Wine pairing 101


The world of wine often feels out of reach and overly complicated. Which is why many wine lovers rely on sommeliers to help them pick out the perfect wine to complement a meal. But is it really as hard as it seems? Do you need to know about tannins, body, balance, and acid? Not if you follow a few easy tips to help you pair wines with your food.

Pick a wine you like on its own
The worst thing you can do is spend a lot of money on a bottle of wine and then try to make it match what you’re making. The task of selecting a wine can be a daunting one, so don’t try to pick the most expensive bottle of wine and then try to base your meal around it. If the wine is good and stands on its own, chances are it will go well with your meal.

Think balance
As you’re planning your meal, think of the balance of flavours. Are you cooking game, red meat, or a rich stew? Then you probably want to pair it with something that has the strength to stand up next to those bold flavours. Red wines are typically a safe bet when it comes to anything red meat. If you’re serving up a beautiful piece of salmon or halibut, go with a nice dry white wine. Another great team is a sweeter white wine like a Riesling with a spicy curry. The sweetness is a great complement to the complex heat.

Read the label
I’m a sucker for a well-designed, eye-catching label, and while the front may draw you in, the back is a great guide for wine pairings. The wine’s description will often provide cues as to what would taste great with your meal. For example, many wines will use words like cherry or pear. Cherry flavours are often great matches for red meats or duck, while pear and apple would pair better with softer flavours like pork or chicken.

Look at the origin
A good indication of which wines would taste great with particular dishes is the location the wine comes from. At local liquor stores we’re lucky to get a selection of wine from Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and where those wines are grown and what the people eat in those areas say a lot about what would go well with them. Look at the Spanish dish paella. You may think that pairing a white wine with paella would be best. After all, it’s spicy and it contains seafood. But when you look at many of Spain’s most popular wines, reds like Syrah dominate the list. Similarly, a California-style fish taco would pair nicely with a chardonnay.

Be confident
When it comes to all things culinary, the best thing you can do is be confident. Don’t let cooking scare you, and the same goes with wine pairing. If you’re confident in the flavours of your food, then you’ll have a good idea of what would taste good with it. Even if the pairing isn’t perfect, no one is going to say no to a great glass of wine and a home-cooked meal.