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Five wine pairing secrets every wine lover needs to know but probably doesn't

by , 12 November 2013

The only thing most of us ‘casual' wine drinkers know about wine pairing is the old rule: “Drink red wine with meat and white wine with fish”. But even this isn't always true. Today, we reveal some surprising facts about wine pairing that even the most ardent wine enthusiasts may not know. Use these tips as the festive season draws closer and never make a wine-food faux pas again.

Few things are better than wine that’s perfectly paired with a delicious meal. Yet, pairing food and wine is a lot harder than people think.

Use these tips to get yours right.

Pair food and wine like a pro – we show you how

Tip #1: Be careful what you pair with veggies
Artichokes and asparagus are potential wine killers, say sommeliers Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. This because the chemical compounds in these vegetables make many wines taste weirdly sweet or metallic. If you’re serving these two veggies at dinner, pick a Sauvignon Blanc.
Tip #2: Cheese platters are the hardest dishes to pick wine for
Nothing screams “sophistication” better than serving a cheese platter at the end of a good meal. But when it comes to wine pairing, this is the hardest dish to get right because a wide variety of cheeses can be incredibly difficult to pair with a single ‘perfect’ wine.

Impress your guests by serving an Alsatian gewürztraminers (you’ll be able to find these at any bottle store or even your closest Woolies) or a fruity and floral white wine. Both pair well with a wide variety of cheese.

Tip #3: Egg dishes taste awful when paired with ‘oaked’ wines like chardonnay
If you’re serving crème brulee or crème caramel for dessert, choose an unoaked white wine.

Not sure if the wine’s been oaked? Remember this general rule of thumb, says the Page and Dornenburg. “The less expensive the wine, the less likely it is to have spent time in oak. Sparkling wines is a good choice with any egg-related dish.”

Tip #4: Serving tuna? Ditch the white wine! Pick a Pinot Noir instead
Most of us have been brought up to believe that only white wine goes with fish, but stronger-flavored fish, including salmon and tuna, pair perfectly with a light-bodied red, such as Pinot Noir, suggests matchingfoodandwine.com. And since grilled fish often has a strong smoky flavor from the braai, it too goes nicely with Pinot Noir as well.

Tip #5: Add a little sparkle to your fish-and-chips
Another thing many people don’t realize is that deep-fat-fried foods like fish-and-chips, pairs best with a sparkling white wine, says the New York Times. These bubbly wines are wonderfully refreshing with fried food.

Stick this list in your bar and you’ll ALWAYS serve the perfect wine with dinner

The secret to picking the perfect wine for your meal is to select it based on its ‘body’, says winespectator.com. To do this, look at the label for the wine’s alcohol level. Wines with an alcohol percentage of 12% or less are ‘light-bodied” wines. Those with a percentage of more than 14% alcohol are full-bodied.

This quick reference list from bottomlinepublications.com will also help:

White wines:

  • Rieslings are typically light-bodied and tend to go well with spicy Asian food or trout.
  • Sauvignon Blancs are medium-bodied and pair well with many chicken, seafood and vegetarian dishes.
  • Chardonnays are more full-bodied and go well with dishes that feature seafood and poultry in heavy butter or cream sauces.

Red wines:

  • Pinot noirs are typically light-bodied and go well with light foods, such as grilled tuna or salmon.
  • Merlots tend to be medium-bodied and go well with pork or veal.
  • Cabernet sauvignons (“cabs” for short) are full-bodied and go well with heavy foods, such as steak or venison.

There you have it. Don’t make a crucial mistake by pairing your favourite wines with the wrong meal – it could make it taster bitter, sickly-sweet or vinegary. Use these helpful tips instead and your wine choice is sure to be a hit.

Five wine pairing secrets every wine lover needs to know but probably doesn't
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