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Wine Pairing 101: Top Tips on Matching Wine with Food

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It’s English Wine Week! And to celebrate, we’ve put together a handy guide to wine pairing. Read on for the top tips that’ll bring your reds, whites and bubblies to life.

For a more in-depth guide to wine pairing, check out our full article here.

What makes a good wine pairing?

The perfect pairing will eclipse the sum of its parts, marrying a dish with a drink in a way that makes the best of both. Get it right and it’s a fail-safe way to enrich both your food and wine menus all at once.

Where to start with wine pairing

The first things you need to know about are contrasting and congruent pairings. This might sound like jargon – but don’t be put off! It’s simple to learn and will set you on the course to pairing perfection.

A congruent pairing is where a wine complements the dish it’s served with. Pairing a rich cabernet sauvignon with a sumptuous steak is a classic example. Here, the wine brings out the rich, savoury taste of the steak, and the steak allows the berry notes in the wine to come to the fore. Raise a toast, you’ve improved both!

A contrasting wine pairing is exactly what it sounds like, and will see the wine hitting the flavour profiles your dish misses – think a fresh and fruity sauvignon blanc with a fiery, rich curry. This will see the meal tie into as many of the basic taste sensations (salt, sweet, bitter, acid, spice and umami) as possible, rounding it out and transforming every mouthful into a taste sensation. Easy!

HINT: For a list of popular pairings, check out our full wine pairing article.

Wine pairing pitfalls

While the basics of wine pairing are easy enough to grasp, there’re a few common misconceptions that can trip up the aspiring sommelier. Avoid them and you’ll improve your pairing instantly.

The biggest of these is the old adage "white wine for white meat, red wine for red". 

While this generally holds true for something like a chicken salad or steak frites where the meat is the main event, for a rich chicken curry, you’re going to need something stronger than a light white to punch through the richness of the sauce.

Instead, try pairing your wine with the overall flavour profile of the dish. If it’s a creamy seafood dish, pair it with a buttery chardonnay to bring out its best. 

If it’s rustic and earthy, go for a flavour-packed zinfandel and watch as the rich flavours in your pates and terrines unlock themselves.

Some rules are made to be broken.

Wine pairing for profit

Diners are increasingly looking for more than just a well-cooked dish. They’re after an experience.

Offer a well-paired wine with your dishes and you’ll add a whole new dimension to the dining experience – which just might put you ahead of the competition. 

Not only this, but a well-made pairing will improve both your dishes and the drink you serve them with – allowing you to tighten up your prices.

Cheers to that.

Take the wine pairing plunge

Give it a go, experiment and let us know what pairing discoveries you make in the comments below. 

And don't forget to check out our massive range of bar supplies for everything you need to get started on your wine pairing journey. Enjoy!


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