Demystifying Food & Wine Pairing

We’ve spent a lot of time in our series Wines Around the World looking at how to buy and taste wine and so now it’s time focus on demystifying food and wine pairing, as ultimately wine is best enjoyed with a great meal and intelligent conversation. “Or on it’s own!” one of our editors just yelled. He’s so sensitive about his day drinking. 

One of the biggest questions wine experts get asked is, “What food goes best with with a certain wine?” Unfortunately there are no simple answers. The best advice is to start out drinking what you like and don’t over think it. Once you become accustomed to how a wine changes with different dishes, then you’re ready to start exploring. 

The Background

Wine and food have complemented each other for thousands of years. Wine comes into its own at the dinner table thanks to its moderate alcohol, refreshing acidity, and sheer range of flavours. It is worth knowing some successful pairings of food and wine that have stood the test of time.


Whether selecting a bottle to accompany a take-away, or choosing different wines for each course at a dinner party, there are a number of basic guidelines to help.

  • Decide on the dominant taste and choose a wine to accompany it.
  • Select a wine to match the weight and power of your food. Full-flavoured foods require full-flavoured, full-bodied wines. Delicate dishes are overpowered by heavily oaked or tannic styles, so they require light wines. Full-bodied whites have similar power and weight to lighter reds, so work equally well with dishes such as grilled tuna or roast turkey.
  • Sweet food should be matched by a similarly sweet wine. Many Thai dishes, for example, contain a lot of sugar, which is why off-dry styles such as Gew├╝rztraminer work so well.
  • Tannins in a red wine taste softer when drunk with red meat. This is why classic combinations like beef with red Bordeaux are so effective.
  • The more complicated the flavours in a dish, the more difficult it is to find a wine to pair with it, though some wines do work well with a range of flavours.
  • If serving top-quality wine, simply prepared dishes using the finest ingredients allow the wine to take centre stage.
  • Try to match regional dishes with the same region’s wines.

Demystifying food & wine pairing is easy if you relax, follow these guidelines and just experiment.