Finding the Perfect Partner

The right wine can enhance a dish to perfection

There’s a lot of apprehension when it comes to food and wine pairing. So I thought that this month we should chat about matching food with wine and, conversely, wine with food. On the most basic level, the only thing that you really need to worry about is whether one is overpowering the other. It’s a balancing act. Here are some guidelines and a few examples of pairings around town.

Complementary Flavors
When encountering particular flavors, it is often possible to match wine taste with the flavors of the foods. A classic pairing might be a citrusy Sauvignon Blanc paired with the lemony goodness of simply pan fried fish filet with lemon juice. Another easy pairing matches roasted chicken with mushrooms with the inherently earthy flavors of a Pinot Noir from Burgundy or beyond.


Sweet and sour, salty and sweet, things would get boring if flavors were only complementary, so we like to juxtapose them when pairing wine and food as we do within food itself. This is why it’s pleasing to our palate to have hot and spicy food with the sweet and cooling effect of an off-dry Riesling, or a sweet and spicy Gewürztraminer.

Texture is also an important consideration. Heartier food pairs better with fuller bodied wines, and vice versa. Discounting taste, a relatively thin and watery wine like a Sauvignon Blanc would not really match texturally with a braised lamb shank. This holds especially true for white wines where we might be pairing a thick creamy sauce with a rich buttery viscous Chardonnay, as opposed to something more light and crisp.


Tannins and Fats
It is also common to pair a more robust, tannic (read relatively bitter and astringent), with meats — making brawny reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah great matches for well marbled rib eye steaks, braised ox tail, or pan-seared sausages. The fats and proteins act as a mediator when they coat the palate and mellow the harsh tannins on your tongue.

Mouth about Town
As we see in our examples, there are many different variables when we pair wine and food. Some of our examples take into consideration particular guidelines, but downplay others. At the end of the meal, it doesn’t really matter why you’ve paired two particular tastes, but that you are happy with the result. As Shri Manager, Ashley Nichols, puts it, “Drink the wine you want with the food you want.”

Shri Restaurant and Lounge
Centec Tower, 72 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D1

True to his word, Ashley likes to pair Shri’s imported Australian beef tenderloin with Cono Sur Reserva Pinot Noir. He likes to pair the char-grilled finish with the earthiness of this New World Pinot. He further backs up his pairing with historic precedent noting that in fact, Pinot Noir is traditionally the wine (grown in Burgundy) that is used to create that French classic boeuf bourgignon.


Boomarang Bistro Saigon
The Crescent, Phu My Hung, D7

Sticking with the beef theme, Boomarang Operations Director, Adam Zakharoff, likes to pair a North American red – Columbia Crest Two Vines Shiraz – with their notable sirloin steak. In addition to pairing juicy meat with juicy fruit (which just gets juicier
thanks to the tannins in Shiraz), Adam likes to play with the spiciness of their house pepper sauce to match the spicy notes of the Shiraz.

Elbow Room
52 Pasteur, D1

The Elbow Room’s Chef/Owner Tristan Ngo likes to take unique approaches when pairing his blackened seabass. Using the smooth, juicy texture of Cono Sur Bicicleta Carmenere, he tempers the heat of the blackening spices to create a calming effect. This wouldn’t work with a more intense, and tannic red, such as Cabernet Sauvignon where the tannins would accentuate the spice instead of soothing them.

Bio: Michael Kloster grew up in the vineyard country west of Fresno, California. He has over 20 years of marketing, hospitality, and food and beverage experience. He is currently Senior Sales Executive for Magnum Wine Cellars. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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