Pairing Food and Wine
Pairing food and wine is one of life’s greatest pleasures, but with the sheer number of flavours available to explore it can be a little daunting. To help get you started, the Wine Selectors Tasting Panel has taken the guesswork out of the equation with this handy guide to creating the ideal food and wine pairings that everyone can enjoy.
When matching food and wine, the mind can reel at the many directions you can take your taste buds in – but with the right guidance, it’s really much simpler than you think.
Whether you’re seeking the ideal wine matches for entrees, to marvellous mains pairings or the best wines with dessert, the most important thing to remember is that there really are no rules, only guidelines.
After all, you know what best makes your tastebuds sing – let that be your best guide, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Let’s begin!
The 7 rules of Food and Wine Pairing
1. Aim to complement or enhance flavours
A good starting point is understanding the difference between complementary pairings or congruent pairings.
The first simply means choosing a wine that parallels or balances some of the flavour profiles in a pleasing harmony – think a soft cheese with a nicely acidic Pinot G. The second means choosing a wine that helps elevate the flavours of both the food and the wine – in other words, highlighting the spice in a curry with the savoury spice notes in a cool climate Shiraz.
2. Match food and wine according to weight
This one’s an easy way to make your food and wine pairing a winner. Pair lighter foods that are lower in fat with lighter styles of wine, and ‘heavier’ (i.e., richer or fattier) foods with bigger wines.
For instance, the delicate flavours and textures of fish are always likely to prove a better match for a lighter-style white wine like Semillon. Salmon, however, which is a richer, fattier fish, proves a great match with a lighter red like Pinot Noir.
Meaty dishes, such as a big, juicy steak or slow-roasted lamb shoulder, are best enjoyed with bigger, full-bodied reds like Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.
3. Go for similar flavour characters and intensity, and match to the sauce
Wine and food should be partners, with neither dominating the other. Richer foods need a richer wine that won’t fade in comparison, while light foods need a delicate wine, so the flavours in the dish aren’t overwhelmed.
You can create a good match by echoing the ingredients in your food with the characteristics in the wine, for example, asparagus with Sauvignon Blanc, a spicy Shiraz with fragrant Asian dishes, or an earthy Pinot enjoyed with anything containing mushrooms.
Don’t forget that the dominant feature of a dish can sometimes be the sauce rather than the main ingredient, so use that as your guide – delicate citrus sauces are a great pairing to Sauvignon Blanc or Semillon, for instance, while creamy sauces work well with either Chardonnay.
Red or meat-based sauces? Go for a red like Shiraz. And in the absence of sauce – it’s hard to go wrong with matching white wines with white meat, and red wines with red meat!
4. Consider the acidity of your wine and food
High acid wines harmonise well with the natural acidity in food, with a crisp white paired with a salad featuring a zingy vinaigrette being a good example.
Acid also balances fat, so beer-battered fish and chips are best served with a zesty white like Pinot Grigio, Riesling or a Classic White Blend.
Generally speaking, you want the wine to be more acidic than your food. Be careful with anything creamy however – a rich, creamy sauce will tend to clash with wines that display higher acidity.
5. Match tannins with fats for balance
Tannins are the astringent structural components in red wines, imparting somewhat bitter characters. When the tannins are obvious, a meal with a high fat content will soften the mouthfeel for a harmonious effect.
Great examples are slow roasted lamb shoulder or Parmigiano Reggiano with Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant wines. Fire up the barbeque and enjoy a robust Malbec with a fatty prime rib or juicy pork sausage.
6. Pair spicy wines with spicy foods
Some wines can suffer in the presence of chilli, but others are ideal. Lower alcohol whites like Riesling and Semillon work really well, as they have high acidity and pair well with fried dishes, as well as with ingredients high in salt like soy sauce.
A spicy red like Shiraz is arguably the best red all-rounder with spicy Asian food – just avoid wines that are too high in alcohol or tannins, as they will accentuate any heat present. Slightly off-dry Rieslings, on the other hand, can help take the heat out of spicy food.
7. Serve wine as sweet as the food
When it comes to the sweeter side of things, it’s generally recommended to serve wine that is at least as sweet – or sweeter – than the food being served, especially when considering wines to enjoy with dessert – a dessert that’s sweeter that the wine will make the wine taste dull and knock out its character.
