Wine Pairing 101: How to Choose the Right Wine For Your Food

No other world cuisine benefits from food and wine pairing as much as French food. The French understand food in a completely different way than the Irish, and maybe the reason for this is the wonderful selection of wines on their doorstep! In this article, we share why wine pairing can enhance your overall meal experience and how to go about choosing the right wine for your food.

Why bother pairing wine and food?

The French enjoy a glass of wine with many of their meals, a small luxury on a daily basis. This is often a local homegrown wine, paired with local foods and produce. French families often keep more complex wines for special occasions with family and friends. In savouring the flavours of food, both as individual dishes and in balance with each other, a French meal with well-chosen wine matches can be something close to heaven. Ultimately, clever wine pairing can only enhance the food. Read on to learn the basics of how to pair wine with your meal, and what to consider when choosing your bottle.

The basic rules for wine pairing

Rule Number 1: Red wine goes with meat, and white wine goes with seafood and poultry.

Rule Number 2: Rules are made to be broken! Spend some time experimenting so you can understand what it is you like.

There are many wines that are simply amazing with certain foods, but overall the wine from France is so good, the main point is to take pleasure in sipping the wine and enhancing your dining experience.

If, like most people, you have a small number of wines that are your favourites and don’t do much experimenting beyond those few bottles, try pairing some different varieties with meals to understand the basics of wine tasting. We all enjoy serving the perfect bottle of wine with a special meal and getting that right is a science — but it’s also about understanding your personal preferences. What we enjoy can be very individual; looking at some of our suggestions is a good place to start, but try some pairings yourself to see if you can feel how the flavours complement your meal.

Salmon with glass of red wine against dark background

What to consider when you’re pairing wine with food

When you’re searching for a wine to match a specific dish, the acidity, body, aromas and flavours of the wine are all factors to consider. 

Woman enjoying a glass of red wine in a restaurant

These elements mean different thing to different palates and tastes. Remember that wine tasting is subjective and it all comes down to the opinion of the taster.

Acid: Sour and sharp notes of the wine will determine the acidity level. Imagine biting into a sour apple or a lemon: you’ll feel it on the palate as it hits your tongue with a sharp sensation.

Body: The ‘body’ of the wine refer to its established weight and mouthfeel. It can be light, also called thin, or it can be heavy, creamy, even oily.

Aroma: The aroma, bouquet or nose are all terms for the way a wine smells. You might find just one or two notes, or a complex mix of aromas that blend and change when you swirl the wine and expose it to the air. Try to identify earthy, floral, fruity and nutty notes, among many others. If you’re interested in honing your skills, you can find some helpful tools out there (like aroma wheels) to help you practice.

Flavour: The flavour of the wine is mostly determined by its aromas; what we smell often has a big impact on what we taste. For example, you might find a wine with nutty aromas that become coffee-chocolate notes of flavour.

What all of this means for wine pairing

Matching food to wine is easier than it sounds. Determine if the wine is light, spicy, sweet or rich, and use this information to match it to your dish. A good rule of thumb is to pair wine with food that equals its intensity. A flavourful chicken recipe will go well with a light, spicy-sweet white; a steak with a heavier sauce to a full-bodied, strong red.

Suggestions for traditional food and wine pairings

Sancerre, Domaine des Clairneaux
Pouilly Fumé, Domaine Berthier

Sauvignon Blanc with blue cheese. Try our Pouilly-Fumé, Domaine Berthier or a Sancerre: our Domaine Berthier, is a classic choice and is simply amazing.

Vin de Pays de Gascogne, Domaine d'Arton, Cuvée les Deux Cèdres

Chardonnay with chicken, scallops, lobster and Brie. Try our Domaine de Preigne Chardonnay.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc with shrimp, pork, oysters and white fish. Try our Touraine Sauvignon.

Hautes Côtes de Beaune, Domaine Joillot

Pinot Noir with salmon, fatty fish and duck. Our Bourgogne Pinot Noir is an ideal match for rich foods like these.

Burgundy Chardonnay, Côte Chalonnaise

Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Domaine Joillot

Red or white Burgundy with turkey, pheasant and quail. Our white or red Bourgogne have to be tried to be believed!

Margaux, cuvée "initial de Desmirail" by Châteaux Desmirail

Red Bordeaux with lamb. A special lamb meal deserves a special red. Our Margaux, cuvée “Initial de Desmirail” by Châteaux Desmirail is a classic French wine.

Vin de Pays D'Oc, Cuvée "La Petite Source", Domaine Robert Vic

Cabernet Sauvignon with beef, venison and pork. Our La Petite Source is perfect for those summer barbecues!

Pommard, Domaine Joillot

Burgundy with braised meat and game. Try our Pommard, Domaine Joillot.

White wine served with white fish. Our suggestion is Riesling – Materne Haegelin.

We choose our wines on the basis that we wouldn’t sell a wine that we would not serve with friends. Our experts are rigorous testers and only select wines of the highest quality. Try them yourself and get pairing!

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