Which wine goes best with certain foods?

If you are hosting a dinner party and not sure which wine to serve, read our comprehensive guide on the grape varieties that pair well with certain food. You'll be sure to impress your diners and tempt their palettes with your knowledge and expertise.

There are a few basic rules for food and wine pairing that you should be aware of before selecting your chosen tipple. First of all, the wine should be sweeter than the food. Sweeter wines such as Riesling and Moscato compliment spicy dishes well. Don't pair bitter food with a wine that is high in tannin, instead pair with foods that have a higher fat content. Your wine should also have a higher acidity than the food, and avoid serving white wine with red meats.

Red Wine

Shiraz

The syrah, also known as Shiraz, comes from the same grape and is a full bodied wine that varies in taste depending on country. In France, it is has a spicy taste with tones of cracked black pepper where as an Australian Shiraz has more of a fruity berry taste. It comes with a high alcohol percentage so is best eaten with hearty meals such as a beef stew. The alcohol content in this wine also means that you should avoid pairing with spicy food.

  • Food pairings: Barbecued and grilled red meats, beef stew, rare steak, and soft creamy cheeses such as camembert.

Merlot

Merlot is a smooth, medium to full bodied wine with tones of black cherry, plum, raspberry, chocolate and tobacco. This is a bold tasting wine so avoid pairing it with anything too light. This is also another wine to stay away from when eating hot and spicy foods because of the high alcohol volume.

  • Food pairings: Cheeseburgers, lasagne, tomato based pasta dishes, roasted duck, beef wellington, steak in a red wine sauce and lamb chops.

Malbec

A dry, medium to full bodied red, Malbec has notes of blackberry, plum, tobacco and cherry. Deep red in colour and with a deep texture, this wine goes well with leaner cuts of red meat. It is high in tannins and has a smooth silky finish.

  • Food pairings: Lean cuts of beef and lamb, steak, pork chops, roast duck, pasta with light creamy sauces and parmesan cheese.

Pinot Noir

A Pinot Noir is bright red in colour and is a rustic wine with an earthy flavour. With tones of cranberry, cherry, raspberry and plum, this goes particularly well with mushroom dishes such as mushroom risotto or with earthy and smoky flavoured herbs and spices.

  • Food pairings: Grilled salmon, Japanese dishes, anchovies, herring, mackerel and mullet, beef bourguignon, duck, pheasant and mushroom dishes.

Grenache

Grenache is a medium to full wine with a mix of fruits and a cinnamon flavour. Don’t be mistaken by the almost translucent colour, this wine is strong in flavour with varying volumes of alcohol depending on where the grape was grown. The Spanish variety is full of spice with a high volume whereas the French form is low alcohol with herbal tones including oregano, tobacco and lavender.

  • Food pairings: Grilled meats, stews, game, tomato based pasta dishes and mild cheeses such as Gouda and mild cheddars.

Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine has varied flavours depending on where it is produced but generally it is a full-bodied wine with flavours of dark berries and savoury tastes including black pepper and tobacco. It’s aged in oak with notes of blackcurrant, cassis, blackberries and cherries. Full of tannins, this wine pairs well with food high in fat and protein.

  • Food pairings: Grilled red meats, stews, hard or rich cheeses, roasted meats, creamy sauces, walnuts, grilled tuna, venison, and beef stew.

Tempranillo

Tempranillo is a medium-bodied savoury tasting wine with flavours of leather, tobacco and clove as well as cherries. It is a mild and smooth wine with tannin that lingers in your mouth after drinking.

  • Food pairings: Mexican food, mature hard cheese, chorizo, salami, lasagne, pizza and dishes with tomato-based sauces.

Zinfandel

A red Zinfandel, lighter in colour than a lot of other red wines, is a bold and flavourful wine with notes of blueberry, cherry, plum, cranberry, citrus, liquorice and black pepper. It is a fruity wine that finishes with a hint of spice. This is a particularly sweet wine that accompanies spicy food extremely well.

  • Food pairings: Tomato based pasta, pizza, pork, spicy sausage, beef, duck and spicy foods particularly Mexican.

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White Wine

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is a wine of varying tastes, from heavy and rich to light and fruity or even an oaky taste. It all depends on where the wine was produced. The grapes grown in a colder environment will produce a wine with flavours of apples, pears, peaches and apricots whereas those from a warmer climate have the taste of tropical fruits such as pineapple and mango.

  • Food pairings: Chicken, pork or pasta in a creamy sauce, a mild curry, creamy vegetable soup, fish pie, vegetable risotto. Soft cheeses.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a crisp, dry white wine with grassy flavouring. It ranges in flavour and can be quite a zesty wine. With tones of lime, green apple, kiwi, peach and nectarine as well as gooseberry, basil, jalapeño, grass and tarragon. The herby taste to this wine means it complements dishes made with green herbs including parsley, rosemary and basil. The acidity is high meaning that this wine also pairs well with vegetarian dishes high in fat.

  • Food pairings: Sole, oysters, scallops, shellfish, clams, trout, cod, halibut, sushi, green salads, goats cheese, chicken, and pork.

Semillon

Semillon varies in taste depending on the ripeness. Riper fruits including mango and papaya are found when the wine is made in warmer climates which also produces a high alcohol volume. In colder climates when it is less ripe, there are more citrus flavours including flavours of lemon, lime and grapefruit. It will also have a lower alcohol volume. Semillon pairs well with aromatic yet not too spicy dishes.

  • Food pairings: Clams, mussels, pasta salad, oysters, fresh crab, smoked salmon, smoked trout, lobster, seafood risotto, satay chicken, roast gammon and scallops.

Moscato

Most commonly, the Muscat grape is found in the sweet and sparkling wine, Moscato d’Asti. With tones of apricot, peach, nectarine, orange, rose, jasmine and caramel and with a low alcohol volume, this makes the Moscato an ideal wine to serve with desserts. It also works well with spicy foods due to the sweetness.

  • Food pairings: Desserts, appetizers, fruit, nuts, trout, oysters, shrimp, clams, lobster, spicy Asian food, salads and glazed ham.

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio also known as Pinot Gris is a zesty dry wine high in acidity. With flavours of lime, green apple, pear, lemon and nectarine, it pairs well with Thai or spicy Chinese food. It also compliments lights meals, raw fish and fresh vegetables.

  • Food pairings: Tomatoes, mozzarella, buttery and creamy sauces, tuna tartar, oysters, mussels, clams, scallops, sea bass, sole, haddock, trout, cod, salads and ricotta.

Gewürztraminer

The main flavour in a Gewürztraminer is Lychee, however in higher quality varieties, you will also taste tones of red grapefruit, rose petal and ginger. Other flavours also include pineapple, peach, apricot, orange, honey, ginger, incense and cinnamon. It a sweet wine similar to Moscato but with a higher alcohol volume and less acidity. It pairs well with dishes that are aromatic and spiced with cayenne pepper, ginger, turmeric, madras curry and clove.

  • Food pairings: Asian food, pork, non-spicy sausages, pork chops, roast ham, turkey, duck, quiche and fruity desserts.

Riesling

Riesling is a sweet, light and fresh wine that is high in acidity. There are dry varieties available however it is primarily a sweet wine with flavours of apricot, peach, apple, pear, lime, honeycomb and nectarine. It pairs nicely with spicy foods because of its sweet taste and high acidity.

  • Food pairings: Tuna, salmon, eel, white meat, spicy dishes, salsa/chutneys, sweet potatoes, sweetcorn, parsnips, Chinese, sea bass, trout, and duck.

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