News and views | What impact does garlic have on wine pairing?

News and views

What impact does garlic have on wine pairing?

If you’re the kind of person (like me) who puts garlic into practically everything you cook you may regard this question as an irrelevance but some dishes are much more garlicky than others.

The key issue is how long it’s cooked - if at all. Add a clove of garlic to a slow-cooked braise or stew and you’ll hardly notice it. Use it uncooked in a salad dressing or a garlicky mayonnaise (aioli) and you certainly well.

What you need with raw garlic is acidity. Just as lemon and garlic are natural bedfellows so are citrussy white wines like Sauvignon Blanc, other crisp fresh whites like Picpoul de Pinet and Italian whites like Vermentino or Falanghina. Even Chablis works well with dishes like Chicken Kiev.

Dry champagne, especially blanc de blancs champagne is pretty good too. I remember on a champagne trip once have garlicky snails with Taittinger and it was brilliant. There are cheaper sparkling wines that would do the same trick.

Strong dry rosé - with the emphasis on dry - works well with aioli or the Spanish allioli. I’d personally go for a southern French rosé from an appellation like Costières de Nîmes or, if you’re willing to spend a bit more a Bandol rosé or a Tavel. Dry Spanish rosados are great too.

Reds are less successful, in my opinion, with raw garlic but great with garlicky dishes that have been slow-cooked. Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre - or a blend of all three work particularly well as do Italian reds although the Italians don’t tend to use a huge amount of garlic in their cooking. Full-bodied Shiraz and Malbec will also take a good whack of garlic in their stride.

And finally sherry - good old sherry - which somehow crops up in every list of wine matches. Manzanilla or fino sherry is great with garlicky tapas. It’s that acidity again.

Top tip: if garlic is included in a spicy dish like a curry the spices are usually more important than the garlic in terms of a wine match.

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Comments: 2 (Add)

Fiona Beckett on September 29 2012 at 17:15

Sorry - missed this comment, somehow Andrew. I totally agree - but there's the creamy cheese and pepper for the Syrah to kick off. Great combination!

Andrew H. on May 10 2012 at 20:18


I'd say you are spot on as usual! I would add that a typical French country cheese, Gaperon, with garlic and black pepper would be great with a peppery Syrah from the Rhone.

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