Wine Pairing: Matching Food & Wine

Whether it’s a meal out in a restaurant, an important dinner party or just a lovingly home-cooked meal, matching food and wine can make your dining experience complete. Although there are many differences of opinion when it comes to exact matches for wine pairing, there are a few simple rules when wondering what wine to serve with your food. Once you have found your perfect wine pairing, don’t forget to keep your wine in perfect condition - for correct storage options, see the wine preservation options from Sub-Zero.


The right wine should compliment your chosen dish, and some wines contain characteristics which make them ideal partners for certain types of food. An example of this is the tannins found in red wines. These polyphenols add bitterness, astringency and complexity to red wine, and make it the ideal partner for steak - which offsets the dry feeling left in your mouth by the wine. If you prefer your steak leaner, be aware that there will be less fat to soften the stringency of the wine, so a wine with less tannin is a better choice. Another great tip for choosing a wine to compliment your steak is to consider how it is cooked and how the affects the meat. A well done steak can be drier and needs a juicy red, whilst a rarer piece of meat can be enhanced by an earthy wine.

A medium or full bodied red wine should be matched with a roast beef dinner. Try a Cabernet Sauvignon with a roast that has a wine based jus, and a Bordeaux or a Rioja with a traditional gravy accompaniment.


Chicken is known for being very versatile in dishes, and this also applies when it comes to pairing it with wine. Chicken can be served with red or white wine, and much of the decisions about wine will come from the sauce or flavour that the chicken has taken on. Chicken with a hint of lemon should be enjoyed with a light and dry white, a garlic flavoured chicken matches with a European chardonnay, and a herb infused chicken dish works well with a Tuscan red.

Chardonnay works particularly well with chicken, but also with turkey too.


Pairing wine with fish can be slightly trickier than with most other foods. This is because of the way that fish oils hang onto your taste buds, unlike meat. White wine is a great match with fish dishes, but fish can be split into four different categories that match well with certain types of white wine.

Flaky white fish like seabass and haddock are complemented by wines including Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, which compliment the delicate flavour of the fish. Medium textured fish, trout, skate and cod work well with White Rioja, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Dry Riesling.

More meaty fish, such as swordfish, tuna and monkfish, are suited to rich white and rosé wines like dry Rosé, dry Lambrusco and white Pinot Noir.

Anchovies, sardines, mackerel and other strongly flavored fish are well suited to Pinot Noir, Dry Rosé and Greek red wines.


Shellfish works best with a light and delicate white wine, to work with the light and delicate flavour of the food. Lobster can be enjoyed with a French white Burgundy or a Californian Chardonnay, or for a special occasion works equally well with Champagne. Prawns tend to suit either French or California Sauvignon Blanc, and also work particularly well with Albariño.


Roast lamb is best suited to red wine, such as a red Bordeaux, but it can also work well with a Rioja or a Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot. As lamb is a fatty meat, it needs the tannin from, red wine to cut through it - although a lighter dish like lamb kebabs would work well with a fruity new world wine.

Vegetable dishes

There isn’t one lead type of wine that matches with vegetable dishes, but there are some firm rules to follow to ensure a good pairing. Remember that the lighter the vegetables, the lighter the wine. So veg that has been either raw, boiled or steamed will crisp light whites or rosés. A good match for the sweeter flavours of roasted or caramelised vegetables is a light red like a beaujolais or an off-dry white such as a New Zealand pinot gris.

Mushroom dishes tend to work well with the Tempranillo grapes that make the fine wines of Rioja, while tomato based dishes go with wine made from the Barbera, an Italian red grape that produces a wine low in tannins and high acidity. A classic New Zealand sauvignon blanc matches the flavours of asparagus but cuts through the flavors of avocado - a great match with both.

Lentils and other pulses suit the same wines as red meat - so if you are serving beef alongside an Australian Shiraz or Argentinian Malbec, a lentil dish is a great choice for any vegetarian diners.

Dessert & wines

Picking a wine to pair with your dessert course is fairly easy - after all, when a wine is named as a dessert wine then you know you are fairly close to picking something good! However the easiest way to pick a great wine to match with you desert is to remember that  the darker your dessert is in colour, the darker the colour of the wine you serve alongside it should be.

Following that rule, a custard dessert with sweet vanilla flavours should be paired with a white wine like a late-harvest Riesling, a fruity and spiced dessert like an apple and cinnamon tart tatin goes well with white wines and pink champagne, and dark and buttery chocolate desserts work suit dark red wines and port.


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