One of the great pleasures of drinking wine is matching it with equally mouth-watering food.
Traditionally, red wine with meat and white with fish are no longer flexible enough to accommodate the multi-cultural taste influences that modern cuisine reflects. Common sense dictates that every wine experience should start with taste. When pairing food and wine, you should keep in mind that you are trying to find balance and harmony – balance between flavours, textures, intensity and taste. To increase your chances of a successful match, consider how the food was prepared, seasoned, the texture and also any accompaniments. Food and wine has its own flavour and texture, so too does every palate. So please use this tool as a guide only. There are no hard and fast rules, rights or wrongs. Just experiment to find your matching ideas.
Pastas and other grain-based foods are often a relatively blank canvas upon whch other ingredients draw. So most of the time you will match the wine to the other, more assertive flavours (such as the lamb or tomato sauce) in the food.
For example, an Italian pasta dish with a red tomato based sauce would likely go well with an Italian wine such as a Chianti which has a fullness of flavour and acidity to keep up with the tomatoes.
As long as the sauce does not dramatically change the flavours, a light fish and pasta dish will be looking for a wine with some structure such as a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. This will be especially true if lemon accompanies the fish.
Cream based dishes, such as Fetuccine Alfredo, need a wine which can cut through the dominating richness of the sauce, such as a light Sicilian Pinot Grigio or Vermentino. A rich Carbonara contains cream, pancetta and Parmesan, not to mention plenty of garlic. Serve clean, refreshing but uncomplicated dry young whites, preferbly unoaked. Non – tannic young soft reds like Merlot work well here to cut into the bacon and cheese.
Match the acidity in the sauce with an acidic wine such as Chianti, Sangiovese, Zinfandel if the sauce has some spice and maybe even a Dolcetto if you prefer something lighter. If the sauce is a hearty meat sauce, it might also stretch to include Barbaresco and Barolo as wine optons.
Lasagne follows similar rules to all other tomato-based dishes, but the rich, complex flavours in Lasagne respond well to heartier wines such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Riserva Chianti, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Rosso di Montepulciano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano or many other Italian wines.
A meat lasagne calls for fruity reds, not heavy-weights. A youthful Shiraz or blend will do. A vegetable lasagne calls on the tomato sauce for flavour, so lighter reds are called for such as a Cabernet Merlot which are not so tannic and have good acidity. Aromatic white styles such as Sauvignon Blanc or Sauvignon dominant blends cope well with the herbs and acidity of the tomato sauce.
A simple spaghetti with pesto sauce, and a light touch of oregano is best with Sauvignon Blanc. Add some mozzarella to the plate and try an Unoaked or lightly Oaked Chardonnay. A Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend or a Fume Blanc is a good option here too.
Complement the roasted garlic flavours with a buttery, Oaked Chardonnay or a rich Chardonnay Blend. In the red corner, serve a savoury Shiraz Grenache blend or a mature Cabernet Merlot blend.
Complement the rich tomato sauce with an Italian classic, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, or a Chianti DOC. A young Cabernet works well as does a ripe Shiraz.with lots of fruit on the palate with good acidity. Blends and moderately spicy Shiraz fit the bill well.
A sophisticated and food friendly wine like Pinot Grigio works well here, as does a crisp Riesling from Australia. An Unoaked Sauvignon Blanc is needed to cut through the ever present garlic. Pinot Noir as it is less tannic, is the most reliable red to go with seafood dishes.
Oaked Chardonnay has a heavier flavor (tannins) and would go better with spicy/strongly flavoured food. Italian reds, such as a Barolo or a Vintage Chianti to stand up to the taste of the sauce. A medium body Merlot would pair well. A full-bodied red like Zinfandel goes well with a red spicy sauce.
For dishes with creamy cheese sauces, stick to white unoaked varietals. The choice is wide, just make sure that they’re dry, with good acidity to cut through the cream. Sparkling wines are a good option – choose a Brut style.
Complement the roasted garlic flavours with a buttery, Oaked Chardonnay or a rich Gewurztraminer. In the red corner, serve a savoury Cabernet Shiraz blend or a mature Pinot Noir to give the food that extra dimension.
A ravioli filled with cheese and topped with tomato sauce certainly calls for a southern Italian red like Primitivo, or maybe a California Zinfandel. But a ravioli stuffed with shrimp and topped with sweet red or yellow pepper sauce would disappear under the weight of the red wine; this dish calls for a Gewurztraminer or Riesling.
This Tuscan-inspired dish is a favorite, and a Sangiovese will go well with this earthy dish, with its cracked pepper. Or pick a light and tasty, simple Italian red, such as Bardolino or Valpolicella. If your adding chillies why not try a full-bodied Zinfandel. White styles such as a rich, nutty Pinot Grigio are perfect, or maybe a fine Soave to complement the Parmesan.