Pairing wine to suit your food (or vice versa) can seem like a daunting task, but it is one that can bring much enjoyment when the pairing is just right. Each wine on our website has food pairing recommendations to help make it easier, but there are some basic guidelines which are a good starting point.
WHITE OR RED
In general, white wines do not tend to complement hearty red meat meals or vegetable stews, and red wines will often clash with light fish, vegetable or white meat dishes. However, if you’re a white wine drinker who loves a rich casserole or a red wine lover enjoying a tuna nicoise, all is not lost as there are always exceptions to these rules. Your wine merchant will be able to recommend these more adventurous pairings, but for now, here is a quick, safe guide to try and match dishes yourself.
STRENGTH OF FLAVOUR
The first thing to think about is about the strength of flavour. Light meals will be overpowered very easily, and flavourful meals require wines to stand up to them. If you are eating a creamy pasta dish for instance, you would not want to pair with a powerful Italian Barolo, or if you are going for a smoky barbecue dish, stay way from Pinot Grigio!
The next step is to consider not the individual flavours of the dish, but more the overall dominant tastes. These can usually be broken down into the categories of sweet, sour/acidic, fatty, umami, salty, herbal, spicy. Once you have the dominant taste(s), pair your wine accordingly.
Very sweet meals will lose the taste of a drier wine and require off-dry to sweet wines to match. This can be red or white depending on the other dominant tastes of the dish. A good start for white wines is looking to Germany, Alsace or New Zealand for their off-dry and floral Gewurztraminer or Riesling. For sweeter reds, Georgia is the place to look with many regions specialising in off-dry to medium sweet Saperavi grape wines. Of course, dessert wines and ports will always match sweet puddings too.
Acidic/citrussy meals will overpower an off-dry wine, so choose a dry wine to match. Usually white wines fare better – those with lots of citrus acid and minerality. Pinot Grigio is renowned for this of course, or look to other areas of the Mediterranean coastline for ideas – Portuguese or Spanish Albarino, Greek Assrytiko, or traditional wines of Crete. Further inland, there are great modern dry wines from Mosel in Germany and exceptionally dry Sauvignon Blancs from France and New Zealand. If going for a red, go light - Beaujolais Gamay, or maybe a particularly youthful Pinot Noir.
Salty dishes of seafood or fish are similar, requiring a wine with excellent minerality and acidity. In addition to the white wines mentioned above, look further across Italy for Fiano, Grillo or Vermentino wines. Sicily is an excellent island for these wines, created for pairing with fish and seafood. If going for a red, remember to look for high acid wines to cut through the salt such as Pinot Noir or Grenache.
Fatty meals such as red meats suit red or orange wines with good tannins that will cut through this and bring out true flavour. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon spring to mind, with Shiraz and Tannat also good options, especially with smoky barbecue dishes. If your meal is fatty but tends to suit white wine more, high acid is the key to cutting through and cleansing the palate. More depth of body will also help, so look at Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc that has depth without compromising dryness.
Umami meals, particularly those with dominant mushroom flavours require earthy wines to match. Cooler climate reds will deliver more light earth and herbs whilst warmer climates intensify this alongside fruit flavours, so decide on how strong your meal is and pick accordingly. Pinot Noir, Grenache, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo and Merlot are all good options. For an earthier white wines, try a herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc France. (Sancerre is famed for its flint and smoke in its wines), an unoaked Chardonnay (Chablis springs to mind) or part-oaked Chardonnay.
Wines with lots of herbs ask for the same in their matches. The reds mentioned for umami meals can match herbaceousness, or add Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc into the mix. You can look to the New World for white wines, with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc renowned for good grassiness alongside capsicum and green herbs.
Spicy dishes need warming spices and richer, tropical fruit to match. With white wines, good body and oak or part-oak treatment (Chardonnay, Viognier, Chenin Blanc) can do wonders, whilst off-dry aromatic wines (Riesling, Muscat, Gewurztraminer) can help with heat. The spice of Shiraz and Tempranillo are renowned for complementing spice and smoke too. New World grapes such as Torrontes, Carmenere, Tannat and Pinotage are also excellent matches. Our Curry Pairing Guide will give you all the insight needed, and although not all spicier dishes are curries, it will help you match your spice to wine.