Sommeliers Guide to Pairing Wine with Food

Finding a suitable wine to compliment a meal is one of the greatest tasks in the culinary landscape, and believe it or not,  it’s not as foreboding as one might think. 

Here are some basic steps to follow if you are beginning to pair a wine with the delicacies on your plate. 

What do you  FEEL like drinking?

First and most importantly, What do you FEEL like drinking?

It doesn't matter if traditional French cuisine dictates Aligote should be served with your dover sole fillet, if you are in the mood for a big bold red wine then that is a very important consideration. After all, it’s you, who is doing the eating and drinking.  

Your mood, the weather, even the company you keep all factor into your mindset in deciding what you feel like drinking, so first, ask yourself. What do I feel like? 

This is the perfect place to start. 

Consider the cuisine

Secondly, consider the cuisine and the major flavours that make up that cuisine. 

Thai cuisine relies heavily on fresh herbs and spices like ginger, garlic and chilli. 

French cuisine on the other hand utilises butter, shallots, salt and creamy elements. 

Mexican cuisine makes use of ground spices like cumin, fresh chilli, coriander and lime. 

You can choose to highlight or contrast these, for example you might like to choose a cool and refreshing white to compliment the fresh herbs in Thai cuisine or contrast it with a smooth bodied red wine like Pinot Noir. There is always more than one option for a suitable wine choice. 

Consider the protein

Don’t forget to consider the protein and the way it's cooked. Fried chicken versus creamy chicken casserole play out quite differently. 

A good general rule is the lighter the protein the wine with more subtle and detailed nuances can be detected, the richer and denser the protein the more tannins and astringency it can handle. 

For example a delicate fillet of poached salmon might work well with an elegant Sauvignon Blanc or cool climate Chardonnay and a Spiced and roasted lamb loin would work with a richer South Australian Shiraz or GSM blend. 

What grows together goes together

Remember the saying ‘what grows together goes together’

Think about what wines might come from the region the dish originates from. Often the type of food of the region makes a lot of sense with the type of wines in close proximity. Seasonal fluctuations affect the type of dishes that are possible to make in any one place and the selection of beverages available on the same table. 

It also tells a good story, one of the culture of a place and the people that inhabit it.

So if you are eating a Valenciana paella with rabbit and chorizo it makes sense to look for a Monastrell or local Garnacha to sit beside it.  


Finally, don't be afraid of trial and error, I mean what's the worst that can happen? You have to open a different bottle, ah shuck damn. The art of food and wine matching is one of experimentation, if you are adventurous you just might discover the next best combination. 

Eat, drink and repeat. That's a motto to live by.