Finding the right wine to compliment your meal enhances the dining experience by accentuating the flavours of the food while the food, in turn, brings out the taste of the wine. A lot of people know very little about wine pairing beyond the misconception that only red wine goes with red meat and white with white, but you need not be a sommelier to understand how to enrich fine dining or even a weekend barbeque by choosing the most suitable wine.
The simplest way to find a good match is through flavour profiling. Bold and richly flavoured food would go well with a similarly bold and rich wine. Something that is sweet and fruity on the palate goes with a similar wine. Texture also plays a role and it is best to have lighter white wines or rosés with light meals. Equally, hearty meals, such as stews, deserve a similarly hearty wine.
How to know which wine is which, though? Let us begin with dessert. The aptly named dessert wines or fortified wines work well with any after-dinner delight. Ports and Sherries compliment anything with chocolate or nuts while Madeira or sponge cake suits a Chardonnay or rosé. Creamy desserts such as crème brûlée or cheesecake do well with a Riesling, Moscato or Pinot Blanc, but not all after post-meal food has to be sweet.
Cheese can be enjoyed after dinner, as a starter or on its own and with cheese the determining factor is strength. Smoked or blue cheese requires a medium to full-bodied red wine, such as Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon on the medium side or Zinfandel or Merlot for the bold. Soft and creamy cheeses require a sweet and rich white wine as with the dessert. Lastly, a hard cheese with a gentle flavour suits Sauvignon Blanc or sparkling wine, such as Prosecco.
Oysters and Champagne is a known tradition for good reason. As for other seafood, most dishes work best with a white wine, but there are some fish, such as salmon, that do well with a Pinot Noir. Tuna, especially when seared, can be paired with rosé or white Burgundy and Voigner or Gewürztraminer works with shellfish. Any white meat, be it a fish fillet or chicken, can be complimented with a dry white such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, or a Pinot Noir or Gamay in the light red spectrum. The same counts for vegetable dishes and salads.
Great classic meat or potato dishes such as braised or grilled red meat, stew, or lamb for comfort or cold weather love bold reds such as Petit Verdot, Pinotage, Syrah or Mourvèdre. Full-bodied white or red works with pork and the delicate flavours of veal can be brought forward by Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir alike. The wine for Asian dishes and curries depends on level of heat or spiciness. Light white or light red for milder flavours and medium reds for more spicy dishes go well together. Another determining aspect is dairy or cream, which works well with a rich white wine.
Good food and good wine together is one of life’s great joys and bringing the two together can be a delectable occurrence, and with a bit of knowledge and insight, easily achieved.