FOOD AND WINE MATCHING
Some food and wine matches are pure heavenly. The most common are:
Asparagus: Sauvignon Blanc
Foie Gras: Sauternes/Tokaj
Goat's Cheese: Sancerre
Parma Ham & Melon: Pinot Grigio
Roast Lamb: Red Bordeaux or Cabinet Sauvignon
Roast Pork: Beaujolais
Duck: Pinot Noir
Everything else though needs a little more thought. Wine should compliment food and this guide should take some of the head-ache out of what to choose:
MEAT AND FISH
Grilled or roast lamb is what you choose when you have an expensive red wine to show off, like a fine Bordeaux or Rioja or posh Cabinet Sauvignon. Once the treatment gets more robust - like a moussaka or a tagine/casserole/stew - a heavier red like a southern French or Spanish red is needed.
Full-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. If it’s rare and/or thickly cut it can take big, tannic reds. If it’s cooked for longer and sliced more thinly it may need a lighter wine like a red Bordeaux or Chianti. If it’s braised in a stew try a rustic red like a Cotes du Rhone or a Malbec from Argentina.
Takes on all kinds of flavours (see Charcuterie, Fruit and Sauces) but tends to be slightly fattier which suggests a wine with good levels of acidity to cut through. Italian reds like Chianti, for example.
Chicken takes on any flavour you put with it so unless you’re serving a simple roast chicken (in which case try a medium bodied red or white burgundy or other good chardonnay or pinot noir) think in terms of how it’s cooked and the other ingredients in the dish rather than the chicken itself. (See Sauces and World Food)
Classically paired with Pinot Noir. Fatty confit de canard and duck casseroles can take a stronger, gutsier red such as a southern French red.
Rustic salamis and patés like salami, dried ham, country pates and terrines go well with light, fruity reds such as Beaujolais Villages and Valpolicella or with a full bodied dry rosé. Foie Gras is traditionally paired with a sweet wine such as a Hungarian Tokay or Sauternes but a full bodied Chardonnay works well too.
Simply grilled fish is the ideal accompaniment for classic dry white wines like Chablis, Spanish Albarino and Sauvignon Blanc. Richer dishes with butter, cream or potato (like fiskibollur) usually work well with Chardonnay. Seared ‘meaty’ or spice-crusted fish like salmon or tuna can take a light red like Pinot Noir.
Like chicken or pork it depends on the way it’s cooked. Served lightly cooked or steamed or with a buttery sauce, Chardonnay is usually the answer. Give it an Asian twist and try a Sauvignon Blanc or Australian Riesling. Sear it and try a Pinot Noir. See also Sauces.
Raw or cold
Any crisp dry white - classically Muscadet. Chablis, Sancerre, Pinot Grigio and Albarino work well too. Riesling can also be good with crab and scallops, depending on the preparation (see Asian flavours below)
Dishes like grilled prawns and lobster and seared scallops are quite luxurious so treat yourself to a good quality Chardonnay, white Bordeaux or another Semillon-Sauvignon blend or Champagne.
Very good with sparkling wine. Think of scrambled eggs and champagne.
It’s a myth that cheese and red wine go together. In fact most cheese goes better with dry white wine or sweet wine than red, especially goats’ cheese (the classic match for Sauvignon Blanc) and blue cheeses like Stilton and Roquefort (traditional matches for port and Sauternes respectively). Red wines go best with hard (but not too strong) cheeses.
Doesn't taste of anything itself so it depends what sauce goes with it. Lighter pasta dishes with vegetables or seafood, for example need a lighter wine (a neutral Italian white like Pinot Grigio) than baked pasta dishes like lasagne (where a Zinfandel or southern Italian red will be a better match). See also sauces below.
Not supposed to be a good accompaniment for wine because of the sharpness of the classic vinaigrette dressing but main course salads rarely cause major problems. Dry crisp whites and rosés tend to work best.
Chardonnay - the richer the sauce, the fuller the wine. Other richly textured white wines like Viognier and good quality Chenin Blanc work well too.
Italian reds generally cope best. Barbera or Sangiovese.
Big ripe sweet reds like Zinfandel, Shiraz and New World Cabernet can cope but may result in flavour overload if they’re high in alcohol
Meaty sauces like gravy
Traditional medium-bodied French wines such as red Bordeaux and Cotes du Rhone.
Sweet and sour or fruit based savoury sauces
Modern fruity rosés work well with sweet and sour, as does Gewurztraminer. Pinot Noir and Merlot pick up on the flavour of berry fruits.
A dry white like Albarino will deal with most vegetable soups. For chunkier soups try a light, rustic red like a Cotes du Rhone.
Stews and casseroles
Usually need a medium to full bodied gutsy red - a southern French, Spanish or Portuguese red normally does the trick or a Shiraz or Grenache. Classic French style fish stews are better with a crisp dry white or dry rosé.
Some fruits - apples, pears, apricots, peaches and nectarines - are wine-friendly (Sauternes and other sweet white wines usually do the trick); others, like citrus fruits, less so. Incorporating cream into the dish usually helps. The addition of fruit to a savoury dish like apples with pork or plums with duck is often an indication of where to go with the wine (a dry white being a better option with a pork and apple dish for example).
Stick to green tea – it goes better and is cheaper. However, if you insist, fruity rosé is a pretty good choice overall. Sparkling wine goes well with dim sum and Pinot Noir is fantastic with Peking duck.
Again, a Japanese green tea is best. Sparkling wine, especially champagne is good with sushi and sashimi. Good quality, refined red Bordeaux and other medium bodied blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot go well with meat-based dishes.
Cool lager or lassi! If you must have wine an Alsace Pinot Blanc is a good partner. Very hot curries are impossible to pair with wine.
Sauvignon Blanc is great with dishes with guacamole, lime or coriander. With more robust, meaty dishes try a New World Cabernet Sauvignon.
Middle Eastern (Greek/Turkish/Lebanese)
Crisp dry whites and rosés go well with mezze. Soft medium bodied reds similar to those recommended for Moroccan food below are good with grills. Sharp Sauvignon Blancs are fantastic with fried Greek seafood.
Dry rose with salads, dry southern French, Spanish reds with tagines (or other wines made from Grenache, Syrah and Tempranillo)
Thai and other Asian flavours
Aromatic whites such as dry Riesling, Alsace Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer work best. Austrian Gruner Veltliner is good with the more delicate flavours of Vietnamese food