How to Pair Food & Wine

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When choosing a wine to have with a meal, many people simply pick their favourite. It’s safe and easy. But just because it’s a delicious wine, doesn’t mean it pairs with all food perfectly. Hosting a dinner party for friends or business is a good enough reason to pick the right wine. And, of course, you never want to spoil a special occasion by bringing the wrong wine to pair with dinner.

So why is it important to pair the right wine with food? Well, together the right food and wine combination complement one another, enhancing the flavour and experience of the meal itself. 

Let’s start by learning some of the basics, starting with the two ways to pair wine: contrasting pairing and congruent pairing. 

Congruent pairing enhances or amplifies the flavour of your food. For example, a white wine with a creamy mouthfeel, such as a Chardonnay is a congruent combination for a pasta with creamy sauce. 

On the other hand, contrasting pairing balances your meal by contrasting with a complementary flavour. An acidic, white wine, such as a Riesling, will complement a fatty fish. 

While most people will automatically look at pairing wine to red meat or white meat, this is not always the best way. Pairing red wine with steak or lamb and white wine with fish or chicken is standard practice, however it is not the only way to enhance or complement the flavour of the meal.

In fact, it is not really about red wine with red meat or white with chicken or fish, it is about the style of wine itself. For example, a light crisp low tannin red wine can work very well with white meat or even vegetarian dishes. For example, a Pinot Noir or red Burgundy goes just as well with salmon as it does with roast lamb.  And the right Chardonnay will go nicely with charcuterie or duck. 

Something to keep in mind, of course, is that some wines will complement or enhance certain foods better than others. But this has more to do with the style of wine, as well as its traits like sweetness, dryness, body, tannin, acidity, etc. 

If you were to enjoy a rich creamy fettuccine alfredo and pair it with a Chardonnay which has a full-body flavour and low acidity it would be concurrently enhancing the flavour of the meal. In contrast, a sharper Pinot Grigio can make the flavour more piquant.

Are there any real rules to pairing food and wine? 

In the past, the rules of pairing wines were pretty much set in stone. Today, like most things in the modern world, rules about food have become more like guidelines. If you want to get the best flavour out of your wine and meal there are a few basic suggestions to follow.

  • Red wines do pair best with red meat. Although we mentioned it is not always the case, red wines tend to be bolder in body and flavour as are red meats, so the congruent pairing will enhance something like a steak. 
  • Pick wines that are sweeter than your meal. Matching a sparkling wine with fruit or a muscat with saganaki are great choices.
  • White wines do pair best with lighter meals, such as salads, chicken, fish and other seafoods, but consider the whole meal, not just the fish.
  • Match the same flavour intensity. If your wine is light and crisp in flavour but your food is bold and earthy they will not complement each other as well as they could.
  • If your food contains more fat, a wine that is more bitter or acidic is a good choice.
  • Think about the sauce instead of the protein. The sauce of a meal can be the highlight and have more flavour, so matching the wine to the sauce is more important.

So where do you get great food and wine pairing?

Saros Bar and Dining in Moonee Ponds is one of Melbourne’s hottest places to grab a bite to eat. Our fabulous menu reflects the modern foodie scene with a European twist. The quality of the food is evident in the flavour profiles our chef creates. 

But what is great food without a great wine to go with it?!

If you are looking for a delicious meal made even better by the wine, we have a few suggestions that will make for a truly perfect dining experience.

Our sharing menu consists of a range of tapas that will truly get the mouth watering. This means an excellent selection of nibbles and sharing plates. If you are saving your appetite for the main course, order yourself (or the table) the mixed olives or smoked almonds & maple roasted cashews, and maybe some chargrilled sourdough. 

And for the wine, a Pinot Noir would be our recommendation. The mix of the salty brine of the olives and the smoothness of the Pinot is a great way to let your tastebuds know the night is just starting. 

Saros has the wonderful local Rochford ‘Latitude’ for the Yarra Valley by the glass. If you are going for one of the seafood based Shares or the Tuscan fried chicken, order either the Jack & Jill Chardonnay or Pinot Gris to really brighten the meal and the mood.

Once you’ve settled in, it’s time for the main course. With so much choice on the Saros Bar + Dining menu it could be hard to choose, but our amazing staff can help with some great suggestions.

The Angus Porterhouse with tarragon butter is one of the most popular meals at Saros, and for good reason. Perfectly marbled and grilled the only thing it needs is the right red wine to really bring out the flavour. So, which one will you choose? It could be the Shiraz, but the rich flavours of a Cabernet with the tannins of a Pinot Noir are also the perfect match for this steak. 

If you fancy a lighter meal, it would be hard to resist the Blue Swimmer crab risotto or roasted cauliflower. Just make sure you grab a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for the perfect match. 

When food and wine pairing it’s important to remember that there isn’t a set formula. The best combination will really depend on a number of factors about the meal and your particular taste. 

We know that getting it right can take practice. The number one rule is, don’t be afraid to try something new. 

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