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Food and Wine Matching

Mention of the practice of food and wine matching tends to polarise people.

Some sneer at food and wine matching as an effete 1990s concept, a piece of pretentious foodie posturing, while others swear by it.

Regardless of whether or not you think the practice has any merit, it has been hard to get away from food and wine matching. For many years anyone with even a passing interest in food or cooking was bombarded by it: in cookery programmes and infomercials on television, in cookbooks, in direct mail through our letterboxes and in dinner table and café conversation.

It’s worth looking into for this reason alone, as ideas of little importance don’t tend to spawn mini industries.

Food and wine matching has become almost a quasi-science, but let’s strip away some of the layers of pontification. Isn’t it really just common sense?

Lets look at a few basic guidelines to help you, whether you’re cooking at home or trying to choose a glass to go with your dinner in a restaurant (though often the menu or sommelier will have wine suggestions).


Trust your own palate

If a certain wine and food combination tastes good to you then go with it. Drink what you like.


Think about the characteristics of the dish you are eating

• Is it lean?
• Is it fatty?
• Is spicy?
• Is it strong or mild?

Use the answers to these questions to help choose a wine that balances the flavour of the meal. For example:

• Foods with milder flavour tend to go better with milder wines, for example a you might pair a Merlot, which is quite soft, with salmon, mild cow cheese or goats cheese
• Cabernet Sauvignon, which could be described as the bolder, stronger relative of Merlot, is a good match for wild game, beef or duck.


Use acids or tannins to cleanse your palate

• If you’re eating rich or fatty food, such as lamb or beef and thinking of drinking a red wine, you should go for a  tannin-rich wine to cleanse your palate
• If you’re eating rich or fatty food, fried chicken for example, and wanting a white wine, opt for something crisp and acidic, like a Sauvignon Blanc
• If you’re eating acidic food, such as shellfish like shrimp or oysters, choose a correspondingly acidic wine.


Ethnic cuisine tends to go well with wine from the same country

For example:

• Italian food goes with Italian wine
• French wine is a good match for French food


There are no hard and fast rules

Feel free to experiment with your food and wine choices.



Restaurants around New Zealand offering food and wine matches


Cable Bay Vineyard,  Waiheke Island

Meredith’s Restaurant


Logan Brown

The White House Restaurant


50 on The Park



The Bunker


 Editorial by Nicholas Chidley

19 April 2012

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