Food and Wine Matching - some guidelines
Dispel the myths and read these top tips on food and wine pairing
Food and wine matching can be a minefield. There is nothing wrong with ignoring the "rules" and just sticking to your preferred wines but sometimes wines can seem flat and lose their fruit flavours when served with certain foods and some meals can be enhanced by serving complementary wines. So it is useful to give some thought in advance of special meals to the style of wine that you will serve.
Contrary to popular belief it is not a wine's colour or its flavours that should be matched to the food so forget about red wine not working with fish and white wines only for white meat. The main aim in pairing is to find wines and food that complement each other; one should not overpower the other. Think about the structure of the wine and food instead.
Balance: Perhaps most importantly, aim to balance the weight or richness of the most dominant ingredient in the dish (often the sauce) with the body of the wine. So
- for delicate food such as chicken or white fish, lighter red (such as a Beaujolais or Valpolicella), lighter white or rosé wines
- for stronger flavours, full-bodied, heavier wines such as a powerful Zinfandel with barbecued meat or tomato-based sauces or a rich Chardonnay with steak béarnaise, roasted butternut squash or lobster.
As a general rule, the Wines With Attitude style categories (e.g. Big & Bold and Crisp Light Whites) give a clue to the weight of each wine - and our unique tasting notes provide general and sometimes very specific food matching suggestions.
Acidity: acidic foods such as lemon or vinegar-based sauces go well with wines that display high acidity, generally crisp refreshing wines, making them seem softer and less tart. Conversely acidic wines will not go well with creamy sauces.
- for example, for seafood with freshly-squeezed lemon or asparagus served with a vinaigrette sauce try a Picpoul de Pinet or Albariño or a Provence rosé.
- creamy foods such as meat served with a creamy sauce, a rich fish pie or eggs benedict will be better with something like a Chardonnay, Sémillon or Chenin Blanc.
Tannins: the astringency of tannins can help cut through rich or fatty food and effectively cleanse the palate but tannins do not go well with very spicy foods.
- with a rib eye steak, Cabernet Sauvignon or a Touriga Nacional can taste softer as their tannins are kept in check by the fatty richness of the food
- for spicy foods, try an off-dry white such as a Riesling instead of a red (see below)
Sweetness: for sweet food, always choose wines sweeter than the food to avoid an acidic or sour taste
- for most desserts move onto a dessert wine, a vin doux naturel or for something a little different a sparkling Moscato d'Asti
And don't forget that there are some great sweet wine/ savoury food combinations such as Moscato d'Asti and goat's cheese, off-dry Riesling and roast belly pork or Sauternes and foie gras.
- for a Chinese takeaway, open a bottle of an off-dry wine such as a Riesling
Age: Older fine wines with their more complex flavours and texture and in the case of red wines softer tannins should be served with simply prepared food. After all you want to appreciate the flavours and aromas of a fine wine that you have aged for a long time and spent more money on. Conversely younger wines that are not intended to develop or have not yet developed in complexity are better for very elaborate dishes.
I will cover specific food and wine combinations in a future blog - those to be avoided and those to try. To learn more in the interim, why not try our specific wine and food matching wine tasting? You will be amazed at some of the combinations and the difference some wines can make to the taste of a dish; please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
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Lindsay is passionate about good quality wine and set up her online wine business, Wines With Attitude, in 2014 to share that passion with other wine lovers.