Have you ever wondered how to match wine with food? Or why people go for white wine with fish and red wine with beef?
I’m often asked wine pairing questions like this, so I thought I’d peel away some of the mystery for you. The secret is choosing a wine that will play nice with your meal, not smother it or fight with its flavours.
Here are some guidelines to help you feel more confident.
The basics of food and wine pairing
As a general rule, the more delicate the food, the lighter the wine should be. If the food is richer and more flavourful, the bolder the wine can be.
Within that, it’s the dish’s preparation and accompaniments that have the last word. A creamy curry or tomato sauce can heavily influence your wine choice. It’s all about balance — whether you choose a wine to match the flavour profile of the meal, like Shiraz with a rich beef stew, or contrast it, like Pinot Grigio with a creamy risotto.
While white wine or Rosé is the usual go-to for seafood, you might be surprised that a light red works with some dishes.
Pair more delicate fish like Sole or Snapper with light whites like Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris. Richer, more oily fish like Salmon sit perfectly well alongside a glass of Rosé or, yes, Pinot Noir!
Shellfish typically goes with anything from bubbles to Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris or even a light red if you’re feeling adventurous. Champagne and oysters, anyone?!
White wines, Rosé and light reds like Pinot Noir are your chicken friends.
Sauvignon Blanc goes nicely with a light herby chicken dish, and Chardonnay or even Pinot Noir for a richer baked dinner. If you get into hot curry territory, try switching it up to an off-dry Riesling — the slight sweetness will dampen the heat.
Our old friend Pinot Noir pops up again here (is there anything that wine can’t do?!) along with crisp whites that can cut through pork’s fatty nature.
Try a dry Riesling or Pinot Gris with your roast pork, Pinot Noir or Grenache with pork belly and a GSM with spiced ribs.
Now we’re starting to get into bigger red territory with this slightly gamey meat.
Roast lamb can take gutsy pairings like Cabernet Merlot and Malbec in its stride. And if you’re a Shiraz fan, it’ll go with those slow cooked lamb dishes a treat!
Love your big reds? They’ll be right at home with beef dishes.
Pair a juicy BBQ steak with Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec. Or a slow cooked beef casserole with Merlot or Tempranillo. Hamburgers more your thing? Try one with a glass of Cabernet.
Green veg is a natural fit with dry whites, while BBQ veggies, ratatouille, rich pastas and mushroom dishes can take more robust reds like Shiraz.
Pair creamy-flavoured dishes with a Chardonnay and try spicy food with a nice Moscato.
Desserts and cheese
Matching sweet wine with sweet food is tricky. Too much sugar can throw the whole dish off.
A fruity apple tart works well with a late-harvest Riesling or Moscato. Chocolate dishes like a rich dark mousse go down nicely with a fortified wine like Topaque. And your creamy treats like Creme Brulée with Sauternes.
As for the cheese plate, you’re spoilt for choice! Port and Stilton is a classic combo, and Sherry a natural fit for Spanish cheese like Manchego. But have you tried Brie and an oakey old Chardy? Heaven!
This article was originally published on Naked Wines by Mark Pollard.
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