Pairing Wine With Food: Simple Rules For Delicious Results

Adam Arlen

, Happy Hour

Wine can enhance any dish, including breakfast! Here are some simple rules to follow when pairing wine with food.


“Napa Cab DOES NOT go with everything.”

                                                    —Adam Arlen, Sommelier


Yes, I know. Some of you will say, “Burn him at the stake!” Napa Cab goes with heavier dishes, such as steak, roasts and stews. Seafood, Poultry? Forget about it. You will not taste anything else.


Photo courtesy of Penfolds

What grows together, goes together.

Did you ever wonder why lamb and Syrah go perfectly together? Arguably some of the best lamb on the planet is raised in Australia. Some of the best new world examples of Syrah, Shiraz in Australia, are made in the Barossa Valley in Australia. Penfolds comes to the top of the list.


Fatty foods need both tannin and acid.

That dry aged tomahawk ribeye that graces the menus of some of the best steakhouses in the country demands a big, bold red like Cabernet or Nebbiolo. The tannins will bond with the fat on your palate to clean it off and the acidity will get your mouth watering for more. If you don’t want to go with a heavy red in the middle of the summer, look for a cool climate wine with bright acidity, like Chablis or Sancerre.



Tannin does not play well with fatty fish oils.

Fish that are high in Omega-3 oils, like Salmon, Sword fish and rainbow trout require a wine that is low in tannin like Pinot Noir or Barbera. When the tannins and fish oils combine, you will get a metallic taste akin to biting down on tin foil.



Photo courtesy of Total Wine




Spicy food?  Lower the alcohol.

As a Sommelier, I never need an excuse to open a bottle of German Riesling. Spicy food will require a bottle that is lower in alcohol. Alcohol will amplify the spice of the dish. Next time you decide for Thai or Indian food, crack open a German Riesling with a little sweetness and watch the magic happen.







Dessert time: The wine must be sweeter than the dessert.

Photo courtesy of Total Wine




If your dessert wine is not sweeter than the dessert, you will get the Diet Coke effect. Here is a little homework to prove the point. Get a Coca-Cola and a Snickers bar. Take a sip of the Coke, then eat the entire Snickers. Then go back to the Coke. It will taste like Diet. Big, rich and sugary desserts will need something like Sauternes or Malaga from Spain to balance it out.









Adam Arlen, Sommelier


Adam Arlen: “I am passionate about wine because it is history in a bottle.” He is the sommelier for The Peninsula Club in Cornelius, NC. Originally from Allentown, PA, he believes you should always branch out and find new things. His goal is to never stop learning and continuing to grow both personally and professionally. A fun fact about him: “I was a nuclear engineer on a submarine in a previous life.”





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