Nailing the marriage between food and wine heightens and elevates the dining experience. The endless combinations of flavours and textures make the exploration even more enjoyable. Follow a few simple rules and your taste buds will thank you.
One of the basics to keep in mind when making a pairing is that the food and wine should be equally as intense as one another. We’ve all had a blustering red wine with a meal that just can’t take the weight or power. Conversely, a light-bodied wine gets lost with a dense, heavy meal.
In keeping with this, a classic rule of thumb is to drink older wines with dishes that have been cooked for a long time. Think of a 10- or 20-year-old red wine – would it be better suited with a steak that is cooked quickly at high temperature or would it embrace that beef bourguignon that has been simmering away for a number of hours? The latter will always win out.
Going further, work around sweetness, bitterness, saltiness, acidity, spice and fat and their various intensities and you’ll smash the brief every time.
High acid wines cleanse the palate from oily foods. That’s why crisp and zippy wines like riesling and semillon are great with sashimi, fresh seafood and deep-fried fish and chips. Arm yourself with a Miss Zilm riesling 2022 ($30) where the minerality and lemony drive just sizzles. Stretch your curiosity a little further and try an emerging variety such as vermentino. Born by the Italian seaside, it is fit for the purpose. One of the best you’ll find in Australia is Queensland’s own Golden Grove Estate vermentino 2022 ($35) with its vibrancy and ripples of lemon juice calling you back time and again.
Softly spiced Asian dishes would be well-suited to the fine spices of the O’Leary Walker grüner veltliner 2022 ($35) or even an off-dry riesling such as Gundog Estate Gundaroo riesling 2022 ($40) with that lick of sweetness from some residual sugar. But finely spiced foods can also be complemented by a delicately spiced wine. Consider the cool climate vibes of Seville Estate Old Vine Reserve 2020 ($95) to add a touch of class.
A lazy afternoon absorbing the sunset sometimes calls for a bag of chips. Sea salt crisps and a glass or two of Limefinger Polish Hill River riesling 2022 ($39) smashes the brief. The flicker of spice in Samboy Barbecue complements the medium-bodied and fine spice tickle of the De Iuliis Estate shiraz 2020 ($25).
New world chardonnay is really on trend right now. The subtle creaminess with a white-fleshed stone fruit and citrusy drive sees an abundance of delicious examples on the shelves.
Creamy pasta dishes would be an ideal partner for something like the Montalto The Eleven chardonnay 2021 ($90). Chardonnay works equally as well with roast pork and roast chicken while the nuttiness of aged chardonnay pairs wonderfully with hard cheeses.
The delicate profile of pinot noir is a favourite beside duck, but the medium body of grenache works just as well. The juicy red fruits and flicker of spice lifts the dish that little bit more. Try Arila Gardens Sand Garden grenache 2021 ($85) for a thrilling example of the variety.
But if pinot noir is your thing, its light frame is a wonderful partner for richer fish like salmon. The Oakridge Vineyard Series Henk pinot noir 2021 ($45) is super impressive and will pay dividends.
When working with plated dishes, another consideration is to match the wine to the sauce rather than the protein. We’ve all heard the rule to drink red wine with red meat, but go a little deeper than that to strike the right combo.
Mushroom sauces, as an example, would be better suited to earthy and savoury wines such as the Hutton Vale Grenache mataro 2018 ($55).
The full body and high tannins of a cabernet ensure it partners robust meats such as lamb with aplomb. Splash out and race for the Jim Brand cabernets 2019 ($85) for that assignment.
Although shiraz and beef is also a classic combo, consider mixing up steak night a little with the Georgian variety saperavi. Wonderfully fragrant with chewy tannins, the Hugh Hamilton Oddball saperavi 2019 ($75) is sure to impress.
When it comes to dessert, serve a wine sweeter than the food. Flip this around the other way and the wine will go missing. The silky, long and luscious drive of the Yalumba FSW botrytis Viognier 2020 ($30) is a match made in heaven beside a citrus tart.
Above all, try something new, enjoy the exploration and you may just land yourself a new favourite.
Here’s cheers to Sunshine Coast Beer
10 Toes Culture Kick Blueberry Pastry Sour (4.0%) – This sour oozes refreshment. Blueberries cannon through the mouth with a delicate pastry feel. Add a flash of citrus and vanilla and it’s gone in no time.
10 Toes Lazy Hazy Session NEIPA (3.8%) – A tin full of tropical fruit with a mango cameo and citrusy tang. Light and refreshing, it sits a fraction above one standard drink. Tick!
Steve Leszczynski is a wine writer, wine dinner host and emcee. Apart from writing for his website QwineReviews.com, Steve contributes to Halliday Wine Companion Magazine, Vinomofo, Wine Business Magazine and Grapegrower Winemaker Magazine. Steve is a passionate supporter of the Queensland wine industry.