranny of solid over liquid
The combination of food and wine

Rules relating to the marriage of wine and food

These few rules are valid in 95% of the cases; there are always exceptions, just as there will always be very different possibilities than those indicated here. Simply by following these few rules you will avoid many mistakes.


Rule n°1

Simple dish, simple wine

If the dish is bland enough or has only one or two basic flavors, there is no need to put a complex wine that would crush the dish. It is better to put a wine, also simple, rather easy to drink, so that the wine and the dish remain on the same tone.


Rule n°2

A very spicy dish, sweet wine

When a dish is very spicy, the sugar in the wine will melt behind the spices and vice versa, i.e. the spices will melt behind the sugar and so only the spicy and not the pungent side of the dish and the fruit of the wine will remain, which is often a very good match. A typical example is hare à la royale with a mutated wine such as Port or Banyuls.


Rule n°3

Elegant dish elegant wine, rustic dish rustic wine

On a very elegant dish, it is better to combine a great Burgundy or a great Côtes du Rhône and on a very rustic dish the association with a Burgundy Passetoutgrain will often be a success.


Rule n°4

Never use red wine with cheese

We will develop this idea further.



Rule n°5

A sweet dish, wine less sweet than the dish

Every time you put a wine sweeter than a dish that is sweet itself, the agreement will not be made.

Thus, great sweet wines will almost never be used on a dessert, but will have much more place on spicy dishes or shellfish that go very well with these sweet wines, such as lobster with vanilla. It is important to respect :

  • The acidity of a dish with the acidity of the wine,
  • The smoothness of a dish with the smoothness of wine,
  • The texture of a dish with the tannins of the wine,
  • The color of a dish with the nuances of the wine.

The flavor of a wine cannot dominate the flavor of the dish and vice versa.


Rule n°6

Wine Serving Order

You should always go up in wine range and put the great wine, the best wine of the meal on the main course, then you can go down in range on the cheese or change color or switch to sweet wine if you have to drink sweet wine with the dessert. Just put the cheeses in adequacy.

  • A white or rosé wine precedes a red wine,
  • A dry wine precedes a mellow or sweet wine,
  • A light wine precedes a full-bodied or powerful wine,
  • A fruity wine precedes a bouquet wine,
  • A fresh wine precedes a chambré wine,
  • A simple wine precedes a complex wine,
  • A young wine precedes an old wine.

To make this rule less rigid, it should be specified for example that a red wine can precede a white wine if the latter is more complex or full-bodied.

Marriages must be judicious to respect this principle. This is why light dishes require light wines and dishes with strong tastes will go well with full-bodied wines. The dominant flavours of a dish should match the dominant flavours of a wine.


A major rule

The progression of wines

Always look for balance: the aroma and flavor of each dish must harmonize with the personality, character and power of each wine. Remember the four flavors in both food and wine: salty, sweet, sour and bitter. Predominant factor: food = food + cooking + garnish/sausage. Match the type of wine to the dominant flavours of the food (tomato sauce, herbs, etc.).

  • With cold starters, seafood, fried, grilled or smoked fish and hors d'oeuvres: dry, fresh and lively white wines. Rosés like tomato and basil sauces.
  • With fish and shellfish in white sauce, poached poultry with cream sauce and certain white meats in cream sauce: very aromatic, dry and supple wines.
  • With hot meat starters, roasted poultry and light grilled meats: young and fresh red wines. Red wines with tonicity are perfect to accompany red meat dishes with slightly spicy sauces, lamb chops, barbecued meats and game birds.
  • Roasts of red meats, meats in red wine sauce, spicy sausages, naked game, some full-bodied cheeses: full-bodied red wines.