Sweet foods need to have wines that are at least as sweet or higher in sugar level. Foods that are high in sweetness will highlight the bitterness, acidity and tannic sensations. In contrast the wines drunk alongside sweet foods will appear less fruity or sweet – this is due to competition with the flavours and sweetness naturally found in the food.
Umami foods are rich in savoury flavours such as cheese, eggs and most vegetables. These are naturally hard to match foods, as the savoury elements within them are hard to match with wines that are very fruity. The umami element in food will increase the bitterness and acidity in a wine. It shall also decrease the fruitiness and sweetness perception of a wine.
Acidity can be a helpful aspect in foods, which will help to match with other foods, though too much acidity in the food can be overwhelming. The acidity in food will increase the fruitiness and sweetness of a wine. It is the opposite of a sweet or savoury food, which will increase the bitterness or acidity. Acidic foods will decrease the acidity perception in wines, so it is often best to match a high acid wine with an acidic food.
Salt, like acidity, is a helpful aspect to have in foods. This is due to the softening effect on harsh tannins and acidity in wine, which it has. Salt will also increase your perception of the body of the wine.
Bitterness is not a major element in the production of modern foods, though it is an important aspect to take into consideration when food and wine matching. Bitterness is a taste that varies from person to person. Some will be very sensitive to it, and others less or barely at all. Bitterness can come from a variety of sources, the most common being vegetable stalks or fruit skins. The bitterness in food shall increase the perception of bitterness in wines.
Chilli heat, like bitterness, is an element of taste that varies in perception and enjoyment from person to person. Some are overly sensitive and do not enjoy the feeling of the heat. The chilli in foods will increase the perception of bitterness and acidity in a wine. As you may expect, chilli heat will decrease the perception of aroma, fruitiness, and sweetness in a wine.