How to sense the 5 components of wine for wine and food pairing

Wine and food Pairing and the 5 components of wine

The beautiful days of spring are upon us and with them comes more entertaining. Great wine and food pairings can help to take your meals to new heights and bring more enjoyment even to a quiet family dinner.

Wine and food pairing -three core principles

Wine and food pairing comes down to three core principles:

  • balance between the weight of the wine and the richness of the food

  • having at least as much acidity in the wine as there is in the food

  • mirroring or contrasting the aromas and flavours (and intensity)

You may be glazing over at all these terms but we are all born with the tools that you need to assess the food pairing potential of a wine.

With all wines you taste you will have an instant reaction – like or don’t like. This is important since you are drinking wine for enjoyment. The key is working out why you like or don’t like the wine so you can avoid it or adjust the circumstances for it (e.g. an acidic white like muscadet with seafood rather than alone).

The main elements in a wine

Here are some pointers about how to assess the main elements.


You sense high alcohol content by a burning sensation at the back of the throat and alcohol generally by the weight in the mouth. High alcohol can give the sensation of sweetness. The higher the alcohol the heavier the wine. Very high alcohol (14.5alc by vol plus) wines are not ideal with food as they are too overpowering.


You sense the acidity of a wine in the sides of your cheeks – your mouth will water if there is high acidity, like it does with lemon juice. The higher the acidity the lighter the wine. Thinking of the principles above – a relatively high acid white wine like sauvignon blanc will be good with grilled fish with a squeeze of lemon.


The sweetness on your tongue, or, to use wine speak, the level of residual sugar – if any – in a wine is sensed on the tongue like you do anything sweet. More sweetness means more weight. A sweet wine is a great candidate for a contrast pairing like the roquefort and Saussignac. But if you go for a mirror pairing – putting the wine with a dessert then the wine must be at least as sweet as the dessert or it will be crushed by the dessert.


What we think of as flavours are usually aromas. We sense them from inside our mouths up the back of our nose called ‘retro-olfactory’. Most fit into four main aroma families: fruity, spicy, vegetal or animal. The slightly leathery / animal character of an aged Bergerac/ Bordeaux style red is fantastic with game.


Tannin gives an astringence or drying sensation on your gums and tongue. Think of what a strong cup of tea does to your mouth. Think about the classic pairing of rare steak and a tannic red. Tannins bind with and remove salivary proteins that lubricate the mouth, thus creating the sensation of dryness. They do the same to proteins in food, thereby helping digestion and bringing out more flavour hence the classic match of a rare steak with a high-tannin Pauillac red wine from Bordeaux (usually a blend with majority Cabernet Sauvignon) or Chateau Feely Vérité. Try it yourself – cook half a steak rare and the other half very well done, then compare the two with a tannic red wine and a lower-tannin blend (e.g. Resonance 2017) to see this for yourself. You will find the well-cooked steak is better matched with the less tannic red.

Here’s to a happy spring of great wine and food pairings!

Come and experience our wine and food pairing lunch as part of the half day tour with lunch.

See part one of our series on general wine and food pairing. Come and learn more about wine tasting with a visit to Chateau Feely in South West France ; stay with us or do a multi day course or multi day tour . You can read about the story of our wine school and organic farm the series includes three books Grape ExpectationsSaving our Skins and Glass Half Full by Caro Feely.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Lena Mc Evenue

    Please add me to your mailinglist

  • Caro FEELY

    Thanks Lena – you are subscribed now.

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