Secrets of Food and Wine Pairing

A rather dated view, but still the de facto rule of thumb is that white wine should be matched with white meat and red wine with red meat. This view however is reflective of the wine styles of several decades ago.

 White wines were nearly always lighter, fruity and crisp, and red wines nearly


Views have changed however, and today we believe the most important thing is that wines are matched on a style for style basis. A barbequed spicy chicken served with ratatouille and potato-bake will work beautifully with South African Shiraz or the lighter Rioja. Take out the barbeque and keep the spices and your wine selection could change to a crisp Viognier or a Gewürztraminer or even an off dry German Riesling.

Today a more complete way to match your dish with the most appropriate wines is to match styles and taste sensation dominances:

  • Match fatty or oily foods such as oily fish, Parma ham, heavier cream cheeses, pâté and some lamb dishes with crisp (high acidity) dry wines.

  • Match heavier red meat dishes, particularly those meats that would normally be regarded as tough with the more tannic red wines such as a younger Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Bordeaux or a Barbaresco or Barolo from Piedmont.

  • Sweet foods go well with sweet wines, but it is important that the wine is as sweet or sweeter than the food if not, the wine will taste tart and acidic.

  • Ensure that the wine equals the "weight" and richness of the food.

  • Salty foods are given a lift by adding sweetness to the wine selection. Well-known examples are Sauternes (Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend from the Bordeaux Region) and Roquefort Cheese (or a sauce made from stronger Roquefort); Stilton and Ports are a must around Christmas time.

When choosing the dish to go with your wine, consider the origin of the wines as an important guide. If you are planning to serve a wonderful Rioja Reserva, investigate the foods typical of the Rioja region. Examples in this case are Tapas. Beef Bourguignon is a sure thing with a good Burgundian Pinot Noir and Osso Bucco will work fabulously with a beautifully balanced Chianti or Sangiovese.

In most cases you will find the matching easiest if you match regional foods with their wines, this is particularly true for continental wines and dishes.

When making a sauce or a saucy meal such as a casserole, select your wine. Then sip a little of the wine before tasting the food and making any final adjustments to the flavour.

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