• Ben Franks FRSA

how to get food and wine pairing right every time.

Like anything that involves personal taste, every food and wine pairing will mean something different to each person trying it. Nevertheless, there’s a few guidelines you can follow that will land you in the right area every time.

Once you’ve mastered these, you can explore the world of wine and food with confidence!


the no. 1 rule is salt needs acidity.

Classic food and wine pairings (cheese came to mind already, right?) are built on the concept of salt plus acidity. Salt is a natural flavour enhancer, hence why the chefs are always getting you to season your food, but it also cuts through acidity. This makes your wine taste softer and fruitier.

The most acidic wine you can buy is fizz. The fruit picked for fizz needs to be clean and lightly flavoured so that it results in a refreshing tipple. Therefore the fruit’s picked young when the grape’s acidity is higher than its sugars. Drinking fizz along can sometimes be sharp on the first sip, but pair this with a classic plate of fish and chips or some salty, aged Manchego and suddenly your wine is bright and fruity.


A similar concept also applies in why fish and white wine work so well. If you like your white fish with a squeeze of lemon, then think about a citrussy white wine: the citrus fruit notes complement your dish, while the salt from the fish cuts through the acidity and makes your wine taste even fruitier.

Ever tucked into some bar snacks with a glass of wine? You probably remember how easily that wine slipped down. It’s because crisps, nuts and olives are usually salty and that makes them the perfect friend to your glass of wine.


fats are greedy, so give them both body and acidity.

Great red wines have good acidity. If you’ve ever bought cheap red wine, you probably feel all sleepy after one glass because the dominant element in your wine is sugar. You may not notice it but next time you have a red wine, swirl it in your mouth and feel the way your cheeks pull in. That’s all mouthwatering acidity!


The thing reds (and oak-aged white wines) have as well is tannin or creaminess. This adds body, which is the weightiness of the wine in your mouth, and makes it a great match with fats.


Malbec and rib-eye is already a classic. Lamb, which is particularly fatty but also lighter than beef, works brilliantly with new world Pinot Noir (Australia or New Zealand are good bets, the USA offers some weightier examples). Good value, young Chianti is also great with lamb.


Anything with butter like risotto or buttery garlic chicken is marvellous with creamy white wines. Try Chardonnay from Burgundy in France or a warm climate Viognier.


Sweet, appley Chenin Blanc is delicious with pork because it’s like putting a dollop of apple sauce on your plate.


finally, don’t miss out on wine with your spicy grub.

Spice is a difficult thing to match with, so most of us opt for beer. However, if you get some sugar in your wine – look for Riesling from Germany’s Mosel Valley or an off-dry Vouvray from France – it can be perfect with coconut curries, hot sweet and sour Asian broths, or crispy chilli beef.

One of the most interesting matches I’ve had is a sweeter bottle of red wine with BBQ pulled pork in a sticky sweet sauce. Delicious!


Time to explore!

So, now you’re armed with my three guidelines: acidity plus salt, fats with body and acidity, and sugar with your spice. Use these, experiment and get to know what you personally do or don’t like. In no time you’ll be enjoying the adventure and rewards of food and wine matching.


Ben Franks FRSA is the CEO and wine buyer at Novel Wines and a director and wine buyer for Canned Wine Co.



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