Matching Wine With Food

Wine and Food Pairing

Things have come a long way from the old strict rules of drinking white wine with chicken and fish, and red wines with red meat. With the expansion of the New World wine industry, subtle (and less subtle) differences in wine flavours have emerged to present wonderful scope for experimenting and to widen the possibilities of delicious matches with foods.

Having said that, the notion that ‘anything goes’ is a step too far. Essentially there are some basic, long-standing principles in wine and food matching that are worth following. These principles have led to classic matches that really can’t be beaten such as Stilton and port, goats cheese with Sauvignon Blanc, oysters and Champagne and roast lamb with Cabernet Sauvignon. So, what are the basics of this wine and food alchemy?

Weight and flavour are the two most important factors. Consider matching the weight of the food to the weight of the wine. The lighter the food, the lighter the wine. For example if you are eating a light fish meal, try pairing it with Riesling, un-oaked Chardonnay or a sparkling wine or try a fresh summer salad with a chilled Rose, or some ham with Beaujolais or Sauvignon Blanc. Heavier meals need to share the table with richer wines such as stew with Merlot, venison with Shiraz and salmon, great with oaked Chardonnay or even Pinot Noir.

Flavours need matching too. Meaty sauces such as Bolognese work best with medium reds like Cabernet Sauvignon. Red meat, served medium to rare, suits hefty tannic red wines like Shiraz. If you prefer your meat well cooked these wines will feel dry and tart without the succulence for the tannins to work on, so try something lighter, a Pinot Noir perhaps.

Fatty foods tend to work best with wines high in acidity, which can cut through the fattiness, such as Sauvignon Blanc, although in some cases coupling a buttery sauce with a similarly buttery oaked Chardonnay complements perfectly.

The Aromatics are considered the best accompaniments for spiced Asian meals - the word Gewurztraminer translates to ‘spice garden’. The high floral accents can handle the high flavours of the food.

A common myth worth dispelling is that cheese should always be eaten with red wines, when in fact often a dry white wine or a sweet red is better, thanks to their acidity.

Probably the best advice when it comes to wine and food matching is to pair regionally. It is no accident that wines created in various parts of the world taste their best when drunk with food also locally grown. Soil, climate and generations of production have created combinations that marry perfectly. Think Rioja and proper paella. Chardonnay and Camembert. Pinot Grigio and Parma ham. Valpolicella and salami. Chianti and pizza. Shiraz and kangaroo.