How To Pair Food and Wine

Pair

There are some pairings in life that naturally work well together – salt and vinegar, Bert and Ernie, food and wine. 

And while we know that they DO work, we don’t always know WHY they work. But when you know why something works, you can get it to work harder and better for you. Which is why we think you should know a little more about how to pair food and wine – they are two of life’s greatest pleasures after all.

Food and wine

Food and wine may seem like a broad subject category, but once you’ve grasped the basics, the rest will fall into place. Simply knowing where to start will enable you to confidently explore other avenues and experience brave new food and wine worlds. 

This is a basic guide to what wine pairs with what types of food, in particular, what ingredients you need to look out for in recipes in order to make your meal sing with the perfect wine accompaniment.

No dish is just one flavour, or just one component part, which gives you freedom to play around and choose which ingredients you want to pair with – remember, it’s all about how you cook the food. A coq au vin is going to require a different wine to a Thai green chicken curry for example, despite them both having chicken as the main ingredient. 

Also, there are no hard and fast rules, everyone has different taste preferences, so what might pair well for one person might taste at odds for someone else. 

A basic guide for wine and food pairing

  • Wine should be at the same intensity of flavour as the food. If either is stronger than the other, one will overpower and that won’t be a great partnership. 
  • Red wines work well with strong flavours
  • White wines work well with light flavours
  • Red wine tends to be more bitter and works well with fatty flavours
  • Sparkling, white and rose wines are more acidic and work with contrasting flavours
  • Red wines are better at harmonising flavours
  • Wine needs to be sweeter than the dessert it’s paired with

White wine food pairing

Sauvignon Blanc 

Sauvignon Blanc is a light, crisp wine, known for being dry, acidic and tart. A tangy white wine with herbal, citrus and tropical flavours. This white wine pairs perfectly with light, flavourful dishes. 

Food pairings include:

Cheese: strong salty flavours like feta or goats cheese

Meat: white meat such as chicken, turkey, pork

Seafood: fatty white fish, lobster, sushi

Fruits and vegetables: citrus fruit, green apples, asparagus

Desserts: strong flavours like sorbet or sweet meringue

Chardonnay

Chardonnay can be made multiple ways, but it tends to be a buttery, creamy white wine, akin to velvet with a fruity full-bodied flavour. Some are very oaky, others not at all. 

Food pairings include:

Cheese: salty blue-veined cheeses work well oaky chardonnay

Meat: white meat such as chicken, veal, pork

Seafood: fatty white fish, lobster, crab

Fruits and vegetables: potatoes, apples, squash and pumpkin

Desserts: delicate flavours like banana bread or rice pudding 

Riesling

American rieslings can be sweet with intense fruit flavours, whereas European rieslings tend to be dry. Much lighter in body than chardonnay, riesling makes a great wine pairing for food. 

Food pairings include:

Cheese: mild cheeses such as Edam or gouda

Meat: sausages, duck or liver

Seafood: sea bass or trout

Fruits and vegetables: apricots, apples, pears and pumpkin

Desserts: apple crumble, 

Red wine food pairing

Cabernet sauvignon 

This is the king of red wine – full-bodied with herbal notes, it’s loaded with tannins and stands up to strong flavours. Younger wines can have rich fruity flavours, and work much better with cheese. 

Food pairings include:

Cheese: salty blue-veined cheeses such as gorgonzola, or strong cheddars

Meat: red meat such as steak, venison, or any beef dish

Seafood: bold meaty fish like tuna 

Fruits and vegetables: potatoes, broccoli, plums, black cherries and tomatoes

Desserts: dark chocolate

Merlot

This is much less astringent than Cabernet Sauvignon, fruity and spicy yet soft with fewer tannins. 

Food pairings include:

Cheese: salty hard cheese like parmesan or pecorino

Meat: red meat – steak

Seafood: meaty fish

Fruits and vegetables: potatoes, onions, tomatoes, plums

Desserts: dark chocolate, red berries

Pinot Noir

This is a delicate red wine, light-bodied, incredibly fresh and fruity with weight that works well with meat. However, don’t be afraid to pair this one with meaty fish too. 

Food pairings include:

Cheese: stronger flavours like goat cheese or brie 

Meat: sausages, lamb or chicken

Seafood: salmon or tuna

Fruits and vegetables: mushrooms, strawberries, 

Desserts: white chocolate

Finally

There is an old saying that goes: ‘food and wine that grows together, goes together’, which might be true if the grapes and food are native to a particular region, such as lamb and Rioja, or Grüner Veltliner and schnitzel. But don’t let this be your sole guide when pairing food and wine. 

Don’t think that just because you’re eating something from a country that isn’t known for its wine, such as kimchi, or Vindaloo, doesn’t mean you can’t pair it with wine. And don’t be afraid to experiment either. Gone are the days where it’s frowned upon to have red wine with fish for example.

Just remember, it’s all about finding balance. But more importantly, it’s about what works and tastes good to you. 

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