Food & Wine Matching
Wine in all its variety is a perfect accompaniment to food and when paired well each will enhance the other bringing out flavours and making each component better than the sum of its parts! The idea is to try to balance them so that neither the food nor the wine overpowers each other.
The first and most important rule when deciding which wine to match with your food is to take into account your own personal taste! If you enjoy a particular match then it is the right choice for you.
You will also often find that a region's speciality dish is naturally complemented by the wines produced in that same area. So this can be a good starting point when looking for wines to match your food.
To get the best match it is important to look at the elements within both the wine and the food itself. The prime aim is to try to balance each so that neither the food nor the wine overwhelms the other.
The main components to consider within food and wine are its Flavour, Weight, Acidity, Salt, Tannin and Sweetness.
One of the most important elements is to try and match the weight of the food with the weight or ‘body’ of the wine. It’s not necessarily just about the colour (white for fish and red for meat!) but how rich and structured the wine is in your mouth.
Lighter foods such as fish or chicken dishes will be suited to delicate fresh white wines or lighter reds. Rich or heavy red meat dishes will be suited to big red wines or even very full-bodied whites.
The flavour strength in the wine and food should be similar. If the wine and food share joint characteristics then this also makes for good combinations. One of the best examples is the gooseberry and asparagus notes of a Sauvignon Blanc pairing well with Asparagus food dishes.
However, it is often not the meat or fish in a dish that provides the main flavour but the sauce or spice that is used in the cooking. Imagine any curry dish, the sauce will usually overwhelm any flavour of the main ingredient. In this case it is more important to find a wine to pair with the sauce and so in this instance you could choose a wine made from the Grüner Veltiner or Gewürztraminer grapes that are also often described as having spicy notes.
Many wines can have high acidity and this is of much benefit when pairing with fatty foods. Acidity in a wine will cut through much of the oiliness of a particular dish and cleanse the palate.
White wines from cooler regions such as Champagne or the Loire, New Zealand and Chile are generally high in acid although certain grape varieties will naturally produce higher acid too, for example; Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino or Muscadet. Blanc. Italian reds too will have a high acid level and this helps cut through the style of food produced in this country.
Food and wine can both have acidity. Tomatoes, citrus and green apples are high-acid foods and when a citrus juice or vinegar is used as a distinctive ingredient for a dish you will find a high acid wine will complement the food too.
Salt will increase the perception of the body of the wine but decreases the effect of bitterness and acidity. Salty foods are complemented by some sweetness in the wine. A good example being the classic combination of Port with a good Stilton cheese.
Lower tannin red or rosé wines with lower alcohol levels and with a hint of sweetness, such as a Pinot Noir will also work well with salty food for example with baked and speciality hams.
Dry wines that go well with salty food like shellfish have obvious acidity and a hint of sweetness, such as a Riesling or a Gewürtztraminer. Equally Champagne’s dry acidity enhances the saltiness of a spoon of caviar.
Sweetness in a dish would make a dry wine seem to loose its fruit characteristics and appear over-acidic and bitter. So, as a general rule a wine should be sweeter than the food it is served with. Sweetness in a wine also pairs well with richer foods, the classic combination with Sauternes and Foie Gras for example. The Sauternes also has good acidity which again works well cutting through the fattiness of the Foie Gras.
Remember too that sweetness in a wine acts as a good foil to saltier dishes, such as some cheeses.
Tannins, usually found in red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec are due to the prolonged presence of the grape skins and stalks in the making of the wine give the wine structure and development potential. They may also be found in oak aged white wines, where they derive from the barrel itself. Tannins are not present in food itself. Tannins can be felt through the sensation of astringency on your gums (not bitterness) and causes a feeling of drying or puckering in your mouth. The structure tannin gives a wine works very well with more textural food like red or fattier meats such as steak and lamb.
Lighter tannin wines such as Pinot Noir and Gamay for the Beaujolais appellation or even an oak aged Chardonnay would be better suited to fish or chicken dishes.
With most of the wines on our site we have given you Food matching suggestions or you can choose to search a particular dish or meat to present matched wines.