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September 21, 2020

The Basics of Food & Wine Pairing

Traditional wine-producing countries naturally make and select wines that compliment either local or national dishes. In most of these wine-producing countries, wine is considered part of the meal; a natural part of the dining experience. In the USA, the number of wine consumers is developing in leaps and bounds. Many are still relatively new to wine drinking and haven’t considered whether their favorite drink enhances their chosen meal. Often, they may not have the knowledge and confidence to make the selection themselves. This provides you with the perfect opportunity to assist the guest (and let them ‘Trade-up’) by pairing appropriate wines to items on your menu, thereby increasing spend per head as well as guest satisfaction.

Our customers, who have invested in Bermar wine & Champagne preservation, are constantly looking to add value to their wine-by-the-glass service, with innovative service ideas. With the precision control of oxidation on all opened bottles of still wine and the precision control of CO2 pressure with Champagnes and sparkling wines, Bermar users have the confidence to open a larger range of wines to entice their guests to try new experiences. Food and Wine Pairing is a great way to enhance the dining experience and allow new wine enthusiasts to develop their palettes.

Business Benefits:

  • Enhances the overall dining experience.
  • Enhances perceived value for the guest as the cost to try 5 different bottles at home would be considerable
  • Creates up-sell opportunities which maximize spend per head especially during peak times
  • Ideal for temporary or inexperienced staff that don’t have high product knowledge levels
  • Educates staff and consumers
  • Boosts staff confidence; highlights professionalism and wine service
  • Encourages staff suggestions, “Would you like to consider…?”
  • Encourages consumers to try different wines on your list, enabling you to sell across your product range
  • Increase guest return rates – gives a reason for guests to return more often as you constantly introduce new wines-by-the-glass to try with their favorite dishes


How to implement food & wine pairing in your business

There are no hard and fast rules for which wines go with which food, as our palettes are all unique and our personal taste is what is important. However, some proven guidelines will help create elevated taste experiences. The objective is to create a balance of flavors to enhance the guest dining experience. The following guidelines should help point you in the right direction:

A great resource is a book called The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil who talks about the ‘10 Rules of Wine Pairing’. These are guides that will help you select wines for your by-the-glass list that are likely to pair with your menu.

For the list to be also useful for food and wine pairing you must have suggested dishes next to the wine. However, this can become cumbersome. The other good way is to show a style of wine (or actual wine) next to the item on the menu.

One way we have seen used very successfully is to organize your wine list in the “Progressive Style”. In this way, you should categorize your wines from light crisp to medium-bodied to fuller-bodied rich and opulent. With three to six wines in each category for white and red wines, it is an easy way to create a by-the-glass list that can be used as a prompt sheet by your staff. This makes it easy for staff to point to suggestions and for guests to choose based on their preferred style and the dish they are choosing. Below are some of the key things to think about when planning your wine-by-the-glass/wine pairing list.


Ideally, when drinking wine with a meal you want to be able to taste both the food and wine (particularly if you have chosen a fine wine). This requires some thought regarding balancing the overall strength of the flavors. Delicate, lightly flavored wines such as Pinot Grigio or Beaujolais would be totally lost if paired with beef dishes; however, they would complement a chicken liver pâté. So, as a guide, delicate wines with delicate dishes, and bold with bold.


To mirror or to contrast is the question?
All wines contain acidity. Those with greater levels are often described as clean, refreshing, crisp, tangy, mouth-watering or sharp. Those with less are described as soft, rounded, silky, smooth or rich.

Meals containing dairy products are particularly well suited to the more acidic wines; they soften the wine whilst preventing the rich-tasting dishes from feeling heavy and cloying on the palette. This is called contrasting.

However, there are examples when mirroring can create a sublime tasting experience. There are some dishes where mirroring or contrasting can work equally well, and this is a great opportunity to introduce guests to this unique experience, and let them decide which they prefer. One classic example is pairing a full-bodied rich, creamy opulent Chardonnay with Lobster in a cream sauce, but also trying it with a crisp, sharp glass of Champagne or sparkling wine.

