Mastering the (easy) art of wine and food pairing

wineEveryone loves wine. Everyone loves food. So what could be better than having wine and food together? Not much, except inviting friends around to witness your superb wine and food pairing abilities.

Don’t have wine and food pairing abilities? You will by the time you get to the end of this article.

Just remember: The essential principle of food and wine pairing is to match the intensity of flavours so that neither overpowers the other.

Bold red

You need a dish that won’t falter in the presence of a bold red like cabernet sauvignon, shiraz or zinfandel, which explodes with flavour.

For example, the fattiness of rich, marbled meats go wonderfully with the robust tannins of a bold red. Also, think about fillet mignon, lamb chops and spicy Indian curry. Don’t shy away from vegetarian options though like grilled aubergines and portabello mushrooms, which also pack a flavourful punch.

Medium red

Medium-bodied reds like merlot, softer shiraz or medium-bodied pinotage are distinguished by their more silky tannins and round, smooth taste.

They are versatile wines for pairing, but to give you an idea, consider leaner cuts of meat, cured meats, roasted foods, heavy pastas, stews and hearty vegetable soups. Lamb is also great with medium red wines because they have a delicate texture and flavor which can sometimes be lost with the bolder reds.

Light red                        

Light red wines include pinot noir, cinsaut, lighter Pinotage and grenache. They are delicate with bright acidity, light tannins and red fruit flavours.

Their subtle flavours should not be over-powered by the meal, so aim for lighter meats like poultry and pork, or delicate red meats like veal. You can also pair them with mushroom risotto, coq au vin, and creamy chicken pasta.


Rosé comes in many forms, from light- to full-bodied, which makes it difficult to give an umbrella principle of how to pair it. Nonetheless, many foodies think of rosé as the pairing wine because it pairs so well with so many dishes.

Lighter rosés go well with salads and seafood, while your more robust wines can stand up to heavier meat dishes, like pork and poultry.

Rich white

Rich white wines, like oaked chardonnay, sémillon, gewürztraminer and viognier, usually have a buttery, velvety feel, and have the taste of ripe fruit.

A rich, creamy wine needs an equally rich, creamy partner. Think oaky chardonnay with buttery lobster.  You can also try other shellfish, tarragon chicken, creamy soups and pastas, and richer fish like salmon, sturgeon and swordfish.

Tip: If you want to do a cheese and wine platter, soft cheeses pair well with rich white wine.

Light white

Light white wines like chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio are acidic, clean, refreshing and zesty. Light white wines need to be paired with a dish that won’t take away from its delicate flavour. Good bets are sushi, seafood, green salads and light chicken dishes. Particularly zesty and acidic wines, like sauvignon blanc, go well with a tangy citrus seasoning.

This should give you a general idea of how food and wine pairing works. It can get very technical and complicated depending on who you ask, but the basic thing to remember is not to let the one over-power the other.

If you want to dig deeper into the art of wine and food pairing, pay close attention to the descriptions of the wine. For example, if you browse for wine online, you should be able to access descriptive blurbs of the wine in question. You can then look at one of the flavours, and try to find a way to enhance that with the dish. For example, a red wine with a ‘smoky’ taste, like some pinotages, will go great with grilled meat because it will bring out that smokiness.

If you just want to enjoy a good pairing though, then the above tips should be enough to ensure a good combination of tantalising flavours, while impressing your friends of course.