Successful Food and Wine Pairing

Our guest feature this Spring is from Kelly Blacklock a local wine connoisseur and event organiser.
Find out more about Kelly and her upcoming wine tasting events at

Great food and great wine are synonymous with good time. However, do you always need to choose red wine with meat and white with fish? Not these days, you don’t! If you fancy being adventurous and trying something new here are a few tips:

Sweet foods: select a wine with at least the same level, or preferentially a higher level, of sweetness than the dish. Sweet wines you might like to try include Sauternes, a French sweet wine made from grapes affected by the fungus Botrytis cinerea (also known as noble rot). The fungus damages the grape skin, causing it to become partially raisined and yielding a concentrated and distinctively flavoured golden wine (apricots, honey peached and nuts, sweet yet balanced by high acidity) which is wonderful with fruit based desserts or a maple-glazed pork belly. If you want a red for your savoury-but-sweet dish, try an off-dry or medium- sweet wine (e.g. a northern Italian Amarone).

Umami in food: Umani is the term that describes deliciousness, savouriness or meatiness and the artificial form is MSG (think Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, Marmite). It is predominant in foods such as tomatoes, cheeses, asparagus or mushrooms. When selecting your accompanying wine for an umami-rich food, avoid those that are high in tannins because your huge, full-bodied red may now taste bitter and metallic. Instead, select a wine that has concentrated fruit flavours, low alcohol, crisp acid and slight sweetness. For example, why not try an off-dry Riesling, with zesty acidity and stone fruit aromas and flavours, or a tangy Eden Valley Viognier with tastes of apricot and pear. For red wines, look no further than the Italians, with generations of experience perfectly pairing umami- rich toppings of juicy tomatoes and mushrooms with the flagship wine of Tuscany, Chianti.

Acid in food: choose a wine that has relatively high acidity levels, otherwise your high-acid food may make it seem flat and flabby. Spanish Albarino is high in acid, vibrant and fruity, often with a nice salinity that makes it instantly refreshing. Alternatively, try a crisp, dry New Zealand or Bordeaux Sauvignon blanc for citrus and green flavours of apple, grass, bell peppers and nettles. If you’d prefer a red, try a high acid Pinot Noir from a cold region (e.g. Oregon, Finger Lakes or Burgundy), or a fragrant lightly chilled (yes, chilled!) Beaujolais from Burgundy, with flavours of fresh strawberries, cherries, kirsch, bananas and raspberries.

Salt in food: Salt is a wine-friendly component of food that enhances a wines fruit character and softens astringency. Saltiness in food is a great contrast to acidity in wine: Smoked salmon with Champagne, Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese and Chianti, or Asian dishes with high acid, off-dry Riesling. Alternatively, salty food goes well with sweet wines or those with a spicy-sweet flavour (e.g. a dry Gewurtztaminer with rose petal and lychee aromas). Try to avoid high tannin red wines because the salt can emphasise the tannins, often to an unpleasant level.

Bitterness in food:Sensitivity to bitterness varies between individuals and generally bitter flavours are additive. Bitterness in wine comes from tannins (from the grape skin or the oak barrels in which the wine is matured) and high tannin reds include Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Nebbiolo. The most famous friend of tannins is red meat, the proteins in which will counterbalance the harsh wine tannins. So, when you’re next planning a charcoal-grilled steak, reach for the king of reds, a full-bodied, tannic Cabernet Sauvignon with its deep berry flavours and hints of spice and cedar.

Chilli heat in food:Chilli heat increases the burning effect of alcohol in wine and decreases the fruitiness and richness. Pair your curry or chilli with a low alcohol, fruity off-dry wine, such as a Californian Zinfandel, German Reisling or even Champagne.

Pairing with cheese:You are able to pair your cheese selections with wines based on the general rules above, but a fun experiment is to buy a soft cheese (Brie or Camembert), a hard cheese (Comte or Cheddar) and a salty cheese (Roquefort or Stilton) and compare tastes with a Chardonnay, a Port, a Sauternes and a Cabernet Sauvignon. In short, you’ll probably find that your Brie goes best with the Chardonnay, Comte with Cabernet Sauvignon and Stilton with Port and Sauternes. This makes pairing impossible without resorting to several bottles at once, which in the case of wine and cheese, isn’t necessarily the worst case scenario.

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