Toughest Foods to Pair with Wine

Posted On December 10, 2017

Food and wine pairing has always been the trickiest part for anyone, be it a housewife, a wine enthusiast or even a wine expert.  And then there are some dishes or even some ingredients, which are really tough to pair with a wine. But if you seriously look into the matter, you may be able to find out a perfect pair for these toughest foods as well. There are a lot of these, out of which we have here tried to make some tough pairings. 



Artichokes contain a chemical called cynarin which reacts particularly adversely with oaked whites and most red wines, making them taste oddly sweet.


Serve them as the Italians do rather than as the French do, i.e. grilled, fried or raw in salads with lemon, including lemon peel or olive oil rather than boiling them and serving them with a vinaigrette. 


The wines that match best are dry, earthy whites or southern French whites including grapes such as Terret or white grenache. Bone dry fino or manzanilla sherry is also a good option.


Red Cabbage

Foods like red cabbage need techniques to soften them before even considering a match with wine. Though delicious, the classic side dish, Red Cabbage, combined with bacon, apples, onions and sugar, also includes an ingredient deadly for matching: vinegar.


Low-fruit wines are best with vegetal flavors. With such difficult recipes, the goal is not to attain perfection with the pairing, but to find “good dancing partners”. 


Chocolate Fondant Puddings

The palate-coating effect of very rich, dark, sweet, molten chocolate is the toughest part in pairing with wine. 


Lighten up the effect with a scoop of vanilla icecream or extra thick double cream, add some dark cherry or other berry fruit compote then serve with a sweet red such as a Valpolicella or modern-style vintage character port. It’s not perfect admittedly but it’s the best match going.

Very Hot Curries

Hot chillies manage to both anaethetise the taste buds and accentuate the tannins and alcohol in any accompanying wine. 


I’m tempted to say don’t bother, stick to beer or don’t make your curries so hot but if you must, a very well chilled riesling, gewurztraminer or flowery white like Torrontes is your best bet. If you offset the heat by offering raita and naan as well as boiled rice or a pilaf, you can even get away with a jammy red.



Depending on the country you are in, you will like different wines with the hummus. Italians prefer pinot grigio, Germans like gewürztraminer, and the French favor fumé blanc. Matching wine with hummus is a challenge. The red-wine lover would enjoy either pinot noir or gamay beaujolais, and the white-wine lover would fancy pinot grigio.


Miso-Marinated Black Cod, Soba Noodles And Bok Choy With Agedashi Broth  

Black cod is marinated in a mixture of yellow miso, mirin, soy sauce, sugar and yuzu. It is then broiled in the oven and placed on a cool soba noodle salad…the set is then topped with a mizuna salad. The agedashi broth is poured around the salad. Pick an earthy pinot noir from Russian River, but cautions against picking a pinot with bold tannins, which could overwhelm the fish. You may also try a dry Riesling. It cuts through the fish and goes well with the richness of the miso when, of course, sake isn’t available.


It is the umami characteristics in the agedashi broth that can make a wine taste bitter. Although sake would normally be paired with such a dish, it’s nice to have an alternative that complements the beautiful creations of both the winemaker and chef.


Ice Creams And Sorbets

Again they numb the palate and can have the effect of making most dessert wines taste thin and sharp.

Serve them with more wine-friendly ingredients - a slice of fruit tart, a crumble topping or some accompanying fresh fruit that is less sweet than the wine you pick to accompany the dessert. Of course it depends partly on the ice cream. Rich vanilla, coffee or chocolate ice creams can be sensational on their own with sweet sherry or madeira, other sweet fortified wines like Malaga or Australian liqueur muscat.


Ripe Washed Rind Cheeses

The bitterness and ammoniac flavors of the cheese and, particularly, the rind completely alters the tastes of most reds, especially oak aged ones.


