If I were to give one food and wine matching tip, it would be this. The best wine to pair with food is the wine you like. There may be food and wine matching faux pas, but thankfully not many of them. And if you're breaking all the "rules" then there's nothing a good sip of water can't fix.
That said, when you get it right, a good match can be absolutely sublime, lifting the experience of both the wine and the food.
But there are a few things to think about.
1. Body matching
Instead of colour matching, arguably the most important thing to think about is the body of the wine. A lightly flavoured meal will benefit from going together with a light bodied wine.
The worst thing you can do is spend good money on a nice wine, only for it to be so dominated by a big heavy or spicy meal that it tastes like water. Big, heavy meals go terrifically with big, heavy wines. Cabernet or Syrah with a meaty, casserole for example.
2. Match flavours or contrast them
A lemony, creamy sauce for fish or seafood can be a heavenly match with a buttery Chardonnay. Or a Albarino with a little salinity matching a simple seafood dish.
Sometimes, opposite attract, and instead of matching, you could go with a lip-puckering zesty wine to “cut through” the food. A dry German Riesling can go really well with a rich and creamy mushroom, risotto. Yum!
Another good way to match is to think about regionality. A good French Goat's cheese matched with a Sauvignon Blanc from just down the road - they've evolved together so it makes sense to try them together.
3. Tannins & meat to please you.
Wines with a lot of gum-drying tannins, (here’s looking at you Nebbiolo) can be transformed and softened out by the proteins, fats and saltiness of red meat.
4. Acidity is your friend
Wines with a good levels of acidity can refresh in between bites. Whites like Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling fit the bill here. For reds, look to Chianti or a Pinot Noir.
Because of their higher acidity, they’re a good match with lost of different foods. Going the other way, salt in food is a great foil for wines of high acidity.
5. Spicy food?
Asian dishes with salt, spice, and umami flavours can go really well with high acidity, like a Riesling or a Rosé wine.
Food & Wine matches made in heaven
Before I finish up, here are some classic matches.
- Dry Riesling or Chenin Blanc with Irish smoked salmon
- Pinot Noir with Duck, Salmon
- Bordeaux or other good Cabernets, or an Aussie Shiraz with steak
- Crisp Chablis or Muscadet with Oysters
- A zesty Sauvignon Blanc with salty, gooey Goat’s cheese.
- Meursault or other creamy, buttery Chardonnay with Lobster or Crab
- Rioja or a Rhône red with lamb chops
- Chianti with tomato-based pasta dishes and pizza.
- A Puglian red, Negarmoro or Primitivo with Lamb Rogan Josh
- Port with blue cheese, the traditional match being Stilton.
- Bordeaux red with a vintage Irish cheddar cheese
- Sauternes, or other dessert wine, with foie gras.
- Champagne with Fish & Chips. Yes!