For many of us, choosing a wine to serve with a meal is simply a choice between red or white. But if you want to be more selective, with so much choice available in either grape variety, and a confusing amount of technical and complex language used to describe the differences, picking the right wine can be a flavour minefield.  

To celebrate the growing range of quality wines available at your local convenience store, ready to be paired with our award winning fresh food, here’s our simple guide to food and wine pairing. Whether you have guests coming over for dinner, you’re serving up a romantic meal for two, or just looking for a wine to better accompany a meal for one, here we cut through the jargon and help make your choice that little bit easier.

*Please drink responsibly. Click here for the facts.*

 

How to Choose Wine: The Basics

The simplest way to pair wine with food is to try and marry up flavours and textures. But there aren’t any wines that taste like pork for example, and the texture of food and drink are very different (unless we’re talking soup!). Flavours and textures in wine are usually derived from a combination of characteristics. Here’s a quick summary of things to look out for when researching wines:

 

Weight – in the same way you can describe certain foods as rich or heavy, you can compare wines based on their weight. You may hear the term ‘full-bodied’ used, which refers to a heavy or rich wine, which tastes slightly thicker on the pallet as opposed to a light wine. Full-bodied wines have a higher concentration of grapes and alcohol content. In texture terms, as a guide, think of wines as milk: full fat milk as a full-bodied option, whilst skimmed milk is more in line with a light wine texture.

To pair with meals that have a range of ingredients and a thick sauce, such as a beef casserole, you’ll want to consider heavy, full-bodied wines. Full bodied wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Pinot Noir, while lighter wines include Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio.

 

 

Flavour Intensity – If the flavours of a wine are strong and bold, then as you’d expect, these are considered high intensity, while delicate flavours have a low intensity description. This is probably one of the easier things to consider when matching wine to food – you don’t want to overpower any subtle flavours of the food with bold flavours in the wine.

Delicate wines go well with the subtle flavours of seafood – for example a delicate rosé is a good wine to go with fish. However, if your fish is being served with a rich sauce, for example, if you are serving a paella, you will need a more intense wine such as a red Zinfandel.

 

Acidity – Many fruits, including grapes, have a natural acidity. Certain grapes used to make wine are more acidic and therefore produce a more acidic wine, which can vary depending on the age of the grapes used. An example of a highly acidic wine is Chardonnay. The acid needs to be neutralised (think back to your science classes and neutralising acids with alkalis).

You won’t want to pair any acidic wines with spicy flavours, but acidic wines can cut through greasy dishes or foods that include a lot of olive oil. An acidic chardonnay is an ideal wine to serve with pasta dishes, whether creamy sauces are present like a carbonara or greasy tomato based sauces such as a Bolognese.

 

Tannin – You may hear this term bandied about a lot in regard to red wine flavour. Tannin is a natural flavouring in red wine derived from the grape’s skin and storks which are included in the production. Tannin has a big impact on the flavour characteristics of the wine, it makes the wine taste more sharp and dry. Tannins dry out the mouth – that familiar tingling sensation in the tongue and gums you experience after drinking certain red wines is caused by tannins. They do a great job of cleansing the pallet and breaking down any greasy or fatty foods. Wines that are high in tannins also tend to be deeper in colour.

Highly tannic wine, such as Merlot, is an ideal wine to have with lamb. Lamb is naturally rich in fat and proteins which the tannins can cut through and cleanse the pallet, ready for the next mouthful.

 

 

What do certain wine descriptions mean?

If your wine pairing mission has taken you online to research the flavours of different wines, you will likely have come across some terms which have left you scratching your head. Here is a breakdown of some of the most common terms used to describe a wine’s flavour:

Fleshy – low level of acidity, purer grape flavour.

Full-bodied – thicker texture, more fruit and alcohol.

Hard – lots of tannins present, very tart or sharp flavour.

Length – the flavour lingers on the pallet long after being swallowed – often used as a measure of quality.

Oxidised – wine which has lost its freshness and tastes stale.

Rich – lots of bold fruit flavours present.

Soft – fruity and light, with a balanced level of acidity. Think ‘soft drink’ but with alcohol added.

Unctuous – a high concentration of fruit, low acidity, giving a smooth satisfying sweetness.

Viscous – refers to the texture, thick tasting, heavyweight as referenced above.

 

Food and Wine Pairing: Examples

Having given some extra insight into the complexity of wine flavours, it’s not quite so simple to now follow the rule of white wine with fish, and red wine with meat. Here we have picked out some popular food and wine pairings, based on texture and flavour interaction, which are readily available near you and could be tried at home tonight.

 

 

Red Wine Food Pairing

Malbec with Steak & Kidney Pie

Rich gravy, chunky beef and kidney served alongside earthy vegetables. Malbec is a smooth, fruity and full bodied red wine which is packed full of earthy dark fruits such as cherries and blackberries. The complementing characteristics are obvious, along with the contrast of sweet and rich savoury.

 

 

Merlot with Lamb Chops

Merlot contains tannins which break down proteins, so any fatty red meat is a natural pairing. Merlot is highly versatile, but it is also tart, so the almost sweet lamb meat is an ideal match. Lack of acidity in the wine leaves the way clear for some tangy mint sauce to be included, too.

 

 

White Wine Food Pairing

Chardonnay with Baked Cod

Highly acidic, Chardonnay needs neutral creamy flavours and light textures to complement. Baked cod is perfect with new potatoes and a parsley sauce. BUT it doesn’t work with every cod dish. If any batter or salt and acidic vinegar is included for example, steer away from acidic wines!

 

 

Pinot Grigio with Spaghetti Carbonara

Dry and acidic, Pinot is an ideal wine to serve with pasta in a creamy, mild sauce. The acid will cut through the cream and cleanse the pallet of its starchy coating.

 

 

Sauvignon Blanc with Sweet & Sour Chicken

Sauvignon is dry and almost savoury in taste, plus it’s lower in acidity than many whites and this opens the door to spice and Asian influence. Sweet and sour chicken is a perfect contrast to the savoury or ‘fleshy’ tone of Sauvignon.

This concludes our wine pairing ‘master-glass’. Food and wine pairing isn’t a dark art, but it does take some practice and appreciation for the complexities of wine and knowing when to contrast or complement the flavours and textures in food. Give it a go this evening and head to your local convenience store, where you’ll find a range of great deals on the wines featured above.