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Happy Hour: Josh Wesson on Pairing Food and Wine

Despite the long lines and hungry event goers, there was one thing the organizers of the Great American Food and Music Festival did right: they invited Josh Wesson to give a special wine seminar. Wesson is a highly regarded wine professional. He's won countless awards and cofounded New York's acclaimed Best Cellars. I was lucky enough to attend Wesson's seminar, Fast Food/Faster Wine! In it he discussed the foundations for pairing food and wine. To learn what he had to say,

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  • Look for similarities. An obvious pairing is a dessert with a dessert wine. Just make sure the dessert (cake, cookie, pie, etc.) is sweeter than the wine.
  • Balance sweet and sour. When a dish is highly acidic, look for a sweet wine. If the pairing works, the food will taste less acidic and the wine will taste less sweet.
  • Think about the dominant taste. Do you want the strongest flavor to be the food or the wine?
  • Look for ways for the food and wine to complement each other. When a fish tastes oily, it's often served with fresh lemon because the acidity mutes the fishy flavor. This same effect can be achieved with an acidic white wine.
  • Consider the smell of the wine. Without a sense of smell, the wine is tasteless.
  • Drink a lot of wine. Don't be afraid to try new wines and different pairings.
  • The final point that Wesson stressed was that drinking and pairing wine is subjective. If it doesn't appeal to your palate, don't drink it.

Do you enjoy pairing wine with food? What are your go-to matches?


The wine seminar tent was adjacent to the wine tasting tents.

Josh Wesson, the host of the seminar and co-founder of Best Cellars in New York City.

Wesson paired Barney Greengrass' smoked salmon on a bagel with a Riesling from Oregon.

Pastrami, from one of Katz's sandwiches, matched a delightful sparkling Rose by Chandon.

Chocolate cake was paired with a late-harvest Viogner from Lodi.

The five wines we tasted on display.

Tasting the wine without a sense of smell really changes it!

A sample plate of food.

Brisket matched the light tannins of Cline's cool climate Syrah.

The Syrah also complimented the smokiness of this hot sausage.
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