Food & Drink

Why You Shouldn’t Listen to Wine Pairing Rules, According to Science


Everything you know about the proper way to pair food and wine is totally wrong—at least, it may be totally wrong for you. This is according to Tim Hanni, one of the United State’s few people to earn the designation Master of Wine, a title handed down by the London-based Institute of Masters of Wine. Several years ago, Hanni proposed four vinotypes, or wine drinking profiles: sweet, hypersensitive, sensitive and tolerant. He said it would be possible to predict someone’s vinotype using information that has nothing to do with wine, like what sorts of food they enjoy. Now, the first study putting his theory to the test is out, and the results seem to validate his hypothesis.

First, a bit on vinotypes. Sweet vinotypes enjoy fruitier, sweeter wine; hypersensitives enjoy clean but somewhat subdued flavors; sensitives are more middle-of-the-road wine drinkers, able to enjoy a variety of styles; and tolerants like big, rich full-bodied wines. Michigan State University researchers Carl Borchgrevink and Allan Sherwin tried to see if they could identify those vinotypes in people by throwing a party of sorts for a group of adults. They set up 12 different stations with various food and drinks and asked their subjects to rate the food. A press release from the University said there was a correlation between food and drink preference and vinotype, and called the results conclusive—meaning you can tell what sort of wine someone will like based on what else they like.

This may not be the most earth shattering conclusion—if you have a sweet tooth, it makes sense that you prefer a fruity Riesling over an oaky Chardonnay. But it could give some pause to those who claim that you should always reach for a bottle of Cabernet to go with your steak. They’d be better off going with that old saying: The best wine is the one that tastes the best to you.