Food and wine matching is not an exact science, taste is subjective, and there is nothing wrong with simply drinking your favourite wine with any dish. These points aside, there is so much fun to be had in seeking out the incredible flavour fusions that food and wine can offer. Here is Tanners “insiders’ guide” to the principles of brilliant wine matching.
First, a single unbreakable rule. Savoury dishes work with both dry and sweet wines, and sweet dishes work with sweet wines but, and it’s a big but, sweet dishes do not work with dry wines. That’s it, just one unbreakable rule! Just don’t drink dry wine with puddings. Simple.
Now you’re ready to dive into the incredible world of food and wine and discover endless pairings that will take all future dining experiences to a new level…
7 top tips for pairing dishes with drinks
• Think beyond simply red or white. The old adage of ‘white wines for fish/white meat’ and ‘red wines for red meat’ still holds true and is a good starting point, but don’t forget there are so many other vinous options available – Champagne, for example, is sublime with gourmet fish and chips, whilst a platter of charcuterie works brilliantly with a bone dry Manzanilla sherry.
• Match the dominant flavour in the dish, not necessarily the main ingredient. For example, a chicken dish might suggest a simple dry white, but if it’s served with a spicy Asian dressing then a more flavour-packed white with some sweetness will really make it ‘pop’!
• Match the weight – a light summery salad might work well with a white, a rosé or even a red, provided you seek out a lighter style.
• We find that Old World (European) wines are generally more flexible and food friendly – they tend to have more in the way of structure and acidity which complements most dishes. For example, the firm tannins in a young red Bordeaux may taste astringent when drunk without food but, when drunk alongside beef, actually serve to tenderise the meat in your mouth while you’re eating!
• Jubilantly big bold reds from the New World, like Californian Zinfandels or Aussie Shirazes, are glorious in themselves but will overwhelm all but the juiciest steaks and the most intense berry sauces.
• If you’re stuck for choice when dining out, don’t hesitate to ask your waiter, waitress or sommelier to suggest a good wine to pair with your dish. Any restaurant worth its salt will be proud of its wine list, and the staff will appreciate the opportunity to enhance your dining experience with great drinks. If they don’t or can’t, suggest they give Tanners a call!
• We wine merchants don’t like to shout about this one, but sometimes, just sometimes, wine isn’t the answer. Beers and ciders can make inspired food pairings too, as indeed can spirits and soft drinks, so don’t be afraid to go ‘off-piste’ occasionally.
15 incredible wine and food matches
Whether cooking at home or dining out, grab any opportunity to taste these brilliant pairings
• Morel mushrooms in a cream sauce with oaked White Burgundy
• Simply grilled fish and braised fennel with Muscadet Sur Lie
• Smoked salmon on lemon-dressed puy lentils with Chablis
• Pan-fried duck breast with Central Otago Pinot Noir from New Zealand
• Game birds with mature Barolo
• Rare steak with Châteauneuf-du-Pape
• Red wines from Portugal’s Douro Valley with just about anything!
• Tomato-based pasta dishes with Chianti Classico
• Goats cheese with Sancerre
• Foie gras/paté with Sauternes
• Farmhouse Cheddar with German Riesling Auslese (pronounced ‘Ree-sling’, not ‘Rye-sling’)
• Aged Comté cheese with Bual Madeira
• Ripe Camembert with lighter styles of Red Burgundy
• Summer fruit tart with Moscato di Asti
• Plain chocolate with young Late Bottled Vintage Port
Tanners Wines feature in Signature Chefs Recipe Book: Heart of England & Wales. Order here
Discover Tanners Wines
Tanners Wines was recently named Large Independent Wine Merchant of the Year 2015/16 at the International Challenge Awards. The Shrewsbury-based company, established in 1842, is family-owned, family-run and resolutely independent. It is managed by James Tanner chairman, who is the fourth generation of the family to work in the business which sells and delivers wine, spirits and beers to quality-minded hotels and restaurants throughout the UK. The company also has retail branches in Shropshire, Herefordshire, Cheshire and Wales and sells to private customers across the country by mail order.