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From this week I decided to "rearrange" all the old notes of my wine blog dedicated to aspiring sommeliers to keep them up to date and I sincerely hope you will be pleased! Today I want to help you learn to read the MATCHING GRAPHICS SHEET © AIS  and suggest the best techniques of pairing food wine. At the bottom of the page there are also numerous examples of foods with the optimal combinations to help you study in view of theAIS exam. This in-depth study however, even if it is meant for aspiring sommeliers who are preparing to take the AIS exam, is also useful for all wine lovers who want to learn and official matching techniques.

Let's start from a fundamental basic rule: the tasting of food is dealt with exactly like that of wine and must be done in a bright, quiet environment without smells and fragrances that can distract the sense of smell. It is also necessary not to ingest substances with a strong and persistent taste and above all not to smoke. Food and wine must be served at the right temperature and not be numerous, but above all be offered in a logical sequence of tasting, without conditioning and in perfect health. Even the intake of many medicines, in fact, limits or alters our ability to distinguish and perceive flavors and we must absolutely take this into account.

But how are our senses involved in food analysis?

  • Vista = Colors and geometries;
  • Smell = Perfumes;
  • Taste = Flavors;
  • Tatto = Consistency, softness;
  • Hearing = Noise, crunchiness.

Each of our senses must be appropriately stimulated to make us appreciate a food to the end, and this is why the chefs of the level seek this sensorial completeness when they create a dish that plays on shapes, tastes, textures.

Matching graphic card: what are the soft sensations?

Before talking about pairing food wine, let's see together to define the Soft Sensations of foods:

  1. FATNESS: it is given by solid fats, or those that give a solid perception between tongue and palate. The butter and the lard give that pasty sensation in the mouth because they do not melt immediately. Even chocolate tends to be so because it almost always contains at least one 30% of cocoa butter which is responsible for that pasty note that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, leaves us in the mouth after swallowing. But also meat, cheese, some cold cuts ...
  2. SWEET TREND: it belongs to an ingredient and should not be confused with the real sweetness, given by the sugars added in a preparation. The sweet trend is instead something that looks like sweetness but is closer to the tasteless. Typical of starches, carbohydrates, succulent meats, bread, cheeses, milk, potatoes, fruit, fish ...
  3. succulence: is given by the presence of liquid in the mouth. It is defined INTRINSECA when there is liquid directly in the preparation that we put in the mouth (for example a broth or a very seasoned dish or oysters, boiled and braised) in short, when it is proper to food. INDOTTA is defined as if it comes from substances that stimulate mastication which in turn generates salivation (Florentine steak, wild boar stew, bread, cheese ...).
  4. oiliness': it is given by vegetable oil or liquefied animal fats (which, however, simultaneously give both the sensation of greasiness and the sensation of fatness). While the fat is something solid, the greasy note is something liquid that makes the tongue veiled and numb. If there is no vegetable oil in a preparation and there are no other liquid fats we cannot have this feeling!

Matching graphic card: what are the hard feelings?

We are not yet ready to talk about pairing food wine! Before we "unbalance", we define the Hard Sensations of food:

  1. FLAVOR ': it is the typical savory character of salt, which can be added before or after cooking or during the seasoning of cheeses and cured meats or preparations of fish such as herring and cod. Particular is the lamb presalée of Normandy that grazes eating grass invested by brackish currents of the ocean and has an already sapid meat of its own.
  2. BITTER TREND: you perceive it at the bottom of the tongue and can be given by foods that have this INTRINSECA characteristic (that is, their own) such as artichokes, radicchio, liver, truffles, smoked ... or it comes from grilling and grilling food, or due to a strong presence of aromatic herbs.
  3. ACID TREND: you perceive it if there is a significant presence of acidic substances. Present in almost all milk derivatives or in preparations to which something acid has been added such as vinegar, lemon or undercooked tomato sauce.
  4. spicing: you perceive it with smell and it is determined by the addition of spices or cooked aromatic herbs. It is found in cured meats and in some aged cheeses. This feeling is sometimes accompanied by spiciness.
  5. aroma ': you can perceive it with your sense of smell and it can be natural (fish, cheese, shellfish, mushrooms ...) or it is something tasty and fragrant given by spices or aromatic herbs used also in combination with each other.

Matching graphic card: how to fill it out?

Filling in the food and wine matching graphic form is the practical translation of what you perceived during the tasting of food and wine. You don't have to see the matching graphics card as an insidious enemy, rather as an ally that helps you find the perfect match! As a taster you can use it to interpret what you taste and you have to put it at the service of your senses and your experience. For this reason, to fill it in correctly, the first step you must take is to learn to recognize the sensations you perceive both in wine and in food, and then put a pencil cross in the small square next to each term. Once this is done you have done the most important part, that is, you have understood what is on a sensorial level in what you are tasting! At this point you have to proceed with the evaluation of the perceptibility range of each sensation identified in the specific value scales of wine and food.

