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How to pair wine with meat dishes

BY Erica Dent

1st Jan 2015 Drinks

How to pair wine with meat dishes

Picking the right wine to match your meal can really enhance your enjoyment of both what’s on your plate and what’s in your glass. Food and wine pairing can be intimidating, but by following a few basic guidelines, you can choose a wine with confidence – whether it’s for a homemade favourite, or to compliment a restaurant meal. So where do you begin?

Choose with your guests in mind

It might seem obvious, but the first thing to consider when picking a wine to pair with food is, what style of wine do you, or your guests prefer? We often feel restricted to choose certain bottles with our food – for example, automatically choosing white wine with fish and red wine with meat. But this does not account for personal taste and the need to choose a wine you will actually enjoy!

One wine drinker may enjoy the big flavours of traditional meat-matching wines like Barolo and Cabernet Sauvignon, which have lots of spice, oak, tannin, and acid. Another wine drinker would find those styles of wine bitter and too acidic to be enjoyable.  Often, many different styles of wine can work with the same dish, so you will more than likely be able to find a complimenting wine, in a style you know you will enjoy.

Preparing the meat

There are hundreds of different ways of preparing meat dishes–from cooking methods to accompaniments–so when choosing a wine to pair with a meat-based meal it helps to concentrate on the strongest flavours of the dish. Often, these can be found in the sauce, dressing or a side dish.

It’s also worth remembering that when you drink wine with a meal the wine will taste less powerful, so choose something with more intensity of flavor than you would usually drink on its own.

Pork and Chicken

If you’re eating chicken or pork and the meat is going to be eaten grilled with lightly flavoured accompaniments such as steamed vegetables, boiled potatoes or rice, the dish will have a delicate flavour. To match, choose a delicately flavoured white wine such as Picpoul, Muscadet, Verdejo, Soave, Vinho Verde or Chablis. These wines will all be enhanced by this style of dish, and if you like them anyway, you may find them greatly improved.

If you prefer rosé wine, this dish would also be complimented by something pink, as rosé wines are usually delicate in flavour too.

Red wine drinkers’ needn’t fear, a delicate red such as early-drinking Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Bonarda, Valpolicella, would also be a good match to this meal.

Beef and Lamb

Even when lightly grilled, meats like beef and lamb will generally still have more flavour intensity than chicken or pork, so you will need to increase the flavour intensity of your wine.

In this case, white wine drinkers should choose riper Chardonnays, with or without oak, Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño, Riesling, or Semillon. Rosé gets a little trickier, but the more  expensive examples from the South of France, or Spain will have the intensity to stand up to the dish.

If you are not a red wine fan, the savoury taste in lean meat which is served quite rare will bring out the bitterness in the wine, so you’re probably safer sticking with white.

For those who do enjoy red wine however, a fruity but not too expensive, Merlot, Grenache, Tempranillo (Rioja), or a higher quality Pinot Noir with oak from Burgundy or New Zealand will make this dish sing.

Barbecued, Sweet, Spicy

If your meat is going to be barbecued or accompanied by a rich sauce, or strongly flavoured side dishes, then you need to trade up to bigger flavoured whites and reds to match the intensity of the meal. In this case, choose whites like Chardonnay or Viognier and red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.

Finally, choose with caution if you’re eating sweet or spicy foods, as sweetness and chilli can make a wine taste less fruity, more bitter, acidic and alcoholic. Go with a wine that has residual sugar, is un-oaked and strong in fruit flavour, like Vouvray Demi-Sec, a New Zealand or Alsace Pinot Gris or a German Riesling.

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