News and views | 20 food and wine pairings to learn by heart

News and views

20 food and wine pairings to learn by heart

Inspired by the recent spate of minimal ingredient cookbooks such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Three Good Things I thought it might be helpful to come up with 20 wine matches that are easy to remember and which pretty well everyone will enjoy.

Of course there will be exceptions - if you’re allergic to shellfish you won’t go for oysters but here, in no particular order, are the 20 I’ve found work time after time.

1 Sauvignon Blanc and goats’ cheese

A winning combination that comes as a revelation to those that think cheese only goes with red wine

2 Duck and Pinot Noir

Especially crispy duck. When you think how well duck goes with red fruits like cherries it all makes sense. Chilean pinot is the best value at the moment.

3 Oysters and Chablis

Whether it’s the traces of oyster fossils in the soil or simply that Chablis is the pure, clean accompaniment that undressed oysters need but it’s brilliant. (As are Muscadet and Picpoul to be fair)

4 Rioja and roast lamb (above)

True other medium-bodied red wines work well too but this is a favourite combination in the region and they should know.

5 Steak and Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet’s big tannins are miraculously softened by a chargrilled steak, making it taste smooth and velvety. Closely followed by steak and Malbec which some would hold is even better. Certainly if they come from Argentina!

6 Mushroom risotto and Pinot Noir

In fact almost any kind of mushrooms and pinot (which is what red burgundy is made from). The silkier and more special (and unfortunately the more expensive) the pinot the better.

7 Chardonnay and chicken with a creamy sauce

Chardonnay loves chicken especially when it’s served with an unfashionably creamy sauce or as chicken pot pie. Avoid very oaky styles though

8 Chianti and pasta with tomato-based sauces

Chianti has a sharp acidity that’s brilliant with acid tomatoes. Other Sangiovese-based Italian reds will work too

9 Chilled fino sherry and olives. Or almonds. Or jamon. Or tapas generally

You may be uncertain about the idea of drinking chilled sherry but I promise you it’s delicious. From a freshly opened bottle, please, not one that’s been kept since last Christmas!

10 German riesling and smoked fish

German riesling is fruity, flowery and refreshingly low in alcohol but also has a slight oiliness that makes it the perfect partner for smoked fish - especially smoked eel or trout - but see smoked salmon below

11 Smoked salmon and Sauvignon Blanc

Champagne may be match most commonly associated with smoked salmon but I personally prefer the zesty citrussy hit of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

12 Parmesan biscuits and champagne

Crisp parmesan biscuits - in fact warm cheesy canapés of any kind are ace with champagne. (As are crisps and chips but don’t tell anyone)

13 Parma ham and prosecco

There’s something immensely soothing about silky folds of parma (or San Daniele) ham and a glass of gently sparkling prosecco

14 Seared scallops and chardonnay

Seared scallops have a sweetness and creaminess that chimes in perfectly with oak-aged chardonnay such as white burgundy, especially if you accompany them with a Heston Blumenthal-style cauliflower purée. Gorgeous.

15 Seared tuna and light Loire reds

Look out for reds such as Saumur, Saumur-Champigny, Chinon and Bourgeuil and give them half an hour in the fridge. Totally delicious with a meaty tuna steak cooked on a ridged grill pan

16 Stilton and port

One of the great all-time classics. Almost any type of port will do - Late Bottled Vintage, vintage or 10 year old tawny (my own favourite). See this longer list of possible pariings here.

17 Chocolate and Maury

Dark chocolate and sweet red wine is a match made in heaven (think Black Forest Gateau!) Maury is an inexpensive port-style wine from the south of France - slightly less alcoholic than ruby port but with the same lovely brambly flavours

18 Strawberries and Sauternes

Sauternes is generally associated with foie gras and Roquefort, neither of which pairings I hugely enjoy. But give me some new season English strawberries and a bowl of cream and I’m in heaven.

19 Indian or Chinese food and off-dry rosé

Many still think that spicy Asian cuisines don’t work with wine but if you’ve never been convinced try a strong fruity rosé with a touch of sweetness. Except for . . .

20 Thai food and Pinot Gris

With its hot/sweet/sour flavours Thai food is challenging but Alsace Pinot Gris which generally has a touch of sweetness wins through.

Top image by Shebeko at

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Comments: 4 (Add)

Philip Hamilton on August 21 2014 at 19:20

4 Aged Rioja
20 Thai and Gewürztraminer
1-20 Champagne - only wine that goes with (almost) everything
Seafood and Albariño
Otherwise I agree conpletely

David Porter on May 8 2013 at 05:37

For 3. it is well to remember a young Hunter semillon to add their zesty citrus lime flavours to your oysters. At 14. forget the chardonnay and pair your seared scallops with an aged Hunter semillon where the smooth honey citrus will almost bring the scallops to life again.

Rod Graham on October 20 2012 at 12:37

I'd amend #17 to chocolate and YOUNG Maury. I find that woody aged flavours over-emphasise the bitter aspect of chocolate.

Eyre Brothers Restaurant on October 19 2012 at 09:01

All sound recommendations BUT additionally Fino sherry and any deep fried fish dish eg. cuttlefish/baby squid/cod croquetas and [contrary to local taste] an aged dry sherry such as Oloroso/Amontillado with magnificent Jamon, where the nuttiness and extra body go with the Jamon so well.

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