How to Pair Wine with Food - Wine Paring Basics

Wine (And Other Things) With Food

More and more of us are entertaining at home. With this in mind, we find ourselves more willing to experiment with new wines and match the dishes we’ve made with wines that will enhance their flavours and make our meals exciting. The following are a few guidelines in answering the question, “What goes best with…? Keep in mind that these are just guidelines. They should give you a better sense of direction, but shouldn’t supersede your personal preferences or the desire to experiment. Almost everyone is familiar with the old catch phrase “red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat and fish.” This does indeed have some basis in fact.

Red meats such as beef and lamb have a full, rich flavour. In order to compliment them, the wine should also have a full, rich flavour.

Fish and shellfish, on the other hand, have a delicate flavour that a full flavoured red wine would completely mask. A white wine with a delicate flavour would be a far better match. As well, red wine with fish will sometimes cause a chemical reaction that leaves a rather unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth. Reds with the least tannins such as Beaujolais or Valpolicella are a good choice.

Another rule of thumb is that most wines complement the food in the same regions. Barolo and Barbaresco taste wonderful with rich, spicy Italian food. Beaujolais is marvelous with Burgundian farm sausage. A crisp Riesling with Wienerschnitzel works in much the same way. Muscadet and mussels- a fascinating experience.

Again, through, nothing is carved in stone. Matching wine and food is not a science but an art, as it is true of all art, practice makes perfect. In this instance, practice can be a whole lot a fun.

Wine Pairing Guide:

  • White wine with white meat
  • Red wine with red meat
  • White before red
  • Dry before sweet
  • Young before old
  • Simple before complex
  • Regional wines with regional foods
  • Light wines with light dishes
  • Robust wine with robust dishes
  • Simple wines with simple foods.

Match similar flavours or textures, rich with rich, etc. Use contrasts to offset and enhance separate flavours. Always match the wine with the strongest flavouring ingredient in the dish so that one doesn’t overpower the other. Fatty, greasy or salty dishes need a dry wine with a good crisp acidity to cleanse the plate. Cream or butter sauces require wines with similar body such as an oak aged Californian or Australian Chardonnay.

Make sure that the dessert wine is sweeter than the dessert- otherwise the wine will taste sharp.

  • Wine generally does not work well with:
  • Artichokes (sweet)
  • Chocolate (bitterness)
  • Salad (vinegar)
  • Citrus Fruits (acidity)

Some wine and food matches that work particularly well:

  • Beaujolais and barbecued salmon. Beaujolais has little tannin and a crispness that cuts the oil.
  • Aligote and brie. The wine becomes less acidic as it cuts fat.
  • Oak aged Chardonnay and veal. The two have similar richness.
  • Fino sherry and almonds. Similar nutty flavours.
  • Chablis and oysters. A luxurious match.
  • Oaky Chardonnay and lobster. Both are rich and buttery.
  • Chardonnay and cream sauces. Match rich with rich.
  • Pinot Noir and Mushrooms. Similar earthy aromas.
  • Chianti or Valpolicella and tomato sauce. Similar acidity.
  • Young red wines and rare roast beef. The protein in meat cancels the tannic effect and softens the wine.
  • Matured red wines and well-done meats. A matching of textures.

    If you like white wine with steak, try a hearty, full-bodied white such as a Cotes-du-Rhone or an oak aged Semillon.

    Certain oily fish as salmon, sardines and anchovies may make a robust tannic red taste tinny. Use a white or a soft red instead.

    The spicier the food, the more powerfully flavoured the wine has to be. Champagne and beer are the best bets to work with spicy foods, as they cleanse the palate and enhance the flavours.

    Other tried and true traditional matches:

    • Sole and Soave
    • Mussels and Muscadet
    • Pate and Sauternes
    • Lamb and Cabernet Sauvignon
    • Spicy sausage and Beaujolais
    • Turkey and Chardonnay
    • Chevre and Sauvignon Blanc
    • Chicken cacciatore and Chianti
    • Sardines and Vinho Verde
    • Coq au vin and red Burgundy
    • Stilton and Port
    • Game and Chateauneuf-du-Pape
    • Indian food and beer
    • Chinese food and beer
    • Fish & chips and beer
    • Caviar and frozen Vodka
    • Pickled salmon and Highland single malt Scotch.

    Hopefully, this will show you many possibilities for food, wine and spirit matches. However, the only real way to find out what works best is to experiment for yourself. Have fun and enjoy.

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