Matching graphic card: let's learn to recognize graphic elements together.

On the tab you can see:

  • 10 concentric circles with numbering from 0 to 10 from the center outwards;
  • 6 parallel tracks that highlight the organoleptic characteristics of wine;
  • 6 divergent straight lines from the center to indicate the sensations of food;
  • a box for defining the structure of food and the body of the wine;
  • the final summary with the pairing outcome (pairing evaluation).

NB = The characteristics of the wine are almost never defined with the maximum term (very intense, very persistent, alcoholic and mellow ...) and often it is hoped not to do so because they are negative terms (acidulous, astringent, salty ...). These terms correspond to the 8-10 range. If it is true that many combinations are harmonious, this will also happen for the sensations perceived in food, which will very rarely be evaluated in the very perceptible range (8-10). In practice, balance, as always, makes the difference between a wine and a quality food as well as a correct pairing.

Matching graphic card: how to use concentric circles and the relative scale of values ​​from 0 to 10?

In green I highlighted the range that you can consider positive when you fill in the graphics card (from 4 to 8), obviously as long as it is equally balanced between wine and food.

  • 0-1-2 IMPERCETTABILE = Practically not assessable because it is barely mentioned or not present;
  • 2-3-4 LITTLE PERCETTABLE = When the sensation is felt in the background;
  • 4-5-6 ENOUGH PERCETBLE = If the feeling is perceived enough to be analyzed;
  • 6-7-8 PERCETTIBILE = If the definition is clear, well identified and marked, the stimulus is well defined.
  • 8-9-10 VERY PERCEPTIBLE = predominant sensation, which almost exclusively characterizes that dish. It is almost never used (for example, butter is from 9 because at 90% it is fat).

After having put the points on the circle corresponding to the evaluation of the sensation, the points are joined to form a polygon that can be more or less wide. The interpretation of the graphic gives an idea about the harmony of the food-wine combination starting from the width of the respective polygons.

  1. Polygon with a reduced surface and determined by a few vertices or, if numerous and not particularly pronounced = it is a food with a simple character, with few perceived sensations or a low level of perceptibility. It goes well with a light wine.
  2. Polygon with a large surface, determined by many vertices, most pronounced = it is a food with a strong character and a high level of perceptibility. It goes well with a wine with marked sensory characteristics.

Matching graphic card: what are the differences between wine tasting and food tasting?

Wine tasting

  • identification of all sensory characteristics;
  • identification of the perceptibility range of each sensory characteristic;
  • identification of the numerical value of the level of perceptibility of each sensory characteristic;
  • transcription of the values ​​on the graph, indicating them with a cross or a number in the small square next to the sensory characteristic;
  • union of points and construction of the polygon corresponding to the sensorial profile of the wine;
  • indication with a wine body assessment number;
  • indication of any comments on wine tasting.

Food tasting

  • identification of all sensory characteristics;
  • identification of the perceptibility range of each sensory characteristic;
  • identification of the numerical value of the level of perceptibility of each sensory characteristic;
  • transcription of the values ​​on the graph, indicating them with a cross or a number in the small square next to the sensory characteristic;
  • union of points and construction of the polygon corresponding to the sensory profile of the food;
  • indication with a number of the evaluation of the body of the food;
  • indication of any observations on food tasting.

 Matching graphic card: the graphic study


This stands out clearly compared to the others. If the perceptible sensation of food is adequately balanced by that of wine or two sweets, this hypothetical combination is HARMONIC. But if the sweetness of food simply corresponds to the softness of a dry wine, the combination becomes LITTLE HARMONIC.


The food and the wine are very simple and denote flavorful, tactile and olfactory sensations that are not very perceptible and are mutually well balanced. This hypothetical combination can therefore be HARMONIC.


The food and the wine are well structured and highlight flavorful, tactile and olfactory sensations perceptible and mutually balanced. This hypothetical combination can be HARMONIC.


The polygon corresponding to the sensations perceived in food has a particularly pronounced vertex, while the polygon corresponding to those of wine is more regular. The food and the wine are not very structured, they show flavorful, tactile and olfactory sensations that are barely perceptible, except for the flavor of the food which clearly emerges from the others and which is not balanced with that of the wine. This hypothetical combination is always and in any case LITTLE HARMONIC.


The polygon corresponding to the sensations perceived in food has a small surface, while that of wine is large. The food is simple and not very structured, with slightly perceptible flavor, tactile and olfactory sensations, while the wine is complex and structured, with all perceptible sensations dominating those of food. This combination is LITTLE HARMONIC. Obviously the judgment would be similar in the opposite situation.


