Two couples enjoy wine and a meal aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train.

Perfect Pairings

February 10, 2020
Tasting & Learning

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and romance is in the air. Like the great couples of romantic novels, some wine pairings were just meant to be. Here's our look at some of the greatest.

Chardonnay and Lobster

The buttery richness and full body of a well-oaked Chardonnay perfectly matches the creamy, unctuous texture and flavor of lobster. A luxurious dish like butter-poached lobster might overpower lighter whites but when combined with a Chardonnay, the flavors of both sing. For a runner up, try pairing your Chard with scallops. They’ve got a similarly velvety texture that beautifully complements the creamy sweetness of an oaked Chardonnay.

Champagne and Caviar

Salty, oily, caviar is transformed by the acidity and effervescence in Champagne resulting in a light and delightful mouthfeel and taste experience. A dry sparkling is key here—that’s what will freshen your palate and counter the fattiness of the caviar.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Steak

The tannins in a bold Californian Cabernet Sauvignon cut the richness of a beautifully marbled steak while enhancing its flavor. In turn, the fat in the steak smoothens out the wine, reducing its astringency and bringing out its fruit and berry notes. The result? Pairing perfection.

Port and Stilton

The sweetness of Port, or any sweet, fortified wine, provides a perfect counterbalance to the pungent saltiness of a creamy blue cheese like Stilton. Together, the sharpness of the cheese is mellowed, and the sweetness of the Port diminished. This classic pairing makes for a wonderful finish to a meal.

Pinot Noir and Duck

This is another case of opposites attract. Duck has a lot more fat in it than some other birds and the acidity in a Pinot Noir helps temper its richness. Not only that, pitted fruits and red berries work well with duck, making a fruit-forward Pinot Noir an ideal choice.

Glasses of sparkling wine on a fine dining table.

How does wine pairing work?

As you taste your wines, there are four primary characteristics that you’ll use to describe and categorize it. Each of these characteristics (acidity, sweetness, tannin, and body) are key to the food you pair it with, interacting with the characteristics of the dish in different ways. Tannins cut fat, sweetness balances spice, acidity tempers sweetness—each of the basic tenets of food and wine pairing is rooted in science and how elements work together and effect what’s happening inside your mouth, and consequently, the taste.

To make the most of these perfect pairs, make sure you taste them together. Take a bite of food and chew. Before swallowing your food, take a sip of wine and let the alchemy of a perfect pairing work its magic on your palate. You’ll be amazed at how the food and wine change and support each other’s flavors, combining to create something delicious.

Like Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy or Ron and Hermione, these food and wine pairings work together to make each other better, resulting in a swoon-worthy sensation aboard your taste buds.