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6 Ways to Pair Food with Wine

A healthy mediterranean meal includes wine but which wine is best suited for particular dishes or styles of food.  Here are six ways to pair food with wine that will complement each other.  It’s fun to experiment and add new combinations to your favourite wines and dishes.

Matching the intensity of flavours of the wine with the intensity of flavours of the food is much more important that choosing red or white.  Just like a good marriage, it is important that neither the food nor the wine overwhelms the other so that you cannot appreciate the flavours of both.

1. Fish – If you choose a full flavoured fish like salmon or tuna, pairing it will a very light Pinot Blanc or light Macabeo will result in the delicate flavours of the wine being dominated by the fish.  Better going for a full bodied Chardonnay or a lighter style red such a young Tempranillo from Rioja or a Gamay form Beaujolais.

Meanwhile a lighter style of fish such as plaice or sea bass is much better suited to a Sauvignon Blanc or Albariño.

2. White Meat – Similarly if you choose lighter meats such as roast chicken or grilled pork these work really well with lighter style Pinot Noirs or Chianti as well as a rich new world Viognier or Gewurtztraminer.

3. Pepper – Several grapes like Garnacha from Calatayud or Grenache from the Rhone are noted for their  characteristic peppery aroma.  If you are cooking a steak or lamb chops the flavours will be richer  if you sprinkle some ground pepper on the food.

4. Spicy Dishes – Indian, Thai or other ethnic dishes work best with an off dry or slightly sweet wine like a German Riesling.   Another option is a Gewürztraminer from Alsace which has the natural acidity and tropical fruit flavours that combine really well.  Meanwhile if you pair spicy food with a full bodied tannic red wine it won’t work because the reaction between the wines tannins and the spices will exaggerate the bitterness.  You don’t have to take my word for it, try it and let me know if you agree.

5. Meaty Dishes – Red wines generally have more bitterness so a full bodied red such a Barolo from the Piedmont or a full bodied Pinot Noir from Oregon will have the tannins and structure to handle to oils and fat in the in a rich meat dish.

6. Sauces – pair the wine with the sauce rather than the meat.  Sauces will have oil, cream and fat which can dramatically change the foods compatibility with the wine.

A creamy cheese sauce needs a crisp acidic wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc or dry Riesling to cut through the fat. You could also choose an acidic read like a Barbera from northern Italy.

Try different combination and see for yourself which combinations work best.

Written by

I am a Northern Irishman based in Valencia. My career in wine began more than three decades ago, in London. I am the founder of TheWinePlace.es, an online store, where wine enthusiasts can enjoy a selection of international wines and Verde Marte, a company dedicated to exporting Spanish wines. Also, Thewineplace.courses, an "approved program provider" of the courses of the prestigious WSET. I share my passion for wines through my media work writing weekly columns for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and 5 Barricas, an online wine magazine.

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