Choosing which wine to pair with a meal can sound difficult, but with an understanding of the basic principles it’s a no brainer. Usually, the wine selection will follow after the menu has been set, so consider the flavours of your meal first.
Focus on only six tastes: salt, acid, sweet, bitter, fat and spice. These will guide you to rule out some varieties of wine and consider others. Generally, red wine has more bitterness, whereas white, rose and sparkling have more acidity. Some wines lean sweet, and others dry.
Consider the intensity of the food. Is it light or rich? You shouldn’t choose a bold wine to pair with a light food, as it would overpower the meal. A light wine will get lost next to an intensely flavoured dish.
Many of the sparkling wines made in the Southern Forests region are made in the brut style (very little sweetness), so they pair perfectly with salty food like oysters, or compliment contrasting flavours like triple crème brie served alongside fresh grapes. When in the Southern Forests, you can’t go past the pairing of sparkling wine with marron. The delicate nature of a plain marron tail is stunning alongside a mouthful of bubbles.
Sauvignon blanc is medium bodied with a bit of zest (acidic notes), with subtle tropical fruit characteristics, and is generally considered to be dry rather than sweet. The refreshing nature of the variety means it will pair well with spiced foods like Thai or Mexican cuisine.
A sweeter riesling is delicious alongside a dish that contains a strong salt flavour, like salty cheeses or fish and chips. Desserts with a bit of tang like a lemon meringue pie contrast in a stunning way.
Chardonnay has more body and more complex flavours, with less acidity. Pairing a crisp chardonnay with fish or chicken works well as it complements the delicate flavours. Fruity chardonnay suits creamy pastas, and oaky chardonnay is excellent with the toasty flavours of dishes that have been grilled or smoked. It's best to void pairing this variety with heavily seasoned dishes, and spicy food.
Pinot noir is a lighter bodied red wine, with little tannins (bitterness). Being lighter, showing red-fruit notes like cherry, raspberry and strawberry and earthy notes like truffle and mushroom, Pinot noir pairs fantastically with charcuterie, pizza, or game meats. The Pinot Picnic festival, held in May 2023, is the perfect opportunity to explore this varietal with many different food pairings.
Shiraz is medium to full-bodied with high tannins (more bitterness) and cool-climate