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Gentle Guide ➺ Food & Wine Pairings

There are few things in life that hit so many pleasure points as a perfect pair. Two favourite things, smooshed together, both lifted and lovely in their union. 

The art or science of pairing food to wine is one weighted in your favour; food loves wine, and wine loves food. Odds of finding a match that works, high. 

Knowing a few simple principles can take your wine-pairing game from good to great, whether you’re just looking to elevate your own at-home dining, make better choices when ordering out, or curating a fully paired, multi-course extravaganza.

For every rule there’s a convincing exception, but bear the following in mind.

THE GUIDE

GO WEIGHT FOR WEIGHT
As a general rule, richer, full-flavoured dishes call for more/fuller bodied, substantial wines. Lighter, delicate fare will be appreciated when it doesn’t have to compete with anything too overpowering. Don’t lose your subtle wine in the dish.

MATCH DOMINANT FLAVOURS FIRST
You’ll read a lot of advice around which wines marry which proteins, ie. red wine with beef. It’s important not to apply these rules carte blanche and rather, consider which ingredient or flavour dominates a dish.

A rich, peppery pot roast might well call for the tannin and strong flavour of a bodied red, but rare beef, thinly sliced, through a herbaceous, brightly dressed Thai salad? We’d prescribe a dry rosé or any acid-led Riesling any day.

If a dressing, sauce, vegetable or preparation offers a more prominent flavour note, tune into this and match wine accordingly.

CONGRUENCE OR COMPLEMENTS

Do you want your food and wine to sing in harmony, or for one to enhance the other with a clear counterpoint? There’s no wrong answer here, only two approaches to play with.

A creamy, buttery Chardonnay might work stunningly next to rich, fatty salmon in a cream sauce, with rounder, richer notes ‘in congruence’ with one another.

A contrasting, complementary approach might bring in a more delicate, high acid white like a Chenin Blanc to cut through fat and richness, refreshing the palate with each sip. Neither right or wrong, just different.

CONSIDER CUSINE CLASSICS
It’s not coincidence, nor lazy matching, that means you’ll see Chianti across the wine lists of many an osteria, Cab Sav congregating in steakhouses, and Chablis sloshing wherever the oysters are. The tried and tested matches are classics for a reason; take cues and riff on them. 

STAND UP TO SPICE
Most rely upon a crisp larger when spooning a peppery bowl of noodles or a crisp salad tingling with chilli. It’s a good move, but not the only one. There are plenty of wines that work alongside a spicier plate or bowl. 

Orange wine and its slinky texture has both the weight and gusto to bump shoulders with fresh chilli. Rather than taming the heat, it stands up to it. Its rounder body and warm spiced palate match the bolder flavours of an alluring curry and punchy Thai salad alike. 

And if orange isn’t your colour tinge, look to anything with residual sugar and a backbone of acid, say an off-dry riesling, to stand up to the heat. 


“Food loves wine, and wine loves food. Odds of finding a match that works; high.”

Perfect Pairing Inspiration

Papaya salad

Any Thai salad with its zingy chilli, pungent fish sauce with its salty punch, vibrant lime and a bunch of herbs is a bold dish to stand up to. But an orange wine with its weighty texture and bold aromas has enough gusto to bump shoulders and make a match. The perfect pairing here is found with acidity, sweetness and texture.

Crab Linguine

At its core, crab's flavour profile is delicate, salty and fresh. Its pairing need not overpower the delicate nature of the dish, but a wine that speaks through vibrancy and freshness. It needs enough texture to carry the dish, as well as enough freshness so as not to disrupt a delicate balance of flavours. Something to lift the crab on a pedalstool.

Hot chips and chicken

Takeaway comfort — rotisserie chicken and piping hot chips dredged in salt. This indelicate finger food lends itself to chilled red. A vibrant, juicy and low tannin wine with plenty of fruit and crunchiness to see you through to the bottom of the bag. Here, we need enough acid that refreshes your palate after each bite. Crunchy grenache or a textural chardonnay should do the trick. 

Chinese BBQ

Fatty, salty and spiced. Let the BBQ be bold and the wine take the back seat here. Overordering is unavoidable and tends to result in a table full of steaming plates you can’t quite fit. Here, an adaptable variety that pairs with everything - from the fragrant tea-smoked duck to the garlicky green beans - is essential. Something robust and plush, with a lick of acid.