Pairing wine and food is not always the easiest thing to do. Whether preparing a dinner for a special occasion or just a meal with friends, a wine and food pairing can be a challenge.
In restaurants, at least in the better ones, wine recommendations are usually made by a professional sommelier, someone who knows both the wine list and menu intimately. A trained and knowledgeable wine steward can turn what would have been a good dish on its own into a great foodie experience, a veritable symphony of flavours, with the simple addition of complementary wine.
Wine expert Gosia Young of Gosh! Wine Marketing says that, conversely, you can ruin a great meal with a bad wine pairing.
“Just like a great chef considers every element of their dish, so a great winemaker does the same when crafting their wine. Some delicate wines are destined for light, nuanced dishes while other, bigger wines can stand up to the boulder, and heartier fare. The intentions need to match up. The trick is knowing what type of wine pairs best with certain types of food.
“The simple rule of thumb dictates that light, more delicately flavoured food works better with lighter wines like white wine, rosé, or a light red such as a pinot noir. Likewise, heavier foods like red meat go wonderfully well with full-bodied red wines. This is because red wine has a higher tannin content than white wine and the astringency of the tannins helps cut through the fat in the meat, acting as a palate cleanser. The fattier the meat – like sirloin or rib-eye – the bolder you can go with the wine choice,” says Young.
Some wine lovers prefer white wine, even with a meat dish, and for those who do, a “bridging” wine like the aptly named De Toren Délicate, which is said to “combine red’s seductiveness with the undeniable drinkability of white”, could be the perfect compromise, she says.
De Toren’s cellar master, Charles Williams, says the right wine can help accentuate dominant flavours when paired with the right dish. Williams says there is no doubt that wine has many characteristics, and it’s also important to note that each variety of grape yields certain olfactory and taste sensations. Ultimately, understanding what traits each varietal of grape typically exhibits will help you to fit the appropriate wine to certain dishes.
Durban Country Club executive chef Xanthos Giannakopoulos shares his pairing suggestions below:
- For venison and lamb, work around shiraz, pinotage, and some blends
- Beef – cabernet
- Fish – chardonnays, sauvignon blanc, and white blends
- Pork – blanc de noir
- Spicy – gewürztraminer
- Dessert– fortified wines
- Cheese – fortified wines