Pinot noir or merlot, chardonnay or riesling? If you’ve always wanted to add a bottle of wine to your delivery meal but are confounded by the myriad options out there, here’s the 101 on wine pairing.
First things first: decide on what you want to eat. Then choose the red, white, rosé, or sweet wine, or even a combination of all these to go with your meal. Most restaurant staff, such as La Strada’s Restaurant Manager Rajoo Menoheran, would recommend white wine with seafood and white meat due to the wine’s acidity. Menoheran adds, “Red wines typically pair better with red meat and stew-styled dishes. This is due to its tannins that help to enhance the flavour and texture of the dish and consequently, elevate the diner’s experience.”
Red and white wines are classified by their varietals. They’re also variously described as being light, medium or heavy-bodied, depending on how heavy/viscous it feels in the mouth.
White varietals include chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc, semillon and gewürztraminer. The last one is especially useful in leaving an impression, not least because its pronunciation “guh–vyrts-trah-mee-nuhr” conveys linguistic sophistication. Cue bonus points for being able to point out its distinctive floral and fruity notes. Profile-wise, they range from fruity flavours such as citrus, pear and apple in chardonnay to herbaceous, grassy and grapefruit notes in a sauvignon blanc.
Red wine varietals include light-bodied ones such as pinot noir and gamay. The likes of sangiovese, merlot and montepulciano are medium-bodied. Full-bodied examples include cabernet sauvignon, malbec and shiraz. The lighter-bodied wines have red fruit flavours such as raspberry and cherry. The fuller-bodied ones often have glimmers of dark fruit such as blackberry and plum.
Wines for before and after a meal
Then there are the sparkling wines that are usually enjoyed pre-dinner—the warm-up to the meal. These include champagne, crémant, cava and prosecco, depending on which country and region they’re made in. These are also differentiated by their production method and the type of grapes used. Only sparkling wines produced in France’s Champagne region can carry the coveted term. Crémants refer to those produced in other French regions. If it’s a cava, it’s Spanish, while prosecco hails from the Veneto region in Italy.
Sweet spirited endings come in the forms of dessert wines, some of which have a higher alcohol by volume (ABV) than others. Port, madeira and sherry have a 15 per cent ABV while a Moscato d’Asti hovers between five and six per cent.
In reality, there’s no hard and fast rule to choosing wines. Your checkout cart won’t freeze and throw out an error message if you click on a red to go with a lobster or a white with your roast beef.
Food is all about enjoyment and having fun exploring. Try a wide variety to discover your favourite cuisine combinations. Boldly drop whatever tickles your fancy into the cart, even quirky labels. The more you taste, the more you know what works or doesn’t.
Still at a loss where to start? We kickstart your wine discovery journey with these suggested pairings from five restaurants. Bon appetit!
La Strada’s restaurant manager Rajoo Menoheran recommends a Mandrarossa Chardonnay Laguna Secca 2017 ($60) from Sicily to go with their Chitarra Alla Carbonara ($28). The pasta dish is made with truffle butter, slow-cooked egg, parmigiana and ham crumble. He says, “White wine usually has higher acidity, particularly chardonnay. Its higher level of acidity can cut through the richness of the cream-based pasta and help diners to enjoy it better.”
Grammi’s home-style comfort food is anchored by fresh ingredients and well-curated wines. Taste the magic in pairings such as the Tagliatelle Bolognese ($16.90) with the Tenuta La Novella Chianti Classico 2016 ($62). Riccardo Nardone, group beverage manager of the ilLido Group that owns Braci and Grammi, explains, “Angus beef and smoked pancetta bolognese calls for ripe, juicy red wines like this savoury classic red. You will love the fruity notes of cherry followed by delicate spicy notes of black pepper. These are harmoniously blended within a medium-bodied, slightly dry and acidic wine. The 2016 vintage is excellent as it grew in favourable conditions.”
Another winner: the bold and structured Tolaini Al Passo Tuscana 2012 ($62) that highlights the gamey flavour of the Slow Roasted NZ Lamb Shank ($26.50). “Its deep colour and vibrant nose of black fruits, earthy notes and slight oak will delight every bite of lamb shank and spiced carrots,” says Nardone.
Now that you’re on a roll, finish the meal with another red, the Guildaberto Tenuta San Guido 2014 ($95). It’s bold and rich, yet dry enough to complement a sweet and intense dessert, such as the alcohol- and caffeine-free Grammi Tiramisu ($16.90, serves two). Nardone shares that the wine’s “outstanding balance between the plum, oak vanilla, and smokiness from wood barrel aging” deepens the strength of the chocolate notes in the rich tiramisu.