Wine and food have been an essential pairing throughout time. It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, being able to share a refreshing glass of wine with delicious food is a great way to celebrate, bond and just enjoy good company. Knowing how to pair the right food and wine to make a stellar combination is an art, but it’s perfectly possible to learn the basics and enhance your meal and wine both. Today, Louisvale Wines is here to walk you through the basics of pairing wine with food- you’ll be an expert in no time!
What does pairing even mean, though?
Just like you may love pizza and you may love Mamma’s homemade stew, but you’d never put the two on the same dish, there’s great wines and great foods that just don’t taste great together. On the other hand, finding exactly the right wine to bring out the depth and taste of your favourite meal can enhance both, and create a taste sensation like nothing else. The art of wine pairing simply means matching up the characteristics of the dish and the characteristics of the wine to enhance each other’s flavour profiles and create a super special meal.
Is pairing hard to learn? What’s the basics?
At the heights of pairing, you can get so specialised you look to pair exact vintages with gourmet 5-star meals. Both wine and food can have such depth of flavour and special hints that you can truly make it a hobby and an art. But it’s not necessary to go that far day to day! With just a few easy basics under your belt, you’ll already be well on the way to understanding how to pair wine and food in just the right way to impress guests and enjoy the meal.
If you’re eager to get pairing, here’s some basic rules to help:
- Your wine should, generally, be more acidic than the food, and usually also sweeter
It should, however, have the same intensity of flavour as the food
- Red wines do well with bold, deep flavours like red meats
- White wines pair best with ‘light’ intensity flavours like fish and chicken
- ‘Earthy’ or ‘bitter’ wines balance fatty meals
- Despite those guidelines, match your wine to your sauce as priority, not your meat
As a rule of thumb, white, sparkling or rosé wines create contrast with a dish, while red wines make a congruent pairing with the dish.
In a beautiful country like South Africa, it’s always worth giving a little thought to the weather you’ll be hosting in, too. Light, bright wines make the perfect accompaniment to lunchtime snacks in the sun, while colder winters warrant heavier dishes and darker wines.
What are some classic pairings I should know?
If you’re still feeling a little confused, then why not try out some of these classic pairings to get a feel for things?
For those that love their white wine but don’t like sweetness (think Pinot Grigo and Sauvignon Blanc), why not try out a white fish dish with succulent roast veggies? Sweeter white wines like Moscato and Riesling pair well with cheese, both soft and hard, cured meats and some desserts, so they often go well with platters. Louisvale’s beloved Chardonnay’s are a fuller white wine with a richer flavour profile. This makes them perfect for pairing with rich fish like trout and salmon, chicken and ‘fattier’ poultry like turkey or duck. Creamy sauces also work beautifully with Chardonnay.
Drier red wines like Pinot Noir also complement cured meats, rich fish and root veggies, as well as bringing out the zing in mushrooms. Once we go to medium reds like Merlot, start thinking about red meat. ‘Light’ meals like steak or burger pair up beautifully. Heavier reds are often a rarity at formal dinners, because of their powerful punch, but are inevitably paired with fatty, heavy red meat dishes if they do feature.
Let’s not neglect to mention classic ‘dessert’ wines like port and sherry. These can be drunk on their own at the end of a meal for those not in the mood for actual dessert, or paired with sweet treats like cake, creme brulee or tarts. For lighter desserts like sorbet or fruit, you can get a little adventurous with lighter red wines like a fresh rose.
With the right food and wine, you can elevate any meal to something truly special. While all rules are made to be broken, and we also encourage you to experiment with your pairings to find your own special matches, with these basic wine pairing guidelines under your belt, you’ll always make your functions shine. And remember, the Louisvale Wine team are always on hand to help you make the very best of our wines, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help and suggestions.