Good Wine Doesn’t Need An Occasion, It Is the Occasion: The Ultimate Wine Pairing Guide

From terroir to tannins, wine can often appear as an intimidating minefield of jargon and, sometimes, snobbery. And while some wine connoisseurs would lead you to believe that pairing the ‘right’ wine with the ‘right’ food is achieved by following strict rules, wine pairing really depends on your taste. With that said, there are some general tips on how to bring together complementary wines and meals to impress dinner party guests and make the most of your future fine dining experiences.

Wine pairing basics

Wine Merchant from Perth’s School of Wine, Adam Collet, says when it comes to pairing wine “you want to match body with body”.

And while a wine pairing faux-pas really depends on who you ask, Collet recommends avoiding pairing a full-bodied meal with a delicate wine, as heavy meals like a steak essentially render light wines redundant. Likewise, full-bodied wines like Shiraz aren’t necessarily a great pick for lighter-bodied food like poultry and fish.

Collet also says when pairing wine with food, “what grows together, goes together” and those wine lovers should look to the regions from which their favourite drop originates to draw inspiration on pairings. For example, the French know to pair Sauvignon Blanc with a creamy goat’s cheese while the Italians know a Sangiovese red pairs well with the acidity of a tomato-based pasta.

Illustration by Briana Murphy for The Market Herald

Fail safe combinations

It’s important to note that if you love a certain wine and food combination, wine pairing rules be damned, you should continue to enjoy it. However, if you’re looking for some foolproof combinations, we’ve got you covered.

For the boldness of a red like Cabernet Sauvignon, a typically full-bodied wine, look for an equally bold dish like a filet mignon, or for vegetarians, portobello mushrooms.

Similarly, Merlot, a medium-bodied and berry-heavy wine, works well with red meat dishes but can also complement a lamb, pork or chicken dish, especially alongside a berry sauce.

As for white wines, it’s worth being cautious when pairing Chardonnay. As a full-bodied dry and relatively acidic white wine, any type of acidic food like tomatoes, olives and vinaigrettes as well as bitter foods will not make for a complementary pairing. Instead, look to pair Chardonnay with creamy, buttery dishes and fish.

Source: Austin’s WInes

Grilled Oysters with Lemon Chile Ramp Butter served with a glass of Chardonnay makes the perfect combination | Source: Wine Spectacular

Pairing dessert wines

If dessert wines aren’t your cup of tea, chances are you’ve sampled a bad drop at a restaurant and perhaps you haven’t ventured into the world of sweet wines since.

“Don’t fear the sweetness,” Collet says, adding that quality dessert wines are well worth trying. Another general wine pairing rule of thumb is matching your dessert wine in terms of sweetness with your dessert.

“Sweet wines that are made well, like a German Riesling, goes incredibly well with spice,” he says.

Put your trust in the sommelier

Good wine doesn’t need an occasion. It is the occasion.

Adam Collet, Wine Merchant

Collet also notes that if there’s a special bottle of wine you’ve been saving for some time, it’s worth considering bringing it along to your favourite special occasion restaurant. So long as it’s BYO or the restaurant can accommodate your request, budding wine aficionados can get the best pairing advice from the restaurant’s sommelier to make the most of a special bottle of wine. He also says it’s good practice to allow the sommelier to sample some of your wine.

German Riesling | Source: IWSC

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