The notion of pairing food and wine is centuries old, but now science is backing it up.

Findings published in the October 9th issue of Current Biology suggests that mouthfeel, the way food feels in our mouths, is responsible for the phenomenon. In a release, the publication's publisher, Cell Press, explains that "astringent wine and fatty meat are like the yin and yang of the food world, sitting on opposite ends of a sensory spectrum."

Astringent wines often feel rough and dry in the mouth, whereas fats are slippery. Eating them together helps to balance the two out:

...weakly astringent brews—in this case containing grape seed extract, a green tea ingredient, and aluminum sulfate—build in perceived astringency with repeated sipping. When paired with dried meat, those astringent beverages indeed counter the slippery sensation that goes with fattiness.

In the study's summary, the authors used their findings to explain the underlying principle behind "palate cleansing." They found that repeatedly alternating samples of astringent beverages, like wine or tea, resulted in lower ratings of fattiness and astringency than if rinsing with water or without either.

The researchers also suggest the findings may explain the appeal of acid-and-oil salad dressings and the pickled ginger that accompanies sushi.

Although we'll be the first to admit that some sommeliers have gone overboard with wine pairings -- we highly doubt there's a definitive best wine to go with anything -- we'll be asking for a more astringent vintage the next time we order pork belly.

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  • So did you spend your lunch hour this past Thursday nibbling on fast food and washing down each mouthful with a variety of wines in an effort to discern which wines, if any, might best pair with good old McDonald's? No? Well good. In that case, my Thursday was not completely wasted. If you ever want a glass of wine with your Mickey D's this handy, item-by-item breakdown of what works and what misses will be right up your alley!

  • Filet-o-Fish

    Wow, it’s been like decades since I’ve had one of these vaguely fishy tartar sauce and cheese sandwiches on soft brioche! You’d think that this would be an obvious pairing, keep it simple and fresh. In a way that pretty much worked out but with one surprise. The <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/avalon-sauvignon-blanc-2010/" target="_hplink">Sauvignon Blanc</a> did work well with the sandwich; its green herbal accents supporting the pickle elements in the tartar with the acid helping to cut through the cheese and mayo. The surprise was that <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/artazuri-garnacha-rose-2010/" target="_hplink">the rosé</a> with more assertive fruit really performed very well, actually enhancing the fish flavor! The duds here were all the reds (no surprise) and the <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/chenin-blanc-spice-route-2009/" target="_hplink">oaky Chenin Blanc</a>, but I was surprised at how poorly the <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/voveti-prosecco/" target="_hplink">Prosecco</a> showed, dried out and just making the pairing seem sweet and clumsy.

  • Grilled Chicken Ranch BLT

    This is a sort of misleading dish. Yes, it’s based on grilled chicken, but the flavor is dominated by smoky bacon. Here the <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/avalon-sauvignon-blanc-2010/" target="_hplink">Sauvignon Blanc</a> didn’t stand a chance and came off as lean and attenuated, as did the <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/bertani-valpolicella-2009/" target="_hplink">Valpolicella</a>. While the <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/voveti-prosecco/" target="_hplink">Prosecco</a> did better than with the Filet-o-Fish, it still came off as a bit sweet, as did <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/artazuri-garnacha-rose-2010/" target="_hplink">the rosé</a>. The bigger reds just crushed the flavors of the sandwich, but the big winner was the S<a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/chenin-blanc-spice-route-2009/" target="_hplink">pice Route Chenin Blanc</a>. Not only was this a winning combination, but it worked so well that it improved both the wine and the sandwich. The bacon helped tone down the smoky oak of the wine and the oak in the wine tempered the effect of the bacon, allowing the chicken to take center stage. A truly successful pairing!

  • Chicken McNuggets (Plain)

    As I mentioned earlier, with nine sauces to choose from, most too sweet to work well with dry wines, I opted to pair the plain McNuggets with the wines. The <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/avalon-sauvignon-blanc-2010/" target="_hplink">Sauvignon Blanc</a> came off as a bit sweet at first then harshly acidic on the finish, while the <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/chenin-blanc-spice-route-2009/" target="_hplink">Chenin Blanc</a> showed bitter oak on its finish. The reds universally crushed the chicken and turned bitter. That leaves <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/artazuri-garnacha-rose-2010/" target="_hplink">the rosé</a>, which worked well, turning a bit fruitier but with good length and just the right acid level to balance the greasy McNuggets. The real winner here was the <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/voveti-prosecco/" target="_hplink">Prosecco</a>, which turned gently creamy as the acid was tempered by the McNugget, yet was not so intense as to overpower the flavor of the McNugget. This pairing may not work with many of the dipping sauces but it’s pretty damn good on its own!

