In short, food and wine pairing is not a ‘one size fits all concept’. You might have tried a steak with a full-bodied red and thought it was horrible. After all, every palate is different! We’re just going to educate you on the most obvious pairings out there, so that you can fudge your way through dinner parties and date nights easily without having to avoid the topic altogether.
The first step is to know your alcohol. The term “varietal” refers to the specific type of grape used to make a wine, and most vineyards will list this information on the bottle so you can be informed before throwing a dinner party and accidentally serving Merlot with salmon or Chardonnay with spaghetti. If you aren’t sure what varietal you want, go for the classic: Pinot Grigio pairs well with just about anything fowl (duck, chicken) and seafood (salmon, tuna); Cabernet Sauvignon complements red meats like steak or lamb; and Zinfandel goes great with pasta dishes including bolognese sauce and spicy arrabbiata.
Once you know your alcohol, it’s time to think about the food itself. Texture is key when pairing wine with food: a fine wine should never be paired with a coarse dish, and visa versa. Acidity is also something to consider – a tart Sauvignon Blanc can brighten up a heavy (read: greasy) meal, while tannins in red wine can tame richer flavors like those found in chocolate desserts. Last but not least, don’t forget about flavor! Sweet wines like Riesling or Moscato pair well with sweet and savory dishes alike, while earthy Pinot Noirs go great with mushrooms and other umami-rich items on the plate. Cheers!
Steak & Shiraz
One of the most popular pairings, steak and glass of Shiraz. The tannins in the red wine are balanced out perfectly by the meaty flavor of steak, while carbonation cleanses your palate after each bite.
Riesling is one of the best white wines to pair with Asian food because it works as both a palate cleanser and compliment. The low alcohol makes it an even better pairing for spicy dishes like Kung Pao chicken or Thai green curry , while Chinese broccoli goes great with Riesling leaves notes of honeysuckle and lime on your tongue. And if you’re feeling especially daring, try pairing lychee martinis with Indian food!
For those chocolate-lovers out there (that’s most of us), the robust structure of full-bodied Shiraz helps to balance out the richness of fatty cuts of meat, making them the ideal match. In saying that, other bold varietals pair well with red meats too, so if you prefer a more fruit-forward drop, try a glass of Malbec, or a sweet Zinfandel, or opt for a well-balanced Cabernet. Dark chocolate,
Charcuterie & Rosé
A dry style Rosé finds its perfect match in a charcuterie board. The wine has enough acidity to cut through the fattiness of meats like prosciutto and salami, while the fruitiness of the Rosé pairs well with sweet pickles, pates and cheeses.
Pork & Pinot Noir
A delicate Pinot Noir is the perfect wine to pair with a crispy pork belly or roasted suckling pig. The light tannins in the wine will soften the fatty flavors of the meat, while the earthy undertones compliment the crispy skin perfectly
When it comes to Italian food, there really is no better pairing than Zinfandel and pasta. The fruity Zin brings out all the best flavors in bolognese sauce The acidity of this varietal balances the fatty flavours of the meats, pairing particularly well with prosciutto and spicy salami, as well as traditional charcuterie accompaniments like olives, peppers and artichokes.
Chicken & Chardonnay
The important thing here: knowing which style of Chardonnay to choose. Easiest way to remember? The heavier the dish, the heavier the style of Chardonnay. A buttery, oaky Chardonnay is perfect for dishes like roast chicken or creamy risotto, while a light, unoaked style is ideal for seafood or poultry.
Duck & Pinot Noir
Perfect for the winter roast season, or your local Thai takeaway night at home, grab a bottle of Pinot Noir to really accentuate the sweetness of duck meat. Delicate Pinot styles lend themselves to duck dishes, with the acid in the wine cutting through the fattiness of the duck skin, and the earthy tones carrying the meat’s softly spiced flavours.
Cheeseboards & Reds
In short, cheeseboards can’t really be paired perfectly with just one varietal because the very nature of them is variety - every cheese has a different match! But there are a few staples. For a hard and crumbly cheese, go for a tannic red like Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec, while for a soft and creamy cheese, pick an unoaked Chardonnay or Pinot Gris. And if you want to mix it up even more, try Rosé with brie or Gewürztraminer with Camembert - both pairings are delicious. Have a look at our charcuterie board ideas.
When it comes to food pairing, there’s one thing for sure: the options are endless. But by following these simple tips, you can create perfect pairings that will elevate your meals to the next level. So the next time you’re stuck for what to drink with dinner, remember to explore.
It's good to know that food pairing is an art, and with the correct choice of wine you can bring out the best in your dish. Experimentation is what it's all about! So invite some friends over for dinner, open a bottle or two of red, and just have fun!
Now that you know how to perfectly pair wine with food, it’s time to put your knowledge into practice! With these guidelines in mind, you can confidently serve up an amazing meal that will impress your guests – and make sure you have something to sip on while you cook. When in doubt, ask the sommelier!