The polygon corresponding to the sensations perceived in food has a large surface and many pronounced vertices, while that of wine has only one pronounced vertex. The food is therefore complex and structured, with perceptible flavor, tactile and olfactory sensations. The wine, on the other hand, is decidedly simple and not very structured and highlights gustatory, tactile and olfactory sensations that are not very perceptible, except for one that stands out in a dominant way. Whatever it is, the sensations perceived in food are not adequately balanced by those of wine and definitely prevail. This hypothetical combination is therefore not very HARMONIC and it would be in any case if the situation were the opposite (structured wine / simple food).

Basic rules

  • SI sweet wine with sweet food;
  • SI non-sweet food with sweet wine;
  • DO NOT sweet food with not sweet wine;
  • SI soft wine with savory food;
  • SI soft wine with bitter tendency food;
  • SI soft wine with sour tendency food;
  • SI sweet / moldy wine with spicy food (eg cheese).

Impossible combinations

  • Usually the foods that present these difficulties are those with characteristics that are so marked as to obscure the organoleptic qualities of the wine.
  • Chocolate: only with Porto red liqueur
  • Cream-based liqueur cakes: the liqueur clashes with wine (maybe you can try with a distillate?)
  • Fresh fruit / fruit salad
  • Raw artichokes: they tend to change the taste of wine in metallic / bitter or to increase its sweetness.
  • Fennel: the aromatic persistence is so long that it is difficult for a wine to reach us
  • Spicy dishes: burn the palate, you can try with acid and low-alcohol wines (I would try a fresh-served lambrusco)
  • Pickles and salads dressed with vinegar
  • Gelato: too cold (you can try it with a hot infusion).

Matching graphic card: some examples to remember

Pasta with fish-based dressing?

Soft white wines slightly sweet.

Risotto with fish-based dressing?

Structured white wines.

Pasta with meat dressing?

Young red wines.

Pasta or risotto with vegetables?

Dry white wines.

Pasta or risotto with mushrooms?

Soft white or rosé wines depending on the preparation.


Dry white wines with good acidity.


Young red wines.

Grilled meat?

Young red wines, fresh and slightly tannic.


Red wines with little tannins, good alcohol content and good acidity.

Baked or fried meat?

Red wines with little tannins and good alcohol content.

Stewed, braised, moist or venison?

Structured and full-bodied red wines (more mature for game).

Not cold marinated meats?

Structured and aromatic white wines.

Marinated meats?

If the marinade is based on wine, the same wine is drunk, otherwise no wine goes.

Breaded meats?

Sparkling wines to degrease.

Bresaola or carne salada?

Young, light red wines with good acidity.

Cotechino, zampone, cooked salami?

Sparkling red wines with good acidity.

Raw ham and salami, coppa and speck?

Soft rosé or red wines.

Spicy sausage, garlic salami, bacon?

Full-bodied red wines.


It depends on the preparation, but dry, fine and velvety white wines always hit the spot.

Dried fruit?

Sweet and aromatic red wines or passito.

Hard, cooked and matured cheeses?

Well-structured red wines or passito or muffita white wines.

Semi-cooked cheeses?

Full-bodied red wines aged a few years.

Hard spun cheeses?

Soft and structured red wines.

Raw hard cheeses even ripe?

Red wines with good structure.

Semi-fat semi-hard cheeses?

Balanced red wines.

Soft cheeses, fat, raw pasta, blue cheese?

Full-bodied red and white wines.

Fatty fresh pasta cheeses?

Young and light white wines with good acidity.

Fresh pasta filata?

Sparkling or sparkling white wines.

Raw white fish, steamed, just cooked?

Delicate white wines of medium body and alcohol, low acidity.

Shellfish and molluscs?

Soft and aromatic white wines or light sparkling wines.

Fried fish, eel?

Sparkling wines with good acidity and alcohol.

Baked or fried fish?

Structured white wines also aged in barrique or soft rosé wines.

Cod and stockfish?

Full-bodied rosé wines or light reds served just chilled.

Cod and stockfish?

Full-bodied rosé wines or light reds served just chilled.

Smoked fish?

Sparkling wines with good structure and alcohol.


Sparkling aromatic wines or white raisins.

Dough with leavened dough?

Aromatic or low-alcohol sparkling white wines.

Desserts or fruit-based cakes?

Soft white and rosé wines with a slight sugar residue.

Cream based cakes?

Wines with mold and late harvests.

Unleavened cakes or dry pastries?

Alcoholic passito wines.

As always I hope I have been useful to you. If you have any doubts or want to deepen some other topic write it in a comment. By the way, you already bought my book "How to become a Sommelier"?

Cheers ????


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All my notes on wine and food in one book. The manual is designed for all aspiring sommeliers, but it is also very useful for "already sommeliers" who want to revise, for winelovers who want to start giving concrete foundations to their passion and for sector operators who want to earn more by learning both managing the cellar of their restaurant and selling the right bottle to their customers.

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See you soon and good luck with the study! 🍀

Cheers 🥂


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