  • The Big Mac

    Is this McDonald's best selling burger? It surely is iconic so I spent extra time with my Big Mac, pairing wines of course. And the results were surprising. The <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/voveti-prosecco/" target="_hplink">Prosecco</a> and <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/avalon-sauvignon-blanc-2010/" target="_hplink">Sauvignon Blanc</a> once again turned a bit too sweet when paired with the Big Mac, with the Sauvignon turning noticeably spicy on the finish. The <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/chenin-blanc-spice-route-2009/" target="_hplink">Chenin Blanc</a>, on the other hand, really turned oaky and smoky in this match-up with a finish that basically disappeared. This highlighting of the oak also occurred with the <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/trapiche-malbec-10/" target="_hplink">Malbec</a>, though the fruit of the Malbec did work fairly well with the Big Mac. <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/artazuri-garnacha-rose-2010/" target="_hplink">The rosé</a> on the other hand had just the right level of fruit to work with the burger and once again the acid levels seemed to pair up particularly well with this dish.

  • The Big Mac - Winners

    Here it was finally time for the reds and in a weird twist, both the lighter bodied <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/bertani-valpolicella-2009/" target="_hplink">Valpolicella</a> and richer <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/red-rock-winery-merlot-2008/" target="_hplink">Merlot</a> worked well. The Valpolicella offered a fresh, winey counterpoint to the Big Mac’s flavors, while the burger really helped the fruit in the Merlot to pop. The fact that the wine had a subtle, olivey/savory side to it just added to the overall experience.

  • Angus Beef Deluxe

    Just another burger, right? Well, as it turns out, this beefier burger behaved quite differently from its Big Mac brother. In this case, both the <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/avalon-sauvignon-blanc-2010/" target="_hplink">Sauvignon Blanc</a> and <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/voveti-prosecco/" target="_hplink">Prosecco</a> turned rather shrill and tended to highlight the onion on the burger. <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/artazuri-garnacha-rose-2010/" target="_hplink">The rosé</a> on the other turned rather tutti frutti and also highlighted the vegetal components of the sandwich. The dark horse in this flight was the <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/chenin-blanc-spice-route-2009/" target="_hplink">Chenin Blanc</a>, again because of bacon on the sandwich. In this case, the wine took on a nice cleansing mineral element that helped beef up the burger, go figure!

  • Angus Beef Deluxe - Winners

    That left us with the reds. Here the richer, fruitier <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/red-rock-winery-merlot-2008/" target="_hplink">Merlot</a> became quite assertively tannic and dry with the Angus Beef Deluxe, while the <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/bertani-valpolicella-2009/" target="_hplink">Valpolicella</a> ended up seeming lean and weak and actually highlighted the sweetness of the roll used for the sandwich. That left us with the <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/trapiche-malbec-10/" target="_hplink">Malbec</a>, which was perfectly balanced for this pairing. The combination of moderate tannins and acids allowed the wine to sort of slip right in behind the burger, adding a bit of a fruity element to the combination but otherwise working to reinforce all that one would want in their Angus Beef Burger!

  • The moral of the story

    So what’s the moral in this story? Well for starters, of course you can pair <a href="http://www.snooth.com/wine/" target="_hplink">wine</a> with fast food. Whether it makes the food any better is left open to debate, but it certainly makes the meal a bit more fun! As it turned out, there was no single wine perfect for McDonald's, which should come as no surprise. What was surprising was how specific each dish turned out to be and how narrow the wine pairing window can be. If you’re getting a lot of bacon on your dishes and want a <a href="http://www.snooth.com/tag/white-wine/" target="_hplink">white wine</a>, something with good acid and noticeable <a href="http://www.snooth.com/articles/commentary/wine-101-how-to-speak-wine-part1/" target="_hplink">smoky oak</a> seems to work well.

  • And the reds...

    On the other hand, if you’re set on a red, look towards the middle of the road, again something with modest oak and mild fruit seems to work fairly well. My pick for a wine that will be passable with most of the menu has to be a nice fruity, but not obviously sweet rosé, though a bit of sugar might have helped out a bit here. It’s not the perfect match but it works, and a casual meal like McDonald's really deserves a casual wine! What’s up next? Well stay tuned, but let us know what iconic fast food dishes you want to see here next!