More often than not, it’s the herbs and spices in a dish that makes a wine pairing taste so good. Pairing with herbs and spices is easy to do when you know how to pick out individual flavors in wine. For example, one of the dominant aromas in Barbera (a medium-bodied red wine) is anise. And, when you pair Barbera with a star anise and soy-glazed chicken you find it to be surprisingly delicious!
The magic behind pairing wines with herbs and spices starts with aroma compounds found in both spices and wine. Not surprisingly, many herbs and spices share the same aroma compounds as wine. A real-world example is matching a black pepper with Syrah; both wine and spice contain the spicy-but-floral compound called rotundone. When you match like flavors together they magnify each other. This type of pairing is called a congruent pairing and it’s the theory behind matching wine with spices and herbs.
Without further ado, here is a detailed look into many different spice and herb pairings with wine…
Herb and Spice Pairings with Wine
To create this graphic we started thinking about spices in terms of their taste profiles to see if they could be grouped into categories. After some research on the chemical compounds and some guesstimates, we came up with 9 spice/herb categories. There are undoubtedly different ways to categorize spices. For example, you could build pairings based on different cultural cuisines using their base spice blends. However, this guide will be very useful to those who do a lot of their own cooking and can simply match a wine with the prevalent spicing in the dish.
Basil, Mint, Cilantro, Shiso, Chervil
highly aromatic fresh green, citrus, and minty herbs
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Sage, Rosemary, Lavender, Fir
Dried resinous floral herbs
Oregano, Thyme, Marjoram, Tarragon, Bay Leaf, Parsley, Dill
Pungent earthy green herbs
Garlic, Shallot, Chive, Leek, Onion
Umami-rich, pungent, sulfury alliums
Coriander, Cumin, Caraway
Savory, umami-rich brown spices
Mustard, Horseradish, Szechuan Pepper, Wasabi
Sharp, clean piquant (spicy) spices
Cinnamon, Allspice, Vanilla, Clove, Fenugreek, Nutmeg, Mace
Sweet, brown, baking spices
Anise, Licorice, Star Anise, Black Cardamom, Fennel
Aromatic, terpene-dominant, incense spices
Red, White, Pink and Black Pepper
Piquant (spicy), umami-rich, rotundone-dominant spices
Red pepper, Paprika, Cayenne Pepper, Ancho Pepper, Aleppo Pepper
Piquant (spicy), smoky red pepper
Ginger, Galangal, Turmeric, Green Cardamon
Perfumed, sharp, citrus-like spices