Basics of Wine Pairing

By Home cook Sharmini Jayawardena

A contrasting pairing is just that – a marrying of a wine and a dish where the flavours play off each other. This balances the dish by offsetting the taste of the food you serve with the flavours of the wine you serve it with. Easy. Congruent pairings are the opposite – here you’ll be serving wines that enhance the flavour profile of the dish by matching and amplifying its qualities.

If it grows together it goes together.

What does this mean ? 

”What Grows Together, Goes Together” is a category that represents the cultural aspect of food and wine more than the actual taste of food, although taste still has its role too. Before global trade and importing and exporting, early winemakers made wine that reflected the food of that area. Over time, these combinations evolved organically to become what we now consider to be no-brainers – of course Savennieres goes well with Sainte Maure goat cheese!”

“Barbaresco, the famous wine made from the Nebbiolo grape, with its soft floral aromas, subtle mushroom undertones and firm acid structure, goes hand-in-hand with regional delights like tagliatelle pasta and heavenly white truffles. In contrast, Sicily’s warmer climate and proximity to the sea, are also reflected on the plate and in the glass. Seafood stews, anchovy pastas or grilled Branzino match the lemony, salty wines made from the Catarratto grape, Sicily’s most planted white grape.”

If in doubt, get bubbly. You may not stumble on a perfect pairing, but you’ll certainly get close.

For the perfect bar supplies:

  • Stemware
  • For red wine, you’ll want a large glass with a good sized bowl that tapers up to a narrow opening. There’s good reason for this. The size of the glass allows the drinker to swirl their red without the risk of splurting out shirt-ruining splashes
  • The size of the glass is also crucial. 
  • Red Wine Glasses
  • A larger bowl allows the ethanol fumes from more alcoholic wines to diffuse. This helps to prevent that shiver-inducing smack that high proof tipples like vodka are notorious for. It’ll also break down the tannins in a bold red – those tiny molecules that give red wine its distinct bitter taste and cause that mouth-drying sensation. Tannins aren’t bad, but too many and your wine can be difficult to swallow. A large and airy bowl will break them down, making your red as smooth in taste as it is in colour.
  • Lastly, don’t disregard the stem! Clutching the bowl of a glass gently heats the wine, which can negatively affect the flavour of a red. Fingerprints are also an issue: the last thing you want is a sumptuous shiraz served in a smudged glass. Give your guests a comfortable stem to grip and they’ll thank you for it later.
  • For a great glass without the price tag, check out Olympia wine glasses. Or for something a little more impressive to complement your best bottles of red, try the Claro range of crystal glassware.
  • Fill the glass one third full, it gives you room to swirl without risking a spill and doesn’t let your wine warm up too much before you finish drinking it.
  • White Wine Glasses
  • For white wine, you’ll need something a little different. A smaller glass is your friend here, as you’ll want to trap the delicate floral notes and zesty finish of your whites. Smaller stemware also helps to keep your wine cool, perfect for a fresh glass of pinot on a summer’s day.
  • For heavier whites like chardonnay, a slightly larger glass is better, helping to release those creamy notes that make it such a good partner to richer dishes.
  • Solar is another great option here. Available in large or small, there’s a glass for every type of white
  • Fill the glass half full. This leaves enough room to swirl the wine in case in case it tastes a little too closed off, yet it protects more fragile wines from excess oxygen.
  • Sparkling Wine Glasses
  • Bubbly is a bit different again. With the sparkle being the main event, keeping that fizz fizzing is your first priority. Fluted champagne glasses are the order of the day here, and will prevent the dreaded disappointment of a flat cava by keeping your bubbly effervescing nicely.
  • Serve your sparkling favourites in a Solar flute – or a Claro one if you’re feeling extra decadent – and you’re away.
  • What Other Drinks Can You Pair With Food?
  • Wine isn’t for everyone.
  • Luckily, it’s not just vino that matches up nicely with a meal. Restaurants are increasingly serving decadent dishes with a side of craft beer, a well-chosen short or even cocktails. Rum is on the up and can really bring out the sweetness in barbecue-inspired dishes.
  • And for those with a sweet tooth, dare to pair a cocktail with a dish … you’re certain to find a cocktail that’ll bring that extra something to the table. Pair it with the right cocktail glasses to really put on a show.
  • Just try to find a pairing that works for both the dish and the drink and you’re on the right track.
Popular Pairings

So, how do you start with wine pairing? What’ll go with a zippy sauvignon blanc, and how do you pair a bold Bordeaux without overwhelming the dish itself? These questions can baffle the eager amateur before you’ve even popped your first cork.

