How to pair wine with food

Think of flavouring a recipe with wine in the same manner as you would when adding a spice – the flavours need to mellow over time in the dish. For example, it’s recommended that a young, strong red wine is allowed to cook for at least 45 minutes.

Which colour wine?

The next question, is often should I use a red or white wine? Reds tend to bring colour, clarity and a distinctly dry characteristic to the foods they flavour.

Use reds for flavouring red sauces with red meat. For example, a bold red wine would be perfect for a meatball marina or stout stews with lots of heavy vegetables. White wines are known to bring an acidic quality with a bit of sharpness. Use a white wine if you are making cream sauces, emphasising white meats, or using seafood.

In regards to dryness, a Sauvignon Blanc is extremely versatile for cooking, and falls squarely in the dry white wine category – but a Pinot Grigio works well, too.

In terms of reds, stay away from very tannic (see above) and oaky reds like Cabernet Sauvignon. The oak and tannins concentrate during the cooking process and make for a very strong flavour, which is usually undesirable. Use a wine like a Merlot if a recipe calls for a strong red wine, but in general, lighter wines tend to work best in cooking as they are not as overpowering.

This table should help you find the best partner for your cookery needs.

Classic wine pairings

Young, full bodied red wineRed meat or red meat dishes
Young, full bodied, robust red wineRed sauces
Earthy red, full bodied red wineSoups with root vegetables and/or beef stock
Dry white wine or dry fortified wineFish, shellfish, seafood, poultry, pork, or veal
Dry white wine or dry fortified wineLight, white, or cream sauces
Crisp, dry white wineSeafood soups or bouillabaisse
Sweet white wine or sweet fortified wineSweet desserts
Dry, fortified wine (i.e.: sherry)Consommé, poultry, or vegetable soups
Regional cuisineRegional wine

Continue reading to find out more about alcohol in the cooking process…