Wine and food matching – a beginners’ guide
Choosing the appropriate wines to accompany your menu is an important part of planning any event, but for many organisers it’s an intimidating task. At Merchant Taylors’ Hall our Front of House Manager, Keith Thornberry, is on hand to help you choose fabulous matches from our vast and varied selection of wines. But a little background knowledge is always a good thing. So if you’re keen to understand more about what makes a perfect pairing, read our beginners’ guide to food and wine matching to get to grips with the basics.
The flavour and intensity of the wine should complement and enhance the taste of the food it’s served with, echoing its main characteristics without overshadowing it.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to matching food and wine, but these classic examples and descriptions of great pairings should give you an idea of what sorts of things to look out for when you come to choose the wines for your next Merchant Taylors’ Hall event.
If you’re serving steak or roast beef you can afford to match it with a ‘big’ red, like a Bordeaux or Rhone. It might be worth having a couple of reds on offer as it will depend on how rare the beef is served as to how much tannin the best match can handle. The rarer the meat, the more full-bodied and tannin-heavy the match. A medium-bodied red will accompany medium to well-done beef perfectly.
As an ingredient, chicken is a fantastic carrier for loads of different flavours so make sure you focus on the herbs and spices in the sauce or topping. For example, if you’re serving a simply-flavoured roast chicken, a light, delicate Chardonnay works well whereas a fragrantly-spiced chicken dish will benefit from being served with a dry Reisling.
Many fish dishes are delicate in flavour, texture and intensity, so one of the main things to be mindful of when choosing your wine is not to overpower the food. Light and crisp is the order of the day. A Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier or Semillon would be a great choice.
If tomatoes feature heavily in your dish, make sure you balance the meal with an equally acidic wine, and preferably one with no oaky undertones. With fresh tomatoes think dry rose or a light Sauvignon Blanc and for rich, cooked tomatoes an Italian red such as Chianti works well.
Dry sparkling wines, cava and Champagne are a really refreshing companion to salty dishes. This is worth keeping in mind when deciding on your canapé choices at your event.
As with your savoury courses, you want to make sure your dessert wine complements your pudding choices. Ideally the wine should be a shade sweeter than the food. A light Muscat is a popular choice and works with most puddings. For dark chocolate-based desserts a rich and fruity red like a Malbec holds its own. White chocolate matches beautifully with a floral Prosecco and for citrus fruit puds, try a Reisling or a Sauvignon Blanc. Dishes like Banoffee pie are incredibly sweet and you may struggle to find a suitable wine, so perhaps keep this in mind when you create your food menu.
Joined up thinking
If wine is important to you and your guests, it’s best to make sure any conversations about the menu are had alongside talks about the wine. At Merchant Taylors’ Hall our Front of House Manager, Keith Thornberry, knows our wine cellar’s contents intimately and will be able to help you with your pairing.