Slideshow: Ask a Sommelier: The Worst Food and Wine Combinations

Dry Champagne and Sweet Wedding Cake
Dry Champagne and Sweet Wedding Cake

"Brut Champagne and wedding cake. Wedding cake usually is so sweet and rich that the dry sparkling wine fights it. Demi-sec Champagne or a fruity, slightly sweet sparkling wine works much better." — James Tidwell (Café on the Green)

No One Wants to Explode...
No One Wants to Explode...

"Pop Rocks and Champagne—no question! Word on the streets of Épernay is that Mikey (the kid from the Life cereal commercials) was visiting Champagne and ate some Pop Rocks candy and washed them down with Clos du Mesnil and he exploded. Not sure if that’s true or not but that makes me cringe (and pour some Clos du Mesnil out for him) every time I pop a bottle. Why are they so terrible together you ask? Think about it…THE KID EXPLODED!!!" — Sabato Sagaria (The Little Nell Hotel)

Tannic Reds and Raw Fish
Tannic Reds and Raw Fish

"In my opinion, the worst food and wine pairing, the one that makes me cringe, is big tannic reds with raw fish like crudo or sushi. The wine makes the fish taste terrible and the fish makes the wine taste terrible. There is no way around it. I’ll never understand why people order Napa Cabernet in a sushi restaurant. It boggles my mind." — Dustin Wilson (Eleven Madison Park)

Cabernet and Oysters
Cabernet and Oysters

"Cabernet and oysters. They're terrible first because of the textural interaction (fish feels like sand when you put it with a tannic wine) and second because of the flavors. Oysters taste like old metal cans when paired with tannic wines. A beer, a glass of sparkling water, a cocktail... anything is better with oysters than a Cabernet-based wine." — Brianne Day (Riffle NW)

Wine is Subjective
Wine is Subjective

"This is a weird question because I hate to be that guy that says 'this doesn't work' because someone might really think that it does. The beauty of wine is that it is subjective and the same goes for pairings." — Josiah Baldivino (Michael Mina)

Tannic Cabernet and Ice Cream
Tannic Cabernet and Ice Cream

"I have a bit of a sweet tooth. I love a big bowl of ice cream to end a meal...just make sure you've finished your wine first. Nothing says 'this was a bad idea' like the taste of a big tannic Cabernet washing down your vanilla ice cream. The wine will seem bitter and alcoholic, while the ice cream will seem overly sweet and overly creamy as a result." — John Toigo (Fiola)

California Chardonnay with Mackerel
California Chardonnay with Mackerel

"Big, oaky California Chard with mackerel. The metallic, oily component in the fish breaks apart the wine and the oaky, buttery note of the wine sends spikes down my back as I type this. It completely contradicts the flavors in the fish. I would not serve Brussels sprouts as side dish for that one either..." — Chris Johnson (Cherry)

Dover Sole with Barolo
Dover Sole with Barolo

"Something like Dover sole with Barolo. Fish oil with heavy tannin is like drinking tinfoil. Not to judge those who drink tinfoil. I’m equal opportunity. I’m just saying. Not for the faint of heart." — Brian McClintic (Les Marchands Wine Bar and Merchant)

A Metallic Taste in Your Mouth
A Metallic Taste in Your Mouth

"Fatty tuna and Cabernet Sauvignon. I used to work at some upscale sushi restaurants and a table would order a young bottle of tannic Napa Valley Cab or Bordeaux as soon as they sat on the table. Then they’d order a plate of otoro. I would just imagine the metallic, low-tide flavor that would come along with that, and be sick to my stomach. I feel similarly about young Bordeaux and anything with chili peppers, and dark chocolate with anything other than Malmsey or Port. Rough." — Cara Patricia (Hakkasan San Francisco)

Red Wine and Oysters
Red Wine and Oysters

"Oysters and red wine. Flavor-wise they just don't work. The tannins in the wine are too hard with the brininess of the oysters. The palate wants to be cleansed and refreshed for the next six or twelve oysters." — Randy Goodman (Bar Avignon)

Tuna and Chianti
Tuna and Chianti

"Tuna and Chianti. I was the beverage director at an Italian restaurant and I was having lunch. A vendor stopped by to have me taste some Chiantis and it was a god-awful experience. Everything was just metallic. Lesson learned—never pair tuna with a Chianti and if you’re going to taste wines during a lunch break, drink water and rinse." — Evelyn Ciszak (Chakra)

Watch Out for Wine Killers
Watch Out for Wine Killers

"I have a pretty clear philosophy of matching food with wine. Good food goes with good wine. Period. There's never been crappy food that was made better by a great wine, nor was there ever crappy wine that tasted good because of awesome food. With that said, I cringe at the thought of certain ingredients in food that are wine 'killers'—artichokes, garlic, tomatoes, and bell peppers. The natural sweet/acid combination of each of those items act as a wine repellent for me. I love eating all those foods but often tend toward crisp lager beer to go along.

I also don't understand the chocolate and wine pairing combination. I prefer to eat my chocolate, wait a little while, then move on to wine. They're two separate events!" — Dan Beekley (Remedy Wine Bar, CorksCru)

Stop Pairing Tannic Reds and Cheese
Stop Pairing Tannic Reds and Cheese

"It’s not the worst thing in the world, but a lot of people tend to think that big, tannic reds are the way to go with a cheese plate. There are so many options much more suited to cheese—especially if you are enjoying a variety of cheeses.

 

The tannins and flavors in big red wines tend to either overwhelm or clash with cheeses. I prefer high acid whites like Sauvignon Blanc with goat cheese, perhaps a sweet wine with a succulent triple crème, or to maximize versatility, a Belgian beer or cider with a cheese plate.  If you must go red, choose a succulent style with lots of fruit. I like to pour people a Valpolicella Ripasso—concentrated dried-fruit flavors and silky texture here make this pairing work." — Jennifer Tietz (Tru)

If You Like It...
If You Like It...

"It's funny because wine pairing is such a cornerstone of [our restaurant's] experience, you'd think I'd be very opinionated on this subject...but I'm not. It goes without saying that there are a few basics (really spicy foods don't do well with high alcohol wines, etc.), but when you're at home or entertaining guests, I think people should eat what they like to eat and drink what they like to drink. If you like Chilean Malbec and hot dogs, who the hell am I to beat you over the head with my Beaujolais nonsense?" — Michael Garofola (Genoa)

Spice and Oak: Double the Heat
Spice and Oak: Double the Heat

"The worst food and wine pairing is a heavily oaked wine with extremely spicy food. It’s like having to call a fire truck for your mouth! Thai and Indian foods, which I love, just don't work with heavily oaked or high alcohol wines. Heat and oak just cannot get along, because one will always intensify the other, creating an imbalance of flavor." — DLynn Proctor (Penfolds Winemaking Ambassador)

Dry Reds with Chocolate
Dry Reds with Chocolate

"I would like to suggest, strongly, that tannins and salt are terrible bedfellows; they clash like two Titans. That would, and should, eliminate highly structured red wines like Cabernet, with (most) cheese. In a similar vein, dessert wine should be sweeter than (or as sweet) as the dessert itself.  So, still/dry red wine and chocolate should not be consumed together." — Richard Matuszczack (La Toque)