Food and Wine Pairing Rules 101: Labor Day Combinations to Impress Your Guests

Labor Day signifies the end of our gorgeous northern Michigan summers. Barbecues and grilling are some of the best ways to gather and enjoy these last few weeks of warm weather. Food and wine are both amazing on their own—and together, they can really bring out the best in each other. Not all pairings are a perfect match, but when you do find a great one, it can completely transform your experience. That is why we put together a set of food and wine pairing rules, just to get you off on the right foot to impress your guests!

Food and Wine Pairing Rules: The Basics

Here are three elements of food and wine and how you can think of them when pairing food with wine:

#1: Flavors

When thinking about food and wine, there are two flavor categories to consider: congruent and contrasting flavors.

Congruent flavors exist within the same flavor family. An example of congruent flavors is beef and mushroom. They are both earthy and savory and have significant amounts of umami flavor.

Contrasting flavors are flavors that complement each other and taste great together, even if they’re not in the same flavor family. A prime example is lime and coconut. They do not have the same flavor profiles but somehow just work well together!

#2: Textures

Food and wine textures can also be congruent or complementary. An example of congruent textures in food and wine would be a sweet wine with a sweet food (think lemon cake and select harvest Riesling!).

But let’s say you’re eating foods with creamy or fatty textures, such as cheese, beef, or fried foods. You want to instead complement those foods by choosing a wine with high acidity—it will cut through that texture and balance the dish.

#3: Body

In regards to the body of the wine, I always think that lighter wines go great with lighter foods. To make sure that your wine doesn’t overpower your food (and vice versa), here’s a general rule of thumb: The heavier the food, the heavier the body of the wine.

That is why you have probably heard of pairing white wine with fish and red wine with meat. It’s a safe bet to just follow that rule—but experimenting with all three of these elements is what can make it so fun and interesting!

Find the recipe for this tasty cilantro lime grilled chicken at the end of our post!

Bonus Tip!

The last little rule that I like to follow is a saying that goes “what grows together, goes together.” This means that pasta is generally great with Italian wine. That Napa Cabernet is great with a Californian cow ribeye steak. Traverse wine coast wines go well with fresh produce from your local farmer, with fresh fish caught out of our bay and local bakeries baking the best pastries and pies for dessert. Go out and support your local producers and pair them with your favorite local wines!

The Joy is All in Experimentation

Although these are good things to think about when pairing wine and food, it is completely a personal experience. The Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) is a fantastic resource in learning all things about wine and it has general guidelines for wine and food pairings. But remember: the food and wine pairing rules shouldn’t rule you. Try different combinations and see what you like the best—it’s all part of the fun!

Recipes For Your Labor Day Fun

Here are some great recipes to take to your get together this Labor Day weekend. Pair them with our estate-grown wines!