A guide to matching wine and food

Matching wine with cuisine is often depicted as an art and science left to those with gifted nostrils and the keenest of taste buds. While matching specific wines to specific dishes may indeed be a job better left to a sommelier, there are plenty of simple wine pairing rules that you can use to impress your date at a restaurant, your colleagues at a corporate lunch, or your family at Christmas!

wine and food matching guide

The basics of matching

Taylors Winery, from the Clare Valley, has a simple and easy rule to follow when it comes to matching wines to food. Consider the characteristics of the food and how you’d describe those characteristics, then choose a wine that shares those characteristics.

Using this rule, let’s look at the five basic flavours of food: spicy, salty, sweet, sour and umami (a brothy/meaty flavour). When you’re looking through a menu, take note of the flavours being used in the meal you’re considering.

If you were keen on a chicken dish marinated in lemon juice, garlic, and Italian herbs, then you’d be working with a strong citrus flavour with the sourness of lemons, the saltiness of garlic and herbs and the meat itself that’s light and mild in flavour. Combining this kind of dish with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc would work well as the citrus flavours and slightly sweet characteristics of the wine would complement the food beautifully.

Another example would be heavier, meatier foods like stews, broths, and primarily red meat dishes. Using our flavours above, this food is often characterised by spices, saltiness, and umami.

Therefore, peppery and spicy varietals of red wine like Shiraz would work well. Furthermore, red wine has a thicker texture and richer mouth-feel, just like a piece of beautifully cooked steak.

Pairing wines by cuisine

To help you navigate wine pairings further, we’ve put together this little infographic that gives you some simple tips on some popular cuisines.

food and wine pairing by cuisine - quick guide

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Red wines

The fine people at Wine Folly created this excellent graph depicting red wine varietals on a scale from lighter to bolder. There are a much wider range of wines of this graph than you’re probably used to seeing at the local bottle shop, but there are all the names you’d see on a restaurant menu for you to reference here.

Lighter reds, including Rosés are great with fresh, light and subtle flavours. Think sushi and sashimi, or a Vietnamese vermicelli noodle salad. They compliment each other with delicate flavours that don’t dominate each other.

Bolder reds as we mentioned earlier are for bolder foods. They are best mixed with hearty cheeses and a charcuterie board for appetisers, or a beautiful hearty casserole with melt-in-your-mouth morsels of tender beef.

White wines

Like red wines, you can make certain assumptions about the flavour of the wine from its colour. Deeper yellow wines tend to be bolder, however, the darkest as this table from Wine Folly shows, are the sweeter varieties.

Many lighter, zesty and herbaceous white wines pair beautifully with a range of Asian cuisines as we’ve mentioned above in the infographic. Sweeter wines make for lovely dessert wines, especially when paired with fruits and milder cheeses.

Strong white wines match food that’s competing for attention. Very spicy, salty or sour foods pair well with a dry finish bold white. Sweeter wines tend to conflict too strongly with those types of food.

Quick guide for wines you’re sure to find on every menu

quick wine guide - food and wine matching

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Trying new things

A fun and arguably the best way to learn pairings is to simply try wines you’ve never had before. Try to stray from your go-to’s every now and then. If you’re a Sauvignon Blanc fan, then try a Grüner Veltliner, or if you’re a Merlot fan, why not try a GSM blend!

Not quite there yet?

Have you found your way here because you’re not sure about which wines are best with the event catering you’re going to order for your office? Fear not, we happen to be a little gang of wine buffs as well as diehard foodies! Get in touch with a corporate catering expert today and let’s talk wine!

 

 

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