Wines with a bit of fizz like Moscato or sweeter-style Prosecco can also be wonderful with fruit-based desserts, or even the classic combination of melon and prosciutto enjoyed as part of an antipasto spread.
ESSENTIAL FOOD AND WINE PAIRING GUIDES
Now that the basics are out of the way, it’s time to start exploring the possible flavour combinations of food and wine matching in greater detail. From beef to seafood, Aussie classics, and the best wines to enjoy with dessert, you’ll find something to enliven your senses in the following guides!
Pairing wine with beef
Learn what wines goes best with the quintessential Australian red meat, in this bumper guide to pairing wine with beef. It’s not all red wines, either, with white like Chardonnay and Verdelho making sublime partners to a chargrilled beef and peanut green curry!
Pairing wine with seafood
Australians are fortunate to enjoy such ready access to fresh seafood, and equally blessed by having so much quality wine available to enjoy alongside it! Discover great wine matches for such delicious dishes as blue swimmer crab spaghettini with lemon and chive sauce in our complete guide to matching wine with seafood.
Pairing wine with barbequed food
When the Australian summer hits, the barbeque is about the only thing that gets a workout! Covering everything from pork to poultry (including a divine lemongrass chicken recipe), veggies, seafood and red meat, our essential guide to pairing wine with barbeque is just the thing to transform your simple grilling game into the hottest dining experience around.
Pairing wine with cheese
The sheer diversity of cheeses available can present a challenge for those looking to enjoy the synergistic flavours of a great cheese and wine combination, like those seen in this twice-cooked Roquefort soufflé. Let our cheese and wine pairing guide be your ticket to the sublime!
Pairing wine with charcuterie
There are few things better than a well-prepared tasting plate, especially when the charcuterie is paired with the perfect wines! Get the jump on catering for your next celebration with our guide to matching wine with charcuterie.
Pairing wine with chocolate
If wine is delicious, and chocolate is delicious, then drinking wine while eating chocolate is doubly delicious! With such indulgent recipes like chocolate fondant with mandarin and ice-cream to explore, our essential guide to pairing wine with chocolate should prove a real treat for those who love a little wine with their dessert!
Pairing wine with Aussie food favourites
For everything from fish and chips to chicken parmi and the humble meat pie, there’s an ideal Australian wine to match. Jump in and explore some classic combinations in our must-read guide to matching wine with Australia’s favourite foods!
Pairing wine with vegetarian foods
These days, even at barbeques, meat is not the only game in town. More and more Australians have embraced the healthy appeal of vegetarianism, and there’s no doubt such dishes open up a world of possible wine matches – get started with our simple guide to matching wine with vegetarian food!
FIND YOUR NEW FAVOURITE FOOD AND WINE MATCH
Looking for more culinary inspiration? Thanks to our friends at Selector, you can enjoy free access to hundreds of exquisite recipes from some of Australia’s top chefs – visit out the Selector recipe archive today and start planning your next fabulous feast!
Pairing wine with takeout meals
The enjoyment of wine with food should be fun, relaxed, and filled with a sense of playful adventure, and we hope you find the above guides useful to that end.
But wait, there’s more! Keep things nice and extra easy with the following guides on pairing wine with your favourite takeout, for the ultimate in relaxed dining…
Takeout Tastings: Pairing Wine and Pizza
Takeout Tastings: Pairing Wine with Sushi
Takeout Tastings: Pairing Wine with Chinese
Takeout Tastings: Pairing Wine with Burgers
Takeout Tastings: Pairing Wine with Fish and Chips
Takeout Tastings: Pairing Wine with Mexican
Takeout Tastings: Pairing Wine with Vietnamese
Takeout Tastings: Pairing Wine with Indian
FIND GREAT WINES FOR MATCHING WITH FOOD
If you’re looking for the perfect wines to start your food and wine matching journey with, Wine Selectors has you covered. Offering great savings on Australia’s largest range of expert-selected mixed wine cases, as well as individual bottles from some of our country’s best producers, it’s simply a better way to buy Australian wine online!