The Perfect Match
Eight rules-of-thumb for food and wine pairing:
- If you are taking wine as a gift to a dinner party, don’t worry about matching the wine to the food unless you have been requested to do so and have enough information about what is being served to make an informed choice. Just bring a good wine.
- When you’re serving more than one wine at a meal, it’s customary to serve lighter wines before full-bodied ones. Dry wines should be served before sweet wines unless a sweet flavoured dish is served early in the meal. In that case match the sweet dish with a similarly sweet wine. Lower alcohol wines should be served before higher alcohol wines.
- Balance flavour intensity. Pair light-bodied wines with lighter food and fuller-bodied wines with heartier, more flavourful, richer and fattier dishes – see our guide below to help you make your choice.
- Consider how the food is prepared. Delicately flavoured foods — poached or steamed — pair best with delicate wines. It’s easier to pair wines with more flavourfully prepared food — braised, grilled, roasted or sautéed. Pair the wine with the sauce, seasoning or dominant flavour of the dish.
- Match flavours. An earthy Pinot Noir goes well with mushroom soup and the grapefruit/citrus taste of Sauvignon Blancs goes with fish for the same reasons that lemon does.
- Consider pairing opposites. Very hot or spicy foods — some Thai dishes, or hot curries for example — often work best with sweet desert wines. Opposing flavours can play off each other, creating new flavour sensations and cleansing the palate.
- Match by geographic location. Regional foods and wines, having developed together over time, often have a natural affinity for each other.
- Adjust food flavour to better pair with the wine. Sweetness in a dish will increase the awareness of bitterness and astringency in wine, making it appear drier, stronger and less fruity. High amounts of acidity in food will decrease awareness of sourness in wine and making it taste richer and mellower — sweet wine will taste sweeter. Bitter flavours in food increase the perception of bitter, tannic elements in wine. Sourness and salt in food suppress bitter taste in wine. Salt in food can tone down the bitterness and astringency of wine and may make sweet wines taste sweeter.