Both experiences are likely to be highly memorable for the guest, creating that magical moment for just the price of a taste or a glass. So, of all the attributes in the guides, Acidity and style is the one that deserves the most experimentation to decide if you prefer to mirror the taste or contrast it. As a rule, wines with good acidity that leave you palate refreshed after every sip are ideal for restaurant food & wine pairing, as this leaves the diner wanting to take another bite of food, and another sip and so on, and so on.


High powered red wines are often balanced with Tannins. Tannic wines may taste astringent on their own but matched with protein with high levels of animal fat, butter or cream (cheese or red meat) they will appear much softer and fruitier. If the meal has heavy gravy, it will best be served with a fairly full-bodied tannic wine. This is a great opportunity to offer different styles of red wine to let the guest choose what they like best. Offering a big bold ripe fruit filled California Cabernet, more acidic Rioja or an elegant lighter Bordeaux can add very interesting dimensions to many a dish.


Sweet wines should be matched with sweet dishes, always ensuring the wine is sweeter than the food or the wine will taste dull and characterless. Sweet wines are ideal with fruit tarts or creamy desserts. They are also ideal with blue cheeses and mature salty cheeses. Slightly sweet wines can often be a magical pairing with salty soy-based Asian foods.

What you need to start your wine pairing program

The process to choose wine pairings should be easy and clear so the guest can choose. Most guests do not want to be sold, they prefer a suggestion, so they can choose to buy and ‘trade-up’. The quality of the wine served must be perfect. They do not want to feel like you are pushing some leftover wine from yesterday. So, a professional wine & Champagne preservation system is imperative to control the quality on all your opened bottles. Equally important is a conspicuous service that is seen to care for your opened bottles.

Consider the following style of wines lists for your range:

Progressive Style – Light to medium to full-bodied
Suggested wine on menu item – This will change as wine changes
Style of wine on menu item – This stays consistent with the dish
Special wine tasting list – 2oz pours, with three glasses for the price of 1 glass
A by-the-glass list showing 2oz taste price, glass price, and bottle price if there is room.


Choose a flexible selection that exhibits the attributes that complement your cuisine, such as Acidic, Tannic, Sweet, Semi-Sweet, Fruity, Bubbly, Red, White, or Rose.
Remember to offer some choices that can ‘Mirror or Contrast’ with some of your dishes to make it really interesting, and let the guest decide.

Stemware or carafes

Stemware etched for 2oz for taste size.
Small 3oz carafes to offer taste sizes.

Staff Training

Let your staff taste the different styles of wine, so they can pick their own favorite, which gives them the confidence to make suggestions. Your goal is for the staff to be comfortable sharing their favorite with a particular dish, not for them to discuss tasting notes. The enthusiastic suggestion should be enough for the guest to decide. The key to the ‘Trade-up’ sale is to NOT push the ‘Trade-up’ but to enthusiastically suggest a unique offer (a special wine experience). The guest can then choose. Train staff on the need to care for all opened bottles to keep them in prime condition.

If you’re offering pairings and, of course, tastings you clearly are very passionate about great wine service and the quality of the guest experience. To guarantee this quality you do need a high-performance wine preservation in place for your staff to deliver on this quality promise. This ‘trade-up’ offer will showcase to your guest your desire to deliver an enhanced dining experience with a choice of wines that match perfectly to the dish. You wouldn’t want to serve poor-quality wine ever! So, committing to a professional-grade wine preservation system and process for your staff to follow is critical. This will make your new service something your staff can be proud of. Once they have the confidence that all wines are guaranteed fresh, they will present the wines-by-the-glass and tasting experience enthusiastically.

With over 50,000 customers using Bermar systems to underpin their special wine-by-the-glass service, we are only too pleased to share the constant feedback we receive from our clients.The Bermar range of Le Verre de Vin+ and PODBAR+ wine and champagne preservation systems are proven to be the ideal tool in the hands of passionate wine service professionals to offer your guests that glass of wine or Champagne in guaranteed perfect condition for up to 21 days after opening the bottle. Enhance your chef’s signature dishes by serving a glass or taste of the wine that elevates the experience, and creates magical memorable moments in your restaurant. With 25% of guests looking to ‘trade-up’ there never has been a better time to invest in Le Verre de Vin to instil confidence in every glass of wine or champagne you serve.