But it needn’t be so intimidating. With a few basic rules on red and dash of wisdom on whites you’ll soon be pulling together a pairing that’d give a seasoned sommelier a run for their money.

Below, we’ve put together some hints, tips and tasting notes that’ll give you a great launch point. Drink them in and once you’ve got a flavour for what goes with what, the experimenting can begin!


From light to heavy, rustic to complex, reds cover a wide spectrum of flavours. Most will serve you well when paired with a rich dish, but marry up the right red with the right ingredients and you’ll bring both the bottle and dish to life.

Pinot Noir

Perfect with: Mushrooms.

Light bodied yet savoury and deep in flavour. Pair pinot with earthy ingredients like mushrooms to really bring out the meaty, umami taste that we love them for.

Cabernet Sauvignon & Bordeaux

Perfect with: Steak, mushrooms & burgers

Fruity, complex and layered, these rich reds are celebrated for their savoury notes and dark fruit flavours. Pair them with umami-laden dishes like pizza with mushrooms, gourmet burgers or a seared steak and the tannins within will bring an extra kick to these already rich dishes. You’ll also bring out the berry notes in the wine itself by doing so. Cheers to that!

Malbec, Syrah & Cotes du Rhone

Perfect with: Leaner meats & cheese

Bold and complex like a Cabernet Sauvignon, but with a less prominent tannin kick, these medium to full-bodied wines are great with everything from lamb to pork to steak. They pair especially well with strong cheeses, making them the perfect accompaniment to an after-dinner cheese board.


Perfect with: Simple, flavourful dishes & curries

Rich, rustic and slightly sweet, Zinfandel is the perfect match for both simple dishes that pack a flavourful punch and more complex, spicy curries. Think pates and terrines if keeping it easy, and a savoury-sweet curry if you’re going all out. The spicy, rich notes in the wine will complement the fiery kick of the curry and raise the dish to another level.


From zippy and tangy to rich and creamy, white wines are as broad in flavour as reds. Match them with lighter dishes like salads, seafood and fruit for a pairing to remember. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, pair sweeter whites with fiery dishes and revel in an explosion of taste.


Perfect with: Seafood in heavy sauces & meatier fish

Creamy, silky and smooth, Chardonnay is the perfect pairing for prawns in a lush garlic sauce or a delicious cut of salmon. Serve it with milkier cheeses to really amplify the buttery notes in drink and dish alike.

Sauvignon Blanc

Perfect with: Herby dishes and zingy salads

A favourite with wine drinkers the world over, the zippy freshness of sauvignon blanc makes it a perfect pairing for dishes like grapefruit salad, as well as any fresh plate made with basil, coriander, mint or parsley. If in doubt here, go green.

Pinto Grigio

Perfect with: Shellfish

Delicate, light and deliciously dry, this acidic wine pairs perfectly with shellfish like prawns. Think of it like a fresh squeeze of lemon on a perfectly cooked fish dish.


Perfect with: Sweet & spicy dishes

Sweet and sour battle it out in a good Riesling. The sweetness tames the spice in fiery Asian dishes, while the acidity will cut through even the most heavily seasoned of curries. Delicious with Thai food.


Perfect with: Salt

Everyone’s favourite bubbly matches deliciously with salty savouries. It’s slightly sweet taste (sometimes hard to detect under the fizz) makes it perfect for salty dishes like macaroni cheese, as well as snacks and even junk food staples like fried chicken!,re%20on%20to%20a%20winner.

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