Choose an aromatic, unoaked white such as Alsace Tokay, Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer which will allow the flavor of the cheese and the wine to remain intact. Or, alternatively, don’t allow your cheese to run away with you.



A lot of people think tomatoes are not easy to match with. The characteristics of tomatoes that make them difficult to pair with wine are their high acidity and sweet flavor, as is true with many of the other challenging foods we’ve found.


Pairing tomatoes and garlic on grilled baguette slices with a rosé due to its lively acidity and light-to-medium body. Rosé is seriously a Good Wine.


A dry rosé goes perfectly well with Gazpacho, as long as the wine has sufficient acidity. Also, pairing a dry rosé with the classic insalata caprese is something worth trying.


Vinaigrette Dressing

Vinaigrettes tend to thin out wines, so the solution is using five parts oil to one part vinegar. Alternatively, use a squeeze of lemon in place of the vinaigrette. 


The use of the high-acid brut Champagne goes along with her like-with-like pairing theory, as vinaigrette is, of course, high in acid. Believe in some of the new matching principles, such as pairing wine and food with either similar or contrasting aspects. A correction to the food is sometimes necessary, such as the squeeze of lemon mentioned above or a pinch of salt.



Determine the character of the particular mushroom type; no particular wine will go with all mushrooms.

When eating a dish in which mushrooms are dominant, the mushroom type, treatment and sauce will determine the best selection of wine. Matching wine with mushrooms becomes ambitious when the mushrooms are cooked, thus releasing umami, which can tend to make wine taste bitter. 


The Grand Wine Cellar website has a nifty vegetable and wine pairing guide from which we have summarized the recommendations for mushrooms:

Chanterelle mushrooms: 

Pinot Noir, Viognier 


Cremini mushrooms: 

Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier 


Morelle mushrooms: 

Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah 


Oyster mushrooms: 

Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier 


Porcini mushrooms: 

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir 


Portobello mushrooms: 

Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir 


Shiitake mushrooms: 

Pinot Noir, Syrah 


White and brown mushrooms: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc



One vegetable people love to use in the spring but tough to pair with a wine as it’s flavor profile is a bit grassy and vegetal.


By steaming the asparagus, adding butter and letting it sit a while then draining off the butter, the harsh vegetal quality is smoothed, while the fat is decreased.

Characteristics of Russian River Chardonnay are fresh and vibrant aromas, followed by a deceptively soft with no hard edges entry on the palate. A remarkable flavor density is then apparent, seamlessly flowing into a rich mid-palate and bracing acidity.


Pickled or Salted Fish And Vegetables

Vinegar just doesn’t like fine wine. Add oily fish and you’ve got trouble.


Another food where beer has the edge but there are ways to alleviate the problems of the match by serving some boiled potatoes or light rye bread alongside. The wines that will work best are high acid whites like Muscadet or Albarino. 


Salade Verte

It’s not so much the leaves that are the problem as the vinaigrette, particularly with red wines if you’re serving it after the main course French-style. 


Soften the acidity in the dressing by using a proportion of balsamic vinegar, cream or, even chicken stock and don’t include raw onion or garlic. It’s also better to use milder fruity oil at this stage of the meal rather than a pungent, grassy one which can throw a serious red off course. A few walnuts, slivers of parmesan or air dried ham or pieces of crispy bacon will also make a salad more red wine-friendly, especially if it contains bitter greens.



One liquid with another is sometimes one liquid too many, particularly with finer-textured soups.

Introduce a little texture to the soup - a few noodles or a ravioli to a consomme, a little cream to a smooth vegetable soup or some chunkier ingredients to make your soup more like a stew. 


An oaked white will also provide more texture to the combination than an unoaked one.


Mint Flavored Desserts

Menthol and wine aren’t the happiest of bedfellows.


Botrytised riesling is the best pair. You need sweetness and piercing acidity. Austrian wines of Ausbruch quality tend to have the requisite power too.


Referred various sources

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Dali Khanal

Chief Editor