Wine and Food Pairing – 10 Points ©

The 10 most important points for wine and food pairing:

  • Match Weight with Weight: Balance the weight of the wine with the weight of the food. Aim to balance so neither overwhelm the other. Bold, spicy dishes match best with full-bodied and big flavour wines. Powerful Shiraz is good with robust braai and game meats. Remember sauces too.
  • Match Quality with Quality: Pair great with great, humble with humble. Match the quality of your wine with that of the food. A fillet steak deserves a decent Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz or Pinotage. These wines would also pair with a burger – Pinotage, especially – but choose an average or commercial wine.
  • To Like or to Contrast? Traditionally, wine and food are of equal importance (‘horizontal’ pairing). They complement and mirror each other. Tannic Cabernet Sauvignon matches a rich lamb roast; Viognier goes with ethnic, mild chicken korma; port pairs with stilton. Another philosophy is that ‘opposites attract’ (‘vertical’ pairing). A wine is chosen to show off the food, or vice versa. An example would be to serve an acidic Sauvignon Blanc with seafood in a smooth, creamy sauce.
  • Choose Flexible Wines if Unsure: Wines with high acidity (Sauvignon Blanc, dry Riesling or Pinot Noir) cleanse the palate. They pair well with simple foods and a wide range of dishes.
  • Pair Salt with Sweet: Saltiness contrasts deliciously with sweetness. Many sweet and sour dishes pair well with off-dry or semi-sweet wines, such as Riesling or even Rosé. Many cheese and wine pairings match salty cheese with sweet wine.
  • Match Fruit with Fruit: Many dishes contain fruit in them or with them. Think duck with orange, pork and apple sauce, or chicken with cranberry sauce. Fruity and floral wines pair well with these – Viognier, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Colombard.
  • Match Salt with Acidity: Acidic wines pair well with salty foods. Many Asian dishes containing soy sauce go well with high-acid wines like Riesling. Brut MCC is a classic with smoked salmon.
  • Combine Fatty Food with Powerful Wines: Fatty meats, or dishes with butter, or cream need rich, structured, and concentrated wines. Tannin in a well-structured red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot) stands up to the meat – which, in turn, softens the tannin. Pair richness with richness too, as is often with French cuisine.
  • Delicious Umami: Umami (savoury), the 5th taste, brings deliciousness to foods. Umami-rich foods such as certain cheeses, soy sauce, and mushrooms make an ordinary dish exciting. Wine, when paired well, can have the same effect. Cabernet Sauvignon lifts a good steak.
  • Tricky Desserts: Matching wine with sweet desserts can be difficult. Wines can become dull and lose character with sweeter dishes. Pair a sweeter wine with a not-so-sweet dessert (one with nuts or fruit). Red Muscadel or even brandy is the best match for chocolate.

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