Palate pleasing food and wine

Palate pleasing Food & Wine pairings

Have you ever wondered why one wine complements certain foods far more than another? Or how does one delicate change in the kitchen transform the pairing from simply appetizing to delightfully palate pleasing? It’s time to experiment!

We’ve all heard suggestions that certain types of wines should be served with specific foods. Because taste is a most subjective experience, we each have our own unique preferences. To help understand how a wine influences the flavor of food we need to examine the basic elements of taste, which include: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and protein.

“Sweet and protein reduce wine aromas which make wine textures (acidity, bitterness, stringency and tannins) appear stronger. Sour and salt make wine textures milder (richer, smoother, sweeter) and accentuate aromas. Sweetness in foods will increase the perception of bitterness and astringency in wine – making it seem less sweet (drier), less fruity and stronger,” shared Dr. Margie Ferree Jones, Associate Professor at The Collins College of Hospitality Management Cal Poly University Pomona.

In addition, spicy seasonings will exaggerate the tannins and bitterness in a wine, but adding something salty or sour (vinegars, lime, lemon, dry wine reductions) to the food will counteract this effect. A bitter taste is commonly found in some green vegetables and herbs.”

Here’s a few pairing suggestions from my friend of the vine, Chef-Instructor Ernie Briones at The Collins College of Hospitality Management, Cal Poly Pomona.

Chef Briones’ grilled pizzas paired well with chilled Sauvignon Blanc. I enjoyed the first pizza “Margareta” featuring vine-ripened red tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil and olive oil. The second was the veggie pizza with ratatouille (eggplant, zucchini, red and yellow bell peppers, yellow squash) with garlic and hint of fennel. The white wine’s acidity and crispness helped compliment the ratatouille. It was refreshing and brought brightness of flavors to the pizza Margareta.

A slightly sweet Riesling was a tasty pour with both pizzas as well, as the wine’s fruitiness and acidity worked well with the smokiness of the grilled dough. Why grill pizza dough? “To add another dimension of flavor. I felt the smokiness of the grill would be a good counterpoint to the acidity in the white wines. Grilling adds flavor without additional fat,” said Chef Briones.

Pairing a wine with roasted veggies is interesting. Because asparagus posses unique and distinctive flavors, it can be an odd wine pairing. “I chose to roast the asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper, fresh garlic, rosemary and basil versus steaming. Roasting caramelizes the natural sugars and helps off-set the unfavorable hints of vegetal that asparagus offers when pairing with wine,” shared Chef Briones. The Sauvignon Blanc worked well.

Another pleasant surprise was Pinot Noir with the asparagus. Generally a “wine foe” due to asparagus often displays metallic-like off flavor when pairing with wine.

Delicately textured and flavored foods require delicate wines, just as weighty, powerful foods are generally better matched with powerful wines. “To achieve a good match it is ideal to consider the basic components of food and wine, and ‘balance’ them so that one does not overpower the other. It is important to consider food flavors and textures.”

“Protein dominant foods, low in salt, also pair well with crisp and fruity style wines. Bitter foods, such as endive, arugula or smoked meats, can combine with the bitterness inherent in oak/tannins, making non oaked, crisp, light intensity wines an ideal match too,” said Jones.

Understanding taste is important in pairing wines with foods because you may want to complement or contrast the taste of the wine with the taste of the food in your pairings.

The tip of the tongue detects sweetness, while the inner sides of the tongue detect sourness and/or acidity. The outer sides of the tongue detect saltiness. The back of the tongue detects bitterness and/or alcohol.

A knockout combination is the pairing of sweet cream sherry with soft bleu cheese from Maytag Farms Iowa. The sweet/salt balance was perfect. “It is creamy, not too salty or sharp, with a hint of spice from the aging. Very well balanced and perfect when served at room temperature,” shared Chef Briones.

My favorite pairing was dark chocolate with the Petite Verdot. With the almonds or without, it did not make a difference. Chef Briones commented that he also liked this pairing because the fruitiness of the wine helped to balance the slight bitterness in the dark chocolate.

Margie suggested trying the Rancho de Philo sherry with Keebler’s Pecan Sandies shortbread cookies. Discover your own preferences!

The Collins College of Hospitality Management, Cal Poly Pomona
The Collins College of Hospitality Management is one of the “Top Three” hospitality programs in the country. Contributions from the hospitality industry built the 41,000 square foot, $10.2 million facility.

For more information on The Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch call 909-869-4700 or email

Wine Lovers’ Page for Food and Wine Matching
Check out the oldest, largest and most popular independent wine-appreciation site on the internet is dedicated to the premise that fine wine is a feast for all the senses – including the mind. And that you don’t have to be a snob to appreciate wine’s pleasures.

Don’t fret about matching the right food with the exact wine to complement – this tasty decision isn’t really as tough as all that. It may help to keep in mind the simple reality that humans have been matching wine with food for more than 5,000 years, and most wines will pair nicely with most dishes. It’s easy to go right, and hard to go wrong, as only a few combinations don’t work well. offers objective consumer-oriented tips on wines of good value, and make you a part of our international online community of wine lovers who enjoy intelligent talk about good things to eat and drink. Whether you’re new to the world of wine, an expert wine taster or a wine professional, you’ll find something of interest.

Gino L. Filippi can be reached at



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