A cheat's guide to wine-pairing

Wine-pairing is one of those mysterious processes that most of us leave in the hands of the chef or sommelier in fear of disturbing the delicate balance of a delicious dish. When it's time to host lunch or dinner at your plage, we've got you covered – and you're about to find that matching your meal with its ideal partner is easier than you might have thought. Follow these five tips – and an easy visual guide – to make sure your guests are glad they came over.




  1. Find balance

    The wine and food are two parts of a larger experience throughout a meal. There should be an equilibrium between the two so that one does not dominate the palate. A rule of thumb: hearty foods match hearty wines – a Cabernet Sauvignon with grilled lamb chops, for example – while delicate foods prefer delicate wines.



  2. Play matchmaker

    Before you cook your meal, consider its core elements. Sauce and seasoning can often serve as guides to pairing. For instance, the flavours of a chicken curry with match a soft red while a fresh white will go well with a more citrus-forward dish.




  3. It's all about the aromatics

    While cooking or shopping, take the time to think about how best to match your meal to a wine's aroma. Use fruit, herbs and spices that echo or accentuate the tasting notes you'll find listed on the bottle's label.

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  4. Sweet and sour

    As a general rule, wine should have higher acidity than the food so that it can cleanse and refresh the palate with each sip. The more acidic the meal, the drier the wine you pair with it. If your preference doesn’t include dry wines, you can also judge a wine’s pairing potential by how sweet it is. As long as the wine is slightly sweeter than the food you’re serving. Any less sweet and it might taste bitter in contrast. For example, pair a fruity Pinotage with an earthy beef stew or mushroom dish.
  5. Don't run out of wine

    Generally, estimating for three glasses of wine per person should keep your guests happy. Usually, there are four glasses of wine in a bottle. Always buy more than you need (and make sure everyone goes home in an Uber). Don’t dismiss a friend’s offer to bring a bottle and don’t be afraid to give them suggestions for what will work. Even if they don’t find the perfect pairing, you’re likely to find that anything’s better than running out of wine when your table’s still full.