Demonstration of Good/Bad Pairings

Let’s say you have some friends that aren’t really into wine, but you’d like to show them how a good pairing can enhance the wine experience (and the food, as well). Equally important, you’d like to contrast that with a bad pairing to show the negative impact that it can have on the wine and the food.

If you were going to do a simple demonstration with basic dishes (i.e., not gourmet) and supermarket wines (i.e., better than yellowtail, but something that a novice would likely drink) that would provide this stark contrast, what would you suggest? I’ve been thinking about this lately, since you often see pairing suggestions at restaurants, but, for obvious reasons, you don’t see pairing no-no’s. However, those no-no’s can be equally illustrative. I want to keep it basic so that my friends don’t think it’s the quality of the dish or the wine that is making the difference, but rather, it’s the effect of the pairings.

Thoughts? Ideas? Could you pick 2 wines and 2 dishes that pair well on one hand, but when swapped with the other wine/dish, pair horribly?

Hopefully, I’m not making this more complicated than it needs to be, but as I’m trying to get some of my friends into my relatively new hobby, I would love suggestions on demonstrating pairings that would provide a pretty stark contrast.

bad: anything with heat (thai food?) and any warm alcoholic wine
bad: anything with a lot of spicy sauce and pinot

Good – oysters and Chablis or Champagne
Bad – oysters and Cabernet

Good – Port and Stilton (or nuts, other cheese)
Bad – hmm, Port and asparagus?? Port and fish? Port and sardines in mustard.

Good: Almost any German riesling, from Trocken to QbA to Auslese, with any smoked fish.

Bad: Anything with fruit or other sweetness (e.g., pretty much anything from the Silver Palate cook books) and high acidity wines (e.g., Burgundy, Barolo or Northern Rhone).

Good: Meats with herbs and Southern Rhones.

Bad: White fish with tannic reds.

We just did a food and wine pairing class at the store where I work.

Probably the biggest WOW moment was a Sonoma coast PN and grilled tuna with soy sauce reduction. Pinot and umami from both the soy and the fish worked really well together.

We also demonstrated bad pair like that same PN and chocolate.



I had a real life experience with this just a month ago. I went to a Hall wine tasting at a place in Delray called Olio’s. I think the restaurant could be decent if you order off the menu, but they were doing a wine tasting dinner and the pairings were horrendous. I can just imagine what the guy from Hall must have been thinking. He didn’t pick the menu.

The worst pairing was (get this!):

Blackened Grouper w/ 2005 Hall Cabernet

I couldn’t f’en believe it ! It was HORRIBLE. I was sitting next to two wine buddies who agreed and then looked across the table at the owner of the restaurant and his wife, to see if they had any reactions. None whatsoever! I tried to see if anyone else had any “sour grapes” faces. I saw one or two looking somewhat confused. The spiciness of the seasoning paired with the fish just made Hall’s Cabernet taste like I just sipped a firecracker that blew up in my mouth.

It was a shame because the Hall wines in general were pretty good on their own. The food ruined it.

If I were to show someone a good and bad pairing. I would cook up a steak, have them taste light white like a Muscadet and then have them do the same with a nice Cab. Simple and easy.

Next night, cook up a grilled piece of Mahi Mahi or Halibut and put a nice white in front of them . Then have them taste with leftover Cab from the night before (feh!!).

How many of you have friends that will drink Cabernet with ANYTHING they eat? It is insane! I have a couple of good buddies that love Cab’s and drink them all the time regardless of what they are eating, I can’t understand it.


I notice that Dr. Dorta and Prof. Deiss could not follow the simple instructions! neener


Just pick any entry from the Hedonist’s Gazette. Sashimi and Chateauneuf, anyone?

Pretty much anything wine with asparagus is no bueno.

I wouldn’t go that far.

Bad: sharp cheddar and cabernet (I especially recommend this b/c there seems to be a common misconception that all cheese and wine go well together when, in fact, most clash horribly)
Good: beef and cabernet

another cheese example (to show it is possible for cheese pairings to be very nice, when done properly):
Bad: red wine and epoisses
Good: Sauternes and epoisses

Bad: any red wine or dry white wine with spicy thai food
Good: a sweet German Riesling with spicy thai food