6 Simple Tips To Pairing Wine & Food


As a sommelier, my clients always ask me what my favourite wine is and my answer is always the same: I’m far too promiscuous to pick just one. So much of what I’m drinking depends on what’s I’m doing, eating, who I’m with, the weather, my mood… what I’m likely sipping poolside when it’s +40 outside, is much different from what I’m sipping by the fire in January when it’s minus 40 and beautifully crisp.

However, the leading factor when deciding on what bottle to open is the food.

My company hosts dozens of wine experiences for our clients every year, from large, gala receptions, to intimate dinners for 15 and the element I love the most about organizing these affairs is choosing wine and food pairings. The days of white meat/white wine and red meat/red wine are gone and it’s great fun to play around with flavours and textures. Curiously enough, though, food and wine pairing brings stress and anxiety to my clients.

Should you find yourself in the same apprehensive boat as you plan your corporate and social events, I have put together a few simple tips to get the most from your wine and food experience.

Pair Fresh Whites With Lighter Dishes

If you can squeeze a lemon on it – think fried calamari, raw oysters, ceviche – a good pairing is a crisp white wine higher in mouth watering acid. Wines like Sauvignon Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio work well here. Sample Pairing: Crab Cakes and Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand

Pair Big Meats With Big Red Wines

Tannins, the physical compound found in red wine that give a drying sensation like you have cotton balls in your mouth, latch on to the proteins and fats of beef and other rich meats, rounding out and elevating the flavours of both food and wine. Sample pairing: braised short ribs and Ruffino “Modus” red blend (Super Tuscan), Italy

Tame The Heat With Low Alcohol Wines

Alcohol just exacerbates the spice of a dish, making it uncomfortable to eat. Opt for low alcohol, and slightly sweet wines like German Rieslings, Alsatian Pinot Gris or Gewürztraminers. Sample pairing: Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce and Pfaff Pinot Gris, France

Work With The Strongest Flavour of The Dish

Almost every wine descriptor out there says the contents of the bottles match well with chicken, beef or pasta. Is that Sunday’s roast chicken or chicken curry? Are we talking a beef ragu or Beef Wellington? Fettucini Alfredo or spaghetti with tomato sauce? Look to how the dish is prepared, not just the star ingredient. Sample pairing: Grilled lamb chops and Peter Lehmann Clancy Shiraz/Merlot/Cabernet red blend, Australia

Sweet Desserts Demand Sweet Wine

We know wine and chocolate is all the rage – in fact our company even offers a wine and chocolate tasting as part of our services – but you need to tread carefully. If your food is sweeter than your wine, your wine will end up tasting bitter, dull and flat. Instead opt for wines sweeter than your dessert to compliment both. Sample Pairing: Pear Tart with Jacob’s Creek Moscato, Australia

Life Saver Wines

If you are truly at a loss, opt for a Pinot Noir for red, dry Riesling for white and sparkling wine or Champagne. All of these wines are known to be very food friendly because they are lower in tannins and higher acidity, cleansing your palate for the next bite.

If you have any questions regarding the best wine and food pairings for your next dinner function, drop us a line at drinkwithus@thewinesisters.com

Erin Henderson

Erin Henderson
Erin Henderson is the Co-Founder of the sommelier services and wine events firm, The Wine Sisters. Based in Toronto, Erin and her team of certified sommeliers and entertaining experts help clients take their events from Standard to Sparkling with customized wine tasting, parties and wine tours.