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.
Serve mature red wines with beef steak, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Blends – they dont mind mustard. Peppered steak which sometimes is served with a powerful sauce needs big reds, actually huge reds to counteract the weight of the beef. A big red peppery, Shiraz will do the trick here, as well as a Cabernet Shiraz Blend or a complex Cabernet Sauvignon.
Ripe, full – bodied, or savoury reds ( Shiraz, good quality Cabernet, weighty Pinot Noir ) are good with beef casseroles that are packed with vegetables and savoury, herby flavours. With casseroles or stews, choose low tannin, lighter reds such as Merlot, or a ripe, well – structured Chardonnay.
Serve mature red wines with roast beef, particularly reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Merlot Blends. Younger, fruity styles, with less tannin, are good for those who prefer their beef cooked in the traditional manner. ( especially if their is Yorkshire Pud on the plate !! ).
If the food is braised in a red wine, usually the same wine is a great match for the food. Red Burgundy and Malbecs a good partners for dishes such as Beef Bourguignon.
A gamy or high flavoured dish, like Osso Bucco generally needs a big, full bodied wine to go with it. For example, an Amarone has an extraordinary jammy/berry flavour wrapped in a velvet glove which can keep up with the flavours of the Osso Bucco. A Brunello di Montalcino would also be a great partner. Whereas the Amarone approaches from the sweet berry/jammy side, the Brunello would offer rich tannins surrounded by plummy/berry and vanilla flavours. Experienced wine drinkers would also enjoy a big, earthy Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Where the braised dish has a lot of peppery-spice, a red Zinfandel, with it’s spicy fruit approach would also work well.
A common Japanese dish, sashimi, is raw seafood served thinly sliced with traditional condiments such as grated white radish, wasabi, or ginger, and ponzu sauce. Applying a twist to this time-tested recipe, replace seafood with Piedmontese beef strip loin, searing it in a hot oiled pan and then slicing thinly. To complement this updated dish appropriately, pair it with an old world wine, preferably red wine from the Loire Valley, France, such as Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Gamay.
Choose light, fresh, medium – bodied and fruity reds, especially Merlot led blends. ie: Where Merlot has the greater percentage, such as Merlot based Bordeaux.
Beef marinated and served in rich wine sauces, can accomodate big, actually huge rich reds, mature Cabernet and Shiraz, alone and Blended varietals. As the sauce becomes richer and fuller, the wine will need to keep up as well.
The basic rules apply, however eliminate the Merlot as a contender and add some full wines such as Chateauneuf-du-Pape into the mix as possible options. If you are not familiar to this wine, stick with the better known ones, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Shiraz and Zinfandel.
Good rounded Chardonnay or Semillon Chardonnay blends work well with simple grilled beef burgers. Medium – bodied, fruity light reds such as Merlot / Cabernet Merlot Blends are good with BBQ beef burgers. Add buns, onions, relishes and load with cheese, serve these, or young, sweet fruited, low – tannin Shiraz and Shiraz Cabernet Blends.
If the Beef is in an acidic sauce (such as a tomato or vinegar based sauce) then you should generally seek out a wine with enough acid to to keep up with the natural acids in the food.(Match acids with acids)
Another good rule of thumb is that foods go well with the wines they grew up with. So if you are in doubt, for example, you’re eating Italian food you may want to look to an acidic Italian wine.
Chianti is one wine that usually has sufficient flavour to keep up with the Beef and with the acidity from the grapes to keep up with the sauce with lots of tomatoes and peppers. Barbera and Sangiovese varietals are also good contenders.
Eastern foods can be difficult to pair with wine. The often use very distinct, spicy flavours which clash with the wine. A few ideas would be an off dry Gewurztraminer or Riesling would be a good match for spicy or highly flavoured Chinese, Indian or Thai inspired dishes. The sugars in these wines help smooth out the spices in the food. The Gewurztraminer also has a spicy-raciness that would match the food.
If you are enjoying milder food, such as a Japanese beef dish, think about the main characteristics of it’s flavour, our contender would be a Pinot Gris.
If prepared in a rich, savoury manner, such a a wild mushroom sauce, lean toward a Barolo, Brunello de Montalcino, Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, or prehaps even an Cotes du Rhone.
If prepared in an acidic dish, such as Veal Scallopini, lean toward a Chianti, Nebbiolo or Rioja.
The cut of meat and its flavouring can have more of an impact on the pairing than does the cooking method. But grilled beef is an exception—it’s different from seared or roasted meat because it packs more intense flavour. Balance the grill’s intensity by serving a rich, tannic red. Especially with a grilled New York strip. Stay away from sweet or fruity flavourings with beef—their sweetness will flatten the flavours of a dry red wine.
(In case your not familiar with tannins, they are similar to what you taste when you drink from a cup of tea which has had a a teabag sitting in it too long. That mouth puckering flavour comes from both the grapes and the wood barrels the wine has aged in and – when provided in balance – provides a great flavour and helps cleanse your palate)
Choices here are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Red Bordeaux. A Zinfandel or Shiraz are especially appropriate when the dish has some spice to it.
Leaner cuts like filet do best with aged reds or wines that are less tannic. Richer cuts with a higher fat content, like a rib-eye steak, can stand up to a more concentrated and tannic red.
Roast tenderloin is a lean cut, so it’s a perfect companion for a red whose tannins have softened a bit from aging. Bordeaux is a great choice, as are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from California or Australia. And don’t overlook Spain or Italy.
Prime rib is richer, and it’s delicious served with a younger or more tannic Barbera or Cabernet-based wine or a more robust Merlot, Bordeaux, or Bordeaux-style blend.
Pan-seared filet is great paired with a moderately tannic red like Merlot or a medium- weight Australian Shiraz. The fruit in these wines is lovely with the filet’s browned, caramelized crust, and their tannins won’t overwhelm a lean cut of meat.
Brisket, short ribs and other stew meats are usually cooked slowly for a long time. The sinewy cuts break down and take on big, rich flavor. I like Rhône blends —the robust tannins, herbal notes, and earthiness of young Grenache-based wines like Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas work beautifully with the rich flavors.