There are so many different varieties of wine on offer these days that the choice can be rather bewildering. Red, white, rosé and sparkling wines adorn the shelves of supermarkets and wine merchants and to make matters more complicated, you also have to choose between dry, medium and sweet. Of course, if all you plan on eating for dinner is a fiery curry or a greasy kebab, it could be argued that just about any bottle of wine will do, but if you are cooking a meal and would like to choose a bottle of wine to complement the food, which wines go best with which main dishes or aspects of a meal?
The Right Wine to Accompany Red Meat Dishes
The general rule of thumb when pairing meat with wine is that red wine goes best with red meat and white wine is more suitable for white meat. But although this generalization often works perfectly well, it is fair to say that it won’t work in all cases. Some wines are more robust than others, wines aged in oak barrels for example and when a wine is heavier than the dish it accompanies, the subtle flavors of both are lost.
Always consider the flavor of the meat you are dishing up before choosing a wine to accompany it. A rich claret wine might be perfect with a piece of beef fillet, but a rack of lamb lightly cooked would benefit from a softer red wine. It is also a good idea to avoid wines with a higher alcohol content as these can often drown out the flavors of the meat dish you are serving.
Choosing Wines to Accompany White Meat Dishes
A crisp Chardonnay is a great choice for white meats such as chicken, but don’t be too quick to dismiss the red wines on offer. A heavy red wine would be too overpowering with chicken, although a stronger flavored chicken dish can withstand a more robust red. Light, fruity reds will enhance most chicken dishes: a Merlot or an Australian Shiraz is a good choice, or you might like to consider a rosé wine.
Pairing Wine and Turkey
With the turkey stuffed and oven ready, it is a good idea to consider which wine you are going to serve to help you and your guests make the most of this deliciously sweet meat. A fruity Zinfandel is a good choice of wine to accompany roast turkey as it complements the flavor of the meat as well as the side dishes.
White or Red? Wine and Fish Dishes
As with meat dishes, different fish dishes benefit from different densities of wine and although you can err on the side of caution and only ever serve a dry white wine with fish, this won’t always be the best choice. For simply cooked fish dishes, go for a dry Pinot Grigio or Chenin Blanc, but if you are serving fish cooked in a rich sauce, you can afford to go for a more robust wine: try a Chardonnay with oak flavours or a Pinot Gris. For fish or shellfish recipes that are lightly fried in batter, a sparkling wine is the perfect choice.
Wine and Cheese Pairings
The stronger the cheese, the more robust the wine you can choose. So if you have a passion for mature cheddar or stilton, open a bottle of aged Bordeaux (or any red wine with a heavy, complex flavor) because these are the type of strong wines that can hold their own with an equally strong flavored cheese.
Wine and Dessert Pairings
Instead of serving coffee with your dessert course, do as the Italians do and choose a dessert wine instead. There are no hard and fast rules for pairing desserts and wines, but in general, the lighter the dessert, the lighter the wine you should serve. Rich chocolate desserts go well with red wines – Shiraz or Grenaches – or you can opt for a rich Port instead. For light buttery pastry desserts, try a white Riesling or a sweet sparkling wine. If doubt, you can’t go wrong with a glass or two of good quality champagne or port.