How to Choose Wine for Food

How to Choose Wine for Food

Choosing wine with food does not have to be a science although it can be confusing, particularly today when there is such choice in the food and wine available. Concentrating on the basic characteristics of various wines and the flavors of different foods is the key to finding compatibility. for a dinner party, it's well worth taking the trouble to select a wine which will show off your food to good effect.

When selecting a wine to accompany food, consider the main ingredient and, more importantly, the strongest flavor in the dish. It's easy to match chicken when it's plainly cooked, but in most cases a sauce or marinade provides the predominant flavor. A Thai green chicken curry presents a bit more of a challenge, but can be matched with a fruity Sémillon or Sauvignon Blanc. Sharply flavored chutneys and spicy salsas can affect the taste of a wine, and if a dish is cooked in beer, it generally makes sense to drink a similar beverage with it.

In a restaurant, you may be put on the spot, by having to choose a wine to drink with a combination of flavors and dishes. In these circumstances, look for food-friendly wines or bridging wines. Pinot Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris from the white stable, and fruity reds such as Merlot and Pinot Noir, can be enjoyed with fish and lighter meat dishes. Rosés provide versatility and will go with a range of dishes, from salads to mildly spiced dishes.

Do's and Don't of Choosing Wine

The do's and don'ts of matching wines to food listed here are based on the flavor characteristics and profiles of the main wine styles. It is only a guideline as room should always be made for experimentation.


Serve dry fruity wines as aperitifs. Consider soft wines, e.g. Soave, with plain fish / white meats

X Overpower simple plain flavors in food


Consider wines with aromatic characteristics with pronounced flavors in food

X Put pronounced wines, such as Sauvignon from New Zealand, with delicate fish dishes.

Body and Alcohol

Consider the balance and weight of the wine with the flavor of a dish, not forgetting that sometimes lightness in a wine can be successful with heavy food.

X Expect light wines to provide a good match to strong flavors.

Dryness and Sweetness

Think about ripeness of fruit - wines with ripe 'sweetness' that are actually dry. Consider wines with some sweetness with vegetables, e.g. carrots (which have a sweetness of their own). Select a sweet wine as sweet as a pudding.

X Serve dry wines with sweets.


Bear in mind the softening effect that food has on wines with tannin.

X Pair red wines (high in tannin) with egg-based dishes, celery or spinach and spicy food.

Intensity of Flavor

Match richly flavored dishes with concentrated wines

X serve intense wines with subtle flavors


Try oaked wines with smoked fish or meat

X In general, served oaked wines with spicy dishes

Buttery Flavors

Bridge the gap between richness in food and in wines

X Serve buttery, rich wines, with simply prepared and flavored dishes

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