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Herb and Spice Pairings with Wine

Written by Madeline Puckette

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

Herb and Spice Pairing with Wine by Wine Folly

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.

Spice Categories

Basil, Mint, Cilantro, Shiso, Chervil
highly aromatic fresh green, citrus, and minty herbs

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

Written byMadeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly

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