Until I became a member of my beloved Cuisine Club, I hadn’t the foggiest about matching wine with food. I mean I knew it was a thing and I greatly enjoyed the idea of it, but when it came to wine I usually just drank whatever tasted good – Sav and Merlot in those early days. To be honest, after a brutal introduction to alcohol by way of cheap Chardonnay, it took me approximately 11 years to ever touch a glass a vino again so I was a late comer to the practice of sipping on a vino whilst prepping dinner or when eating out.
One of our Cuisine Club rules is that each course served must be matched with wine. As we also have to cook from either Dish or Cuisine magazine, often the lovely food and drinks editors take care of the matching problem for me. Sometimes however, I have to look a little outside the square if it’s a particularly obscure wine being suggested or one that falls outside of our budget restrictions (we also have a budget when hosting each CC).
I find asking someone at a wine shop is super helpful when learning the ropes, or google is always a safe bet. I usually buy my wine from the supermarket as they always have good sales, but since I don’t get there much these days, with online shopping being my go-to where possible, online wine stores like Advintage are the perfect solution for vino shopping from the comfort of your living room, bed, or desk or wherever you like to browse the world wide web.
I thought I might share with you some of the basics I apply when it comes to matching wine with food effectively:
Champagne & Bubbles
Although I often associate the pouring of champagne with a celebration, the general rule is that the more delicate the food, the more delicate the accompanying beverage should be which is why you’ll notice bubbles usually served with canapés or at the start of an event, where food is light and of the passed-around variety.
This popular white wine matches perfectly with many dishes – fish, salads, white meat, seafood. And its fresh, light character doesn’t dominate the meal, but rather plays alongside nicely making Sauvignon Blanc the on-call wine choice for many mid-week meals.
Chardonnay is the go to for rich white meat and seafood dishes. It complements creamy dishes like pasta with a carbonara sauce, chicken with gravy and seafood chowders. Chardonnay is often described as buttery and rich and the oakiness of this wine makes it the perfect match for any meal with these elements.
The Aromatics (Riesling, Pinot Gris & Gewürztraminer)
These wines are best matched with food that is spicy and has a bit of a kick – Asian cuisines such as Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese & Malaysian, as well as other ethnic eats like Indian and Mexican. The strong flavours that are integral to these types of dishes, such as ginger, garlic, pepper and chilli love something sweet to balance it out, so stick to a medium to sweet white to complement these flavours.
This is my favourite of the reds. It is full of flavour but somewhat lighter than other heavy full-bodied red wines. It works brilliantly with lamb, mushroom dishes, and salmon if you’re wanting a red rather than a white.
Generally most other reds including Merlot, Shiraz & Cabernet Sauvignon’s can be described as rich, very heavy, full-bodied and robust. They can stand up to the stronger flavours of game meats, beef and rich flavourful stews, while also working beautifully well with steak and other BBQ’d meats. There are a myriad of choices in this grouping so it’s really a matter of finding one that you like and rolling with it (at least that’s my take on it!)
This is a crisp and fresh wine even though the colour often leads you to believe it will be sweet. It is a favourite tipple in Summer and its light fresh composition works magnificently with salads and any dish featuring fruits.
These types of wine are so beautiful and as much as I enjoy sipping on a small glass of ‘sticky’ at the end of a wonderful meal, I’m still quite green on selecting this type of wine. Late Harvest generally means it’s sweet and thereby the perfect way to finish a meal, to be served alongside cheeses, fruit and dessert of really any kind. Some dessert wines are more ‘syrupy’ than others so I read the labels for their description of notes and generally find something in there that indicates whether it will pair well with the elements of my last course.
And after all that, I must say, unless I can find the exact wine suggested to match any dish (so long as it’s not going to blow the budget), I still select wine like an amateur. I look at those on sale and determine which have been reduced by the greatest amount because I figure if it started out pretty high, then it must be a good quality wine to start with. Then I look at labels because let’s face it, we sometimes do choose a book by its cover! I also pay attention to those little gold, silver and bronze stickers that are peppered over some bottles which indicates it’s a goodie. Wine awards mean it has been voted superior by some with pretty certifiable authority with a great nose. And lastly, I choose those that I know I’ve enjoyed before or have heard a bit of a buzz about either in reading a foodie magazine or while chatting with friends.
Good luck on your next wine mission. It really does make a difference having a beverage that has been specially selected to complement your meal.
* this is a sponsored post. All opinions and suggestions however are my own.