A guide to matching food with wine

Aug 24th, 2009 Jayne Pearce

As much as it is good to experiment with different combinations of food and wine, it would not be a particularly good marriage of flavours and textures if, say, an acidic Sauvignon Blanc was served with a rich chocolate pudding. There is no single choice of wine for a dish but some are definitely a better match than others. As a result, there are a few ground rules to consider that go beyond “white with white meat and red with red meat” before you head for your nearest wine shop.


Think about the ‘weight’ of your dish and the style of cooking. If it has been slow cooked with gravy it is probably quite a heavy dish and will require an equally weighty or ‘fuller bodied’ wine to complement it. Another consideration is the sauce accompaniment which will indicate the strength of flavour for the dish rather than the meat and vegetables alone.

The other rule is choosing like-for-like with styles of wine so that neither the food nor the wine overpower each other. With an acidic dish that has a lot of lemon it would be best to choose an acidic wine such as an Italian white. For a sweet dish such as a dessert try a late harvest wine such as some of the great Alsace Rieslings. For a main course with a sweeter sauce it would be worth considering a wine that has an off-dry sweetness to it such as a Gewurztraminer.

Spicy foods work best with ripe, juicy fruit that has some sweetness and is preferably unoaked. Chilli requires a little bit of care as sometimes the spice can reduce the sweetness in the wine and make a dry, red wine more astringent. Spicy foods accentuate the flavours of oak and tannins and can actually make the dish even hotter.

It’s probably best to avoid salty and oily dishes with tannic reds. Oily fish can taste metallic when served with a robust tannic red and equally a salty dish can bring on a bitter taste. The best wines for any dishes containing a lot of oil and salt are sweeter wines with a higher acidity. If there is a meat dish on the menu then a tannic red would work very well. The protein in the meat softens the tannin making the wine taste smooth and fruity.

The main object of food and wine matching is to create the right balance of flavours in the mouth so that neither is overwhelming the other and there is no unusual aftertaste. That said, any match is completely down to personal preference and any advice given is just a guide. Enjoy!

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