Five industry insider secrets to clever wine and food pairing

 

Pairing food and wine can seem like a hidden art. If you’re new to wine pairing and want to make a dinner party extra special, it can seem overwhelming to match each flavour with the right accompaniment. And that’s when something that should be fun becomes a chore.

Matching wine and food together is meant to be enjoyable, not stressful. And while it is a skill, it doesn’t have to be over complicated. The first thing to realise is that there aren’t really any hard and fast rules. It’s more about an intuitive understanding of how flavours work together, and which complement each other.

In fact, you may find yourself breaking traditional ‘rules’ as you go through your wine pairing journey. To help you on your way, here are five insider tips to classic wine and food pairing.

 

1. Wine and food pairing – where to start

Start with weight. In the winter, we eat heavier, richer food and in the summer lighter, more delicate dishes. Apply the same thinking to the wine you’re choosing. Some grapes lend themselves to richer, heavier wines, and others produce light, airy wines.

This is a great shortcut to pairing wine and food, particularly if you’re not familiar with a wine’s flavour profile. A Sauvignon Blanc is a light-bodied white wine with high acidity, and as such works brilliantly with fresh oysters and rich cheeses. However, it doesn’t do as well if it’s paired with a chicken pasta dish, for example. If you’re pairing a white wine with a heavier dish, then go for a heavier wine, like Viognier.

A good rule of thumb for a dinner party is to start with the lighter wines and work your way to the heaviest. But you do need to allow your palate time to rest before switching from delicate wines with nuanced flavour notes to big, bold reds.

 

2. Don’t be taken in by stereotyping

Understand the subtleties of well-known wines. There are many stereotypes surrounding commonly enjoyed wines. For example, you’ve probably heard that Riesling is too sweet to go with many food dishes. Or that Chardonnay is too oaky and buttery. On the face of it, neither of these sound like a good match with food.

However, there is plenty of potential in both of these wines. Not every Riesling is super sweet. Choose a dry Riesling from Germany or the Alsace region of France, for example. These wines are made from grapes grown on old vines, and combined with refined winemaking techniques produce aromatic, bright and beautiful wines that go beautifully with food. They’re particularly good for spicy dishes.

And a Chardonnay from a cooler climate won’t be too oaky. Try an unoaked version from Chablis, and you’ll find dry, lean bottles with a minerally finish. Delicious with all kinds of dishes.

 

3. Don’t run away from sweetness

Wine experts and culinary experts know that slightly sweeter off-dry wines work really well with spicy or rich food. Pinot Grigio has some sweet and florally notes, which pair well with a meal full of salt, fat and richness. For example, a slated fish dish or buttery poached egg works really well with this full-bodied white wine. And for Asian food, a must-try is an off-dry Riesling, which absorbs all the heat from the spices.

 

4. It’s not just about the ingredients

You might think that matching wine to food depends entirely on the ingredients used in the dish. But how the meal is prepared is just as important. For example, a piece of chicken is going to taste very different depending on whether it’s pan seared, grilled, smoked or roasted. And the resulting wine pairings also change.

A classic wine pairing to go with roast chicken is Pinot Noir from Burgundy. It’s a lighter, but still earthy, red wine and is less fruity than the same wine from the New World. Too much fruit can overpower the dish. For spicier chicken dishes, choose a richer wine. Something like a Grenache or Zinfandel goes well with barbecue chicken, for example. You’re looking for juicy, lush notes.

 

5. Create your menu around the wine

Most people plan a dinner party menu by starting with the food and adding the wine on afterwards. But what if you did it the other way around? It’s a good way to get out of your comfort zone and explore some wines you’ve been wanting to try. Start with what you enjoy drinking. This gives you more freedom in your approach to selecting wine. What are you in the mood for? What have you always wanted to try? Start there and match your food accordingly.

Abover all, remember that there are no strict rules about matching wine and food. And while complementary flavours can be satisfactory, it’s also true that completely contrasting notes can work well too. A wine can either echo or reflect the flavour of the dishes, so if you want to go for a contrasting choice then don’t be afraid to do so.

Break the rules with these unconventional wine and food matching choices

The rules for wine and food are simple: red with meat and white with fish. Similarly, it should always be white in summer and red in winter. At least that’s what most people think. But there’s no need to be so rigid when it comes to food and wine. Here are some unconventional wine and food matching choices that are just as delicious.

Delicious but unconventional wine and food matching options

Free your mind when it comes to choosing wine for your dinner party. Take a look at these pairings and give them a go next time you’re wondering what to drink with your dinner. Here are some unconventional wine and food matching choices that are just as delicious.

1. White wine and cheese

Traditionally, it’s always red wine with the cheese board. But many French cheese producers believe white wine works best. Sweet wines go perfectly with salty blue cheeses, for example. It also works well with creamy mild cheeses, such as camembert and brie.

2. Sparkling rosé and steak

Ask anyone you know, and they’ll more than likely say it has to be a rich, deep red wine for steak. But try your next steak with a sparkling rose, whether a Champagne or from another region, and you’ll discover why it goes so well with a medium rare, perfectly cooked piece of steak.

3. Sauvignon blanc and salt and vinegar crisps

Well, we did say these pairings are unconventional! According to wine director Ferguson Nagan, any Sauvignon Blanc goes beautifully with salt and vinegar crisps. He told the Spectator Wine that it’s his favourite unconventional wine and food pairing. And if olives are more your style of snack, try a Sicilian white wine.

4. Red wine and chicken

White wine is always touted as the best choice for chicken dishes. But it’s most definitely not the only option that works. Try a red wine with a roast chicken. It may surprise you.

5. Rosé and fish

White is also the first choice for fish due to the low tannin content in its grapes. Tannins are responsible for any sharp or bitter flavours in your wine, and when paired with fish can leave a hint of iron on the palate. Examples of high tannin grapes include Nebbiolo, Cabernet and Sangiovese. However, that doesn’t mean you have to choose white for your fish dish. Instead try low tannin wines, such as rosé, Champagne or a red made with Rossesse, Grenache or Pinot Noir grapes.

6. Sparkling wine and a rich dessert

Rather than choosing a sticky, sweet dessert wine or another glass of red, opt for a sparkler for your dessert. In general, you should avoid wines that are the same level of sweetness as your dessert. However, prosecco, Champagne and demi-sec are all bubbly and forgiving with flavour.

7. Chardonnay and popcorn

Popcorn is full of toasty flavours of the corn itself, and either a savoury or sweet finish. A creamy Chardonnay goes really well with this popular snack and could really lift movie time into something special.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to pairing wine with food. The best thing to do is try different combinations until you find your favourite.

Livening Up Brunch with The Perfect Bottle of Wine

Brunch has something for everyone. This mid-morning meal is now growing in popularity as an indulgent treat – and we’re here for it! From sweet to savoury dishes, it’s a perfect meal. While many of us opt for a classic buck’s fizz, there are so many more wine options available to you. When you’re planning your next brunch, make sure that you’ve got the perfect bottle of wine as an accompaniment. Let’s look at some of Ideal Wine Company’s favourite pairings for brunch…

Ideal Wine Company Brunch
Brunch has something for everyone, here are our favourite wine pairings for brunch…

Avocado on toast – Sauvignon Blanc

This simple brunch dish has taken off in recent years. Now one of the most popular offerings on any menu, avocado on toast is a must-have for any brunch. No matter what your bread, from simple wheat bread to sourdough, the topping of smashed avocado makes the perfect savoury treat. To match this, look for a Sauvignon Blanc as a great starting point. It is the perfect wine for the avocado ensemble as it plays up the green theme and adds well-needed acidity – like a squeeze of lemon.

Blueberry pancakes – Moscato d’Asti

If you’re in the mood for a sweat treat this brunch, look no further than blueberry pancakes. These fluffy offerings are light and full of sweet blueberry flavours. Although delicious, they can mean that you’re facing a lot of dough. To combat this, your wine should be light and sweet to match the dish. A Moscato d’Asti is a vibrant wine, with flavours of nectarine, honey and peach acting as the perfect complement to this berry-heavy dish.

Eggs Benedict – Prosecco

Eggs Benedict is a brunch classic. It’s a perfectly toasted English muffin halves topped with crispy bacon, a perfectly poached egg, and a generous pour of creamy hollandaise sauce – a delicious addition to any brunch. With the creamy flavours and variety of flavours on offer, you may think it’s a hard dish to pair, but it all comes down to knowing what you’re looking for. Importantly, you should be adding sweetness to your dish – but not too much. The perfect choice would be an Extra Dry Prosecco. Bringing just a hint of sweetness, the fruit flavours in this crisp wine bring an ideal balance to the dish. With its acidity, you’ll even find your palate cleansed between bites.

Yogurt and Fruit – Gewürztraminer

It’s a breakfast and brunch dish that has been enjoyed for decades – but has recently started gaining traction as a popular food trend. With a base of yogurt and a wide range on toppings on offer, from bananas to honey, this healthy option is a great alternative if you’re looking for something lighter.

For this pairing, you should focus on a wine with strong aromatics. This is because yogurt offers very little in the way of aromas, and thus, aromatic wines can really add more perceived flavour to the dish. Gewürztraminer with its intense aromas of lychee, rose, grapefruit and allspice will really take your everyday yogurt bowl to the next level.

Perfect Pairings: Irish Food and Wine

Guinness, Irish Cream and Whiskey are all synonymous with St Patrick’s Day celebrations, but what if you still want to celebrate, but prefer to drink something else? This week, Ideal Wine Company is bringing you our favourite wines to enjoy with classic Irish food. With St Patrick’s Day right around the corner, on Saturday 17 March, let’s get started…

Ideal Wine Company Irish St Patrick's Day
If you still want to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, but prefer to drink something else – here’s what we recommend.

Irish beef stew and Aglianico

There’s no food more quintessentially Irish than an Irish beef stew! Although there are many variations on this classic dish, the most popular contains succulent cubes of beef and hearty roots vegetables. This warming dish is full of flavour – so needs a wine that equally packs a punch. As it’s made with beef, a red wine will work perfectly. We recommend trying an Italian Aglianico, a full-bodied red with rich tannins. This wine is a perfect match for the hearty and rich stew. The savoury, earthy and gamey flavours of the wine are the perfect complement to both the root vegetables and meat. This comforting paring is sure to warm you up!

Irish pancakes and Chardonnay

Boxty – or Irish pancakes – are a traditional potato pancake made with mashed and/or grated potatoes. These are often served early in the day and are the perfect platform for loading with a variety of toppings. Although you can top your pancake with anything, a great wine to make the potato base is a classic Chardonnay. The undertones of apple, lemon and pineapple in the wine will add depth to the mild flavours of the potato, without overwhelming the pancake. The sharp crispness of the wine will ensure that your dish remains light. It’s the ideal palate cleanser!

Shepherd’s pie and Sangiovese

As one of the heartiest dishes Ireland has to offer, a classic Shepherd’s Pie needs to be carefully paired. Consisting of seasoned minced lamb and vegetables and topped with mashed potatoes, this spiced and fragrant dish is full of flavour. To match this, opt for a classic food-pairing wine: Sangiovese. As the main grape of Chianti, it is a lively and acidic wine. With moderate tannins and savoury notes, Sangiovese will balance the richness of the spiced lamb.

Potato and leek soup and Grüner Veltliner

On a cold day, look no further than potato and leek soup. The richness of soft potatoes with heavy cream balanced out by the savoury bit of sautéed leeks is the perfect comfort food. If you’re looking to serve this dish on St Patrick’s Day with wine, always look for a crisp white. Our recommendation is a delicious Grüner Veltliner. The elevated acidity of this wine will help to cut through the creamy weightiness of the soup, refreshing your palate between spoonfuls. As well, its classic peppery, green notes will complement the botanical flavour profiles of the leeks and any other herbs added. Look for high acidity and herbaceous notes and you can’t go wrong!

If you’re looking for more than Guinness and whiskey to pair with your food this St Patrick’s Day, wine is an excellent choice. This is a day for celebrating – there’s no better excuse than to open a bottle!

Love lasagna? Here’s how to pair different wines with different varieties of lasagna

Lasagna, the great Italian comfort food, is always a crowd pleaser. The layers of pasta, meat and sauce always go down well. But did you know there are so many types of lasagne? Beyond the traditional tomato and béchamel variety, there is a wide range of varieties that include a creamy white sauce and a pesto-driven option. This week, Ideal Wine Company is showing you some of our favourite lasagnes and what wine to serve with them.

Ideal Wine Company wine and lasagna
Did you know there are so many types of lasagne? Here’s what wine you should be pairing with them…

Red lasagne– high acidity and dried fruit

Perhaps the most common type of lasagna, red lasagne is usually the first variety to come to mind. With its traditional tomato and béchamel sauce combination, it is stuffed with mozzarella, ricotta and meat. This hearty and warming meal works well with an equally intense red wine. Try opting for Aglianico, a black grape wine found in the South of Italy. This wine’s high tannin content complements this rich and fatty dish. In addition, the dried fruit flavours and the high acidity work perfectly to cut through the slightly sweet tanginess of the hearty tomato sauce.

White lasagne– look for leanness

If you’re looking for something a bit different with your lasagna, a white lasagna, or lasagne blanca, is a great alternative. Rather than using the traditional bolognaise tomato sauce, a white lasagne consists of peas, mushrooms, Italian sausage and a creamy white sauce. With this type of dish, you should be pairing it with a wine like Arneis. This Piedmontese grape is a zingy and lean white wine that acts like a herb. When served with béchamel or other creamy white sauces, it infuses the dish with earthy and unmistakable green notes. With the amount of heavy creaminess in this dish, the wine’s lean and olive driven qualities are sure to cleanse your palette.

Pesto lasagne– opt for rich and white

This pesto-based alternative of traditional lasagne combines parmesan cheese, basil, pine nuts and olive oil. The result is a dish that is full of flavour and aroma. If you’re serving this dish with wine, you can’t go wrong with a Vermentino. This equally lean and green option is dry, a touch oily and just bitter enough to provide the perfect partner to the fragrant lasagna. This Italian white provides the perfect aromatic hints of herby green to complement the pesto.

Sangiovese – the universal choice to pair with lasagne

If you’re eating any type of lasagna, Sangiovese is perfect. This really is a one-bottle-suits-all type of wine. In almost all cases, the tart and savoury wine drinks well with the intensity of lasagna. This is because the high acid and rustic flavours you can expect in Sangiovese will cut through the creamy fat and tangy tomato at the same time.

This really is the perfect choice for any type of lasagne. It’s always worth having a bottle to hand next time you make any type of lasagna!

No matter what your favourite type of lasagne is, you’ll easily be able to find the perfect wine match. Take a good look at what flavours and textures the sauce is bringing. A good rule to follow is to pair creamy sauces with lean wines and lean sauces with richer offerings. With so many lasagnas to try – and wines to pair them with- you’ll find the perfect choice for you.