Food & Wine Pairing

Wine Columnist for Food&Wine Magazine and chair of the Irish Food Writers' Guild Aoife Carrigy shares some tips for pairing wine with food.

Some Useful Principles

1. Drink whatever you fancy

The most important rule is that there are no rules – or at least very few hard and fast ones that can’t be abandoned to the common sense that suggests you’re best off drinking what you think you’ll most enjoy. If you want to drink white, red or bubbles right throughout the meal, then so you should.

2. Like balances like

Pairing similar flavours actually tones down the dominant characteristic, rather than overloading it. A sticky-sweet wine balances the sweetness of a dessert and highlights other flavours in the wine and the dessert. Likewise, wines high in acidity balance acidic foods such as dressed salads and accentuate the wine’s body and fruit.

Pairing your wine with food

3. Opposites attract

This principle comes into its own at the end of a meal, when one of the best wines to offset a salty cheese is a sweet port. The yin-yang contrast makes for a beautiful marriage, just like in peanut butter and jam sandwiches or salted caramels. Equally, wine high in fresh acidity makes a great palate-cleansing partner for rich foods like smoked salmon or pâté.

4. Don’t waste the good stuff

One way of wasting beautifully made wine or food is to pair them with a match that will overpower rather than complement them. You probably wouldn’t enjoy a delicate crab salad with a strong coffee. Likewise, a robust red wine will simply shout over the nuances of flavour. Save that one for a hearty stew that can hold its own.

5. Don’t forget the trimmings

It’s easy to consider the main ingredient in a dish, for example, turkey, but forget all the trimmings and the cooking methods. A roast turkey with herb-rich stuffing, crunchy roast spuds and rich gravy needs a wine that is relatively robust but with enough acidity to balance the tart cranberry sauce that may also feature.