4 Essential Tips for Matching Meat and Wine

Written by
Vintage Cellars
February 16, 2017
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We uncover some of the best meat & wine matches, plus some variations to the traditional pairing for the adventurous palate.

There’s more to meat than meets the eye. There’s the barbecue chop, slow cooked beef cheek, roast pork, chicken skewers and the weekend fish and chips. All of these delicious dinners are not just protein; they are cooked with other ingredients, sauces and marinades and served with salads and side dishes that make pairing them with wine all the more fun. This action of marrying flavour and texture needn’t be the domain of the fine dining restaurant, food and wine matching can be done easily in your own kitchen.

1. Keep it simple and you’ll be surprised how easy it is

Light-bodied whites, like Pikes Traditional RieslingChablisienne Chablis (unwooded Chardonnay) and Brokenwood Semillon are a beautiful pairing for simple seafood. Take fresh whiting fillets and pan sear them. A simple salad of tomato, cucumber and Spanish onion garnished with flat leaf parsley, olive oil and salt is all you need. The acid from the lemon you serve with the fish and the tomato will push back against the wine, making it seem fuller and less acidic. The food will make you want more wine and in turn, the wine will make the food come alive.

For steak, of almost all descriptions a big red will be the right choice. By big, you can choose a wine that is mainly fruit dominant like Tscharke Shiraz, but for greater synergy look for something with structure and more texture, Xavier Cotes du Rhone or Bests Great West Cabernet Sauvignon will work well. With steak, the sides are usually pretty plain. There is the three veg, obviously, but you could also slice the steak and serve it as a salad. Mix raw spinach and basil and toss through a soft cheese and tomato for a lighter, brighter dish. As the salad will be dressed with vinegar, you can have a wine with higher levels of acidity. It is often the dressing and additions to the main meat source that you need to take into account with food and wine matching, not just the piece of protein.

2. Roasted flavours and charred barrels

With roasted white meat like Chicken and Pork you can take a number of options. The roasted skin of chicken matches beautifully with barrel fermented Chardonnay from the Yarra Valley like De Bortoli Estate or Devil’s Lair from Margaret River. As far as sides go, it’s hard to move away from classic roast vegetables and in this instance there is no need to.

With roasted pork, which has no shortage of succulent fatty bits, move off the center line of pairing white meat and white wine and try a young Pinot Noir. We recommend something like Sticks from the Yarra Valley. The higher acid of this red wine, bright and red fruited, will cut through the fat in the pork. Serve with vinegary red cabbage, chargrilled corn and mashed potatoes. If you want to try a different red wine, options like Tempranillo and Grenache will also be your friend. Not fond of drinking red wine with white meat just yet? An Alsatian Riesling with a touch of residual sugar will be a divine partnership.

3. It’s all about creating contrasts

Whether it be using white with red meats, or acidic wine with fatty foods, creating contrasts when pairing meat and wine can bring out the best in a pairing. Just like the Pinot and the Pork, there are some role reversals that work really well here. Take a barbecued piece of hanger steak and serve with caponata, that spicy olive oil and capsicum driven salad and salsa. The hanger steak is tender served rare and this dish works well with Italian style whites, like Soumah Pinot Grigio or Soave. Look for medium weight whites here without obvious tropical notes. It will be a simple and delicious entrée.

If you’re working with classic dishes like lamb shanks or osso bucco the dominant characteristic here is the melt in the mouth fat and richness of the meat. This type of meat calls for a high acid and tannic red wine like Dolcetto or S.C Pannell Nebbiolo. These wines cut through the food and as they do so, appear riper and softer when you drink them. Don’t make the mistake of serving super rich foods with big rich wine however, as there will be no respite.

4. A final piece of advice

If your budget allows, serve two different wines with your food, a white and red, or two of the same colour with different characteristics, light and bright versus rich and full-bodied. This way you can find your own preference and also enjoy the feeling of having your very own wine bar without leaving the house.