Choosing the right wine for your meal can be a balancing act in flavour and consistency. No matter how hard you try, some dishes are always going to be difficult to pair, but with a little guidance, you can create a match made in heaven.
If you’re feeling a little nervous about your choice, just get a glass of wine down your guests’ necks before they eat. Everything tastes better after you’ve had some alcohol!
This technique is old hat, but it often helps when you’re lost in the wine section of your local supermarket: if you’re cooking Italian food, choose a bottle of vino from the Italian section. Dishes that grew up with certain wines often complement one another. This approach can sometimes be a bit hit and miss, but if you have a vague idea of whether a red, white, or rosé will suit your dish best, you might just luck out.
Heavy, fatty meals are ideal for red wines that pack a punch. Choose a bottle high in tannins that can cut through the thick wall of cheese/meat/whatever. Alternatively, grab a bottle of zippy bubbly. Champagne, cava, or Prosecco are all ideal. If you can’t penetrate high-fat foods, your wine is going to taste flabby and flat.
Again, bubbly can be your saving grace here, as long as it’s sweet – this also goes for sweet white wines. Think of all those salty-sweet snacks that you love – the taste combination is gorgeous on the palette.
Sweet foods call for sweet wines! The sweeter the dish, the sweeter the wine needs to be, otherwise your vino might taste bitter. For example, bitter dark chocolate and a sweet red wine go perfectly together.
The golden rule with bitter foods is never to mix bitter with bitter. Unlike with sweet wines and sweet foods, they don’t cancel each other out. A bitter wine will just make a bitter dish taste unpleasant.
Light Versus Heavy
Probably the best rule of thumb is to consider the lightness or heaviness of your dish. Stir-fries/salads will require a light white wine, whereas heavier, red meat dishes are at home with a deep red wine.
Dishes that are tangy or citrusy need an even more acidic wine to upstage the meal, otherwise your wine will taste lacklustre or out of place.
When in doubt, experiment! Often, the best way to ascertain which wines work best with your dishes is through experience…any excuse to open a few bottles! To save a bit of money, you can always buy a variety of bottles in bulk from a catering supplier.