A simple guide to food and wine pairings
Food and wine are perfect partners – just think of champagne and strawberries or sipping a glass of Rioja with a perfectly cooked steak.
Most of the time you can just open up a bottle of your favourite wine to go with whatever you’re eating. But knowing a few foods and wine pairing basics can help avoid expensive mistakes when you’re ordering wine for a special occasion or when you’re handed a wine list in a restaurant.
Pairing wine with food is all about balance: matching a full-bodied wine with full-flavoured foods or picking a delicate wine to go with lighter flavours. That’s why you would normally select a red wine to go with red meat and game or match a white wine with chicken or fish and shellfish.
So, here are a few tips on picking the perfect wine to go with your favourite foods.
Sweet flavours will make a dry wine taste unpleasantly sour and flat. So, you need to choose a wine with a hint of sweetness to pair with food that has a sweet base like a cider-based sauce. Try picking a medium dry Riesling or a fruity Zinfandel.
If you’re matching wine with desserts, then it’s worth choosing a proper dessert wine. Look out for Sauternes or Tokaji on the wine list or try a light Moscato d’Asti, which is sweeter than many sparkling wines.
Pairing wine with chocolate can be tricky, but Moscato d’Asti or a sweet Grenache both work well with its rich flavour and consistency.
A beautiful charcuterie board of cured meats, cheeses and salty olives needs a wine that’s full of big flavours to go with it.
Choose a bold red like Chianti, Malbec or Barolo that will balance out the saltiness of the food.
Your other option is to pick a dry, acidic white like a Chablis or Sauvignon Blanc, which will complement the saltiness of the food.
Acidic food like a tomato sauce or a zingy ceviche can make your wine taste more fruity. The easy way to pair wine with acidic food is to serve it with a wine that is more acidic than the food.
A crisp, dry Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc works well with acidic food, or look for a Valpolicella or a Pinot Noir if you prefer a red wine.
If you love a hot chilli or curry, you’ll need to pick your wine carefully as it can easily be overpowered by the flavours in your food.
You might think that you need to pair it with a bold red, but actually something with a touch of sweetness can make a better pairing. A good wine for spicy food would be a medium-dry Pinot Grigio or Riesling to balance out the spice.
For more delicately spiced food like a tagine or a milder curry, a full-bodied red wine can work well. Try matching a full-bodied red wine with curry, like a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot.
Creamy or Oily foods
Food that’s being served with a butter or cream-based sauce works really well with a rich, buttery wine. A Viognier, white Burgundy or oaky New World Chardonnay will make a good match.
Alternatively, a crisp, dry white like a Riesling or a Pinot Grigio will cut through the creaminess of the food.
Find what works for you!
So now you can take these tips and have fun trying out all the different combinations. But of course, there’s no ‘right’ answer when it comes to pairing wine with food, and you should go with whatever wine tastes good to you