Sensory Pairing Principles at Home
Want to experiment with pairing principles for yourself?
A few simple side-by-side comparisons can provide amazing insights you’ll never forget. Gather a few beverages and a few common kitchen staples, and check out how your senses operate.
1 glass of beer (like pale ale or all-malt lager)
1 glass of dry wine (like Sauvignon Blanc or Chianti)
Crackers, pretzels or bread for dipping
What to do:
Try each beverage alone first. Make mental note of flavor profiles and personal preferences.
Take a ‘reminder’ sip of the beverage.
Take a taste of a food component.
Return immediately to taste the same beverage a second time.
Notice which perceptions have shifted.
Food components to explore:
Salt—e.g. Table salt
Dramatic change with wine, often flattering. Minimal change with beer. Salt makes wine taste less acidic. Most foods have at least some salt, while all wines are acidic—wines generally taste less ‘sour’ with food than alone. Beer quenches, but since most have low acid, little changes.
Dramatic change with wine, usually unflattering. Moderate change with beer. Sugar in food minimizes a drink’s sweetness and amplifies sourness. This creates a ‘toothpaste and OJ’ effect with dry, acidic wine. Beer’s faint malt sweetness and lack of acid make for more pleasant combination.
Noticeable change in perceived body of both beverages. Oil and fat boost food texture, as alcohol content does for drinks. Since similar sensations neutralize each other, both beverages seem ‘lighter’ afterward. Beer’s carbonation lifts oils from the palate. If red, the wine’s astringent tannin will also counteract fat pleasantly.
Dramatic change with wine, often unflattering. Moderate change with beer. Strong sourness competes with wine’s acidity, leaving it seeming flat. Beer’s lack of acid makes this less of an issue.
Spicy Heat—e.g. Hot Sauce
Heat doesn’t change beverage sensations, drinks change heat sensation. Spicy heat ‘burns’—essentially a mild form of pain. Alcohol acts as an irritant, amplifying the burn, while residual sugar softens its impact. Wine’s strength feeds the flames, while beer’s lower ABV doesn’t cause as much pain.