Food & Wine Matching: How to Pick the Perfect Wine for Every Cuisine

Chloe Dickson, winner of Oddbin’s 2013 The Palate award and writer of wine blog Palate Talk gives her top tips on how to pair wine with different types of cuisine.

Knowing about food and wine pairing is an impressive talent, but you don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to know the basics. Food and wine pairing is all about balance and you can often narrow down the best choices based on the food or cuisine type alone. Below are 5 examples of food and wine matching for some of the most popular cuisines in the world.

Pick a powerful, full-bodied wine for classic British fare

If you’ve opted for a country pub date, chances are the fare will be traditional British. Rich, filling and flavoursome, British recipes tend to be simple, so is best paired with characterful wines that can add an interesting twist to the dish.

Classic meals such as steak & ale pie and bangers & mash are rich, hearty and pair best with powerful and full-bodied wines such as Australian Shiraz, California Cabernet Sauvignon and Argentinian Malbec. These big and robust styles have pronounced body and structure so they won’t feel lacklustre next to the richness of the food and their earthy, spicy and dark fruit flavours will also add a bit of pizzazz to the simplicity of the recipe.

Avoid dry white for Asian, Thai & Indian cuisine

Asian dishes such as Indian and Thai curries can be quite difficult to pair with wine due to the heavy use of spices, sugars and aromatic ingredients in these foods, but it’s not impossible. The most important thing to remember when selecting wine for a complex dish such as curry is to choose a wine of a similar nature.

Riesling and Gewürztraminer, both white wines, are excellent matches because both varietals are off-dry (slightly sweet), rich and viscous with an extremely aromatic bouquet of tropical fruits and spices (lychee, peach, pineapple, melon). In order to keep your palate balanced, highly aromatic and slightly sweet wines such as these two are the only way to go. A general rule of thumb is to avoid dry and tannic wines with curries as they will seem astringent and rough in comparison to the food.

Opt for a more acidic wine if Italian is on the menu

Italian wine styles are extremely varied. Italy produces some of the lightest varieties in the world (Pinot Grigio and Trebbiano) as well as some of the richest and most robust (Primitivo and Chianti). But as different as Italian wines are one common trait runs through all of them…high acidity. Balancing acidity in food and wine is incredibly important because it enhances food and actually lessens the acidity in the wine making it more enjoyable. Italians are masters at this game and all of their wines are made with rich and acidic foods in mind, such as tomato-based pizza and pasta sauces and vinegars.

Knowing that this acidic theme runs throughout Italian wine means that you have a fair amount of flexibility in choosing a wine, but you can never go wrong with classic pairings such as a rich Primitivo with beef ragu pasta or a light and zesty Verdicchio with antipasti or seafood.

French flavours are diverse, so choose your food before your wine

Entrees such as steak and frites, slow cooked lamb, confit of duck and seafood fillets are common entrees in French cuisine. Although they might seem simple enough to pair, keep in mind that a lot of French food is served with a variety of sauces and seasonings, so again, think about balance when you’re considering which wine to choose.

Steak and frites with a peppercorn sauce pairs great with full-flavoured wines with big structure and spicy notes, such as Bordeaux (Cabernet-Sauvignon/Merlot blend) or a Rhone blend (Syrah based blends), whereas confit of duck would work best with a fruitier wine, such as a Pinot Noir, as it would pair nicely with the red fruit notes in the signature sauce. French seafood, especially when paired with rich sauces, requires a full-bodied white with hints of butter and lemon. White Burgundy (Chardonnay) is a winner every time.

A smokey Rioja is the perfect complement to traditional Spanish flavours

Tapas is another popular cuisine for dates as recipes are interesting and dynamic and the food is often shared which gives it a romantic touch. But a tapas selection for two can contain a vast variety of different ingredients and this diversity requires a wine that’s capable of standing up to a multitude of different flavours.

Spanish red wines, such as Tempranillo (red Rioja) or Garnacha are excellent matches for Tapas. Due to being aged for set periods of time in oak barrels they carry rich notes of pepper, smoke, leather and vanilla, all of which are extremely complementary to popular Spanish dishes such as cured meats, nutty cheeses and deep fried ham croquettes.