Wine pairing

Should your food dictate what colour wine to drink?

Not necessarily, says our expert wine buying manager...

Should your food dictate what colour wine to drink?

Cooking a meat dish tonight? So you'll be opening a bottle of red wine, right? Not necessarily. Hold fire before you open that Merlot.

A useful tip is to think about the richness and intensity of the dish you are about to eat. Match a wine with the core flavours, rather than worrying about the ingredients

Most of us follow the old adage of 'red with meat and white with fish and chicken', but is there really a rule book to choosing your wine or is it all a myth?

We asked Ed Betts, Wine Buying Manager at ASDA whether the old saying still rings true. He confirmed that although it's a pretty good rule of thumb, breaking the rules can be a rewarding way to discover something new.

"In my opinion there are no set rules when it comes to food and wine pairing," Ed says. "But I will say that there are some wines that compliment certain foods and flavours better," he adds.

The reason red wine typically pairs well with red meat is that red wine tends to be higher in tannins. While on their own, tannins can feel drying, they’re a good complement to the rich fattiness that can be found in red meat. White wine can be better with fish or chicken because it tends to have higher acidity and it complements food similarly to how a squirt of lemon juice can brighten a seafood dish.

"Until you start experimenting, it's hard to know what works. Generally, it's a good idea to match the weight of the food with the weight of the wine. If you’re having a dish that’s creamy, do you prefer a wine that’s creamy or would you look for something that’s going to cut through the creaminess and compliment it?" poses Ed.

Match your wine with the core flavours of a dish, not the ingredients

When trying to decide which wine to order, a useful tip is to think about the richness and intensity of the dish you are about to eat. Ed suggests matching a wine with the core flavours, rather than worrying about the ingredients. For example, if you're cooking a simple chicken with lemon or a light sauce, then white wine would compliment it better. However, if you're cooking the chicken with a rich BBQ, teriyaki or tomato sauce, red wines can work beautifully.

The same applies to fish! If you're cooking a deep, rich sauce, you'll probably want a deep, rich red. A Pinot Noir can often go beautifully with a rich fish dish like a paella or tuna tartare. For a fish soup or ‘meaty’ fish such as red mullet or tuna in a tomato-based sauce, a white wine could seem weak and not assertive enough. A light red such as Pinot Noir or Beaujolais or even a rosé wine, would be a much better choice. 

On the other side of the wine spectrum, a full bodied white wine can be paired wonderfully with light and fragrant meat dishes such as sautéed filet mignon served with béchamel sauce and rosemary potatoes. Slow-cooked lamb with olives, anchovies and garlic will demand a much more robust wine than a light dish of grilled lamb chops. In the first instance, a full-bodied red wine will be a good choice, but for lamb chops you could easily serve white.

Choose a wine from the same region as your dish

Another way to pair wine is by pairing it with food from the same region. "The way I choose a wine, particularly in Europe, is to pair it by origin. I believe there's something to be said for pairing food and wine from the same origin, as they are often developed hand in hand in the area that they’re from. If I'm eating a Provence dish, I'll have a Provence wine. If I'm having an Italian dish, I'll have an Italian wine."

Which of our wines will work with some of your favourite foods?

Ready to mix things up and try some more unusual food and wine pairings? Why not try the below wine pairings by choosing a bottle from our extensive range.

A bottle of extra dry Italian Prosecco is the perfect accompaniment to greasier Italian foods like salami, or even a buttery risotto, as the prosecco can cut through the rich fattiness of cured meats or buttery dishes and balance out the flavours, complimenting rich textures with its sharp acidity. This sparkling prosecco has undertones of zesty lemon, pear and apple fruit flavours, giving it a hint of sweetness, and is balanced by a refreshing, crisp acidity.

Dip your toe in the red-wine-with-fish combination by pairing a drinkable Australian Wolf Blass Red Label Shiraz Cabernet with a seafood paella or even a nicoise salad. The vinegary French salad dressing will act as a buffer, softening the acidity in the wine, making the wine taste even smoother, while highlighting its gorgeous red berry and cherry fruit flavours.

Prefer a rosé? Pair it with sushi, or with fried chicken. A sweet and fruity rosé works really well with raw salmon and sushi, and its soft fruity notes bring out the subtle sweetness in sushi, without overpowering it. Try a bottle of Barefoot Zinfandel, with notes of peach, pears, pineapple and strawberries, or a bottle of Californian Blossom Hill White Zinfandel, a fruity rosé with hints of watermelon and a fresh finish. A dry or sparkling rosé will also act as the perfect contrast and complement to fried chicken, as a dry rosé "cuts" through the fried chicken's richness.

Thought a rich Mac & Cheese needed a rich red wine? Think again! The perfect companion to a Mac & Cheese is actually a Chardonnay. The wine's acidity cuts through the fattiness, whilst the oaky flavours soften the sharpness of the cheddar, and the cheddar meanwhile brings out the chardonnay's fruity, tropical notes! Next time you make a Mac & Cheese, try a bottle of dry and full-bodied Hardy's Nottage Hill Chardonnay with tropical fruit and melon flavours, and subtle oak character. Jacob's Creek Chardonnay is also a great option; a medium bodied wine, with attractive lemon, ripe peach, melon and subtle oak flavours.

Last but not least, swap your beer for some red wine next time you order (or make) a pizza. Opt for something soft bodied and low on tannins, so it doesn't overpower the mozzarella, but equally is strong enough to match the tomatoes' natural acidity. Think about your pizza toppings to decide what wine will work. Anchovies, tomatoes and olives will need a wine that has much more character and body, such as a medium-bodied red, while a lighter, pizza Quattro Stagione or Pizza Marinara goes well with white wine such as Muscadet or Sauvignon Blanc. Try a bottle of Jacob's Creek Merlot the next time you have pizza. This medium bodied wine has cherry and currant fruit flavours, with subtle and well-integrated cedary vanilla oak notes adding richness and complexity. It's rounded out by balanced acidity and fine, silky tannins to finish. Santé!

"At the end of the day, there are no rules, and people should experiment with different combinations regardless of what people might think, because wine can get a bit snobby – which is kind of ridiculous, as it should all be about enjoyment," Ed says.  If you’re brave enough to try something new, you may well discover a truly exciting wine pairing that is a match made in heaven!

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