Food pairing basics:
There are no set rules for food and wine pairings. Much like in Pirates of the Caribbean, the rules are more guidelines. One can do regional pairings to give context to the wine but that is not necessarily the ultimate pairing for the taste and structure of the wine and food match.
Common taste components are sweet, sour, spice, bitter, fat, and salt. Wine structure is based on acidity, tannins (bitter taste), alcohol, and sweetness.
If you like salted caramel, you'll enjoy a sweeter wine with a salty dish. Another interesting combination is sweet and spicy. As the alcohol content of the wine increases so does the "heat" in a spicy dish. Adding sweetness can tame the spice. More acidic wine pairs well with sweet or fatty foods. A more bitter wine will balance a sweeter dish.
In general, high acidity has a palate cleansing effect. Higher tannins and acidity help to counteract the oiliness in greasy foods. Higher tannin wines, with a bit of a bitter taste, do well with fatty foods. Consider the classic steak and red wine pairing. Wines with a higher alcohol content do well with a fatty dish because the alcohol will cut through the fat. A zippy, acidic wine will also brighten a fatty food dish.
Of course there are no strict rules but avoid pairing a bitter wine with a bitter food.
Suggestions for Popular Wines:
Cabernet Franc is very versatile because of its higher acid and medium body. This wine pairs well with gamey meats such as roasted pork, roasted beef, duck, lamb or rabbit. Pairing with a garlic-rosemary pork tenderloin will bring out the herbal notes in the wine.
Consider using the underrated eggplant as a side dish.
Cabernet Sauvignon is sophisticated enough for a formal dinner. The full-flavoured, fruit-forward wine calls for juicy red meat, steaks, slow cooked rack of lamb, roasted chicken or wild game because the tannins refresh the palate after tasting the meat. A hearty fowl like duck or a meaty tuna won't be overpowered by the wine.
Aged cheese, mushrooms, squash and sauces with plenty of black pepper will bring out new flavours.
This silky wine pairs nicely with rich, fatty fish like salmon in lush sauces.White fleshed fish like halibut, white meats, and nuts will bring out different notes in the wine. Because Chardonnay is a full-flavoured white wine, it goes well with lobster, flavourful fish such as sea bass and shrimp, or sweet shellfish. Mild caribbean dishes with tropical fruit flavours or full flavoured dishes with creamy sauces complement the wine. For vegetables, avocado and spinach do nicely.
Try a cartelized onion and mushroom quiche, risotto, chicken sate burgers or corn soup with crab.
The semi-dry wine pairs well with spicy Asian food or roasted vegetables with natural sweetness. Its full flavour pairs well with chicken, turkey, cheese, and fish because it doesn't overwhelm the food.
Add variety to your cuisine with a Vietnamese steak salad, steamed pork dumplings, Vietnamese style jumbo shrimp on sugarcane, or Thai red curry mussels with fried potatoes. Have fresh fruit as a light dessert.
The low tannins in the wine mean it pairs well with most foods, especially light meats such as chicken. Try mild cheeses like goat because its more mildly flavoured. To bring out fruit flavours in wine, match with meats in fruit sauces or warm spices.
To add a wild card go for a blue cheese with full flavour or a meaty fish like tuna.
Pinot Grigio/ Pinot Gris
Pinot Gris is a very drinkable wine that can be had by itself. It's a delicate white that suits a light fish dish like oysters. The light, citrus wine brings images of summer and matches light Italian food like ravioli.
Try smoked cheese, seafood pasta, goat cheese or mussels. Even coconut milk based curries pair well.
Considered a 'safe' dry red wine to serve, Pinot Noir goes well with all food. Recipes with mild red meats such as beef, duck, quail, or ham and roasted vegetables like mushrooms, cabbages, and potatoes are always a good choice. Bring out the warm spice notes of cinnamon in the wine by using warm spices like cinnamon, cumin or ginger in the dish.
This light bodied red wine with depth goes well with earthy dishes and grilled salmon, tuna, veal braised chicken or earthy legumes like lentils.
Riesling is a versatile wine that has many styles so it pairs with many foods. Interestingly, it pairs exceptionally well with spicy food as the sweetness of the Riesling complements the spice. An off dry Riesling can pair with sweet or spicy dishes because it tames the heat of spice and emphasizes sweetness. Try a Thai green salad or fresh apple pie. A lighter more fruity Riesling improves oysters, ham, veal, and lean shellfish. A fuller style Riesling does nicely with richer flavoured shellfish like lobster or just a simple chicken.
Pork with a fruity sauce, cucumber soup, egg dishes and moo who pork are fun dishes to try with Riesling.
Similar to Riesling, Rosé has many styles so it complements many foods. It goes nicely with light salads, pasta, and seafood. It is a perfect summertime wine so warm climate cuisine such as Greek, Mexican, Provencal is always a sure fit. A dry rosé matches a rich cheese because of its high acidity and fruit character.
Since Rosé matches most flavours try a more unusual dish like eggplant pizza, balsamic watermelon feta salad or a shrimp/ avocado/ roasted corn salad.
A crisp wine, Sauvignon Blanc is good for warm weather and casual meals. Tart dressings and tangy foods such scallops, grapefruit and onion salad highlight the lemon and grapefruit notes of this zesty wine. Sauvignon Blanc is good with delicate and slightly acidic foods. It is a rare wine that can handle asparagus, artichoke, and zucchini and raw vegetables.
Have fun with tomato and spinach crepes, goat cheese, Mussels Provencal or wild mushroom soup.
This is a wine that needs big flavours! The Australian favourite is perfect for a BBQ. Partner Syrah with a stew, beef steak, pork chops or brisket. The wine pairs well with meats and has a smoked meat flavour of it's own along with plum, tobacco, berries, and pepper. Highly spiced and heavily seasoned dishes with pungent herbs and lots of black pepper do well with Syrah.
Try it with a spiced burger, aged cheese, sausage or grilled meat of any kind.
But the best wine pairing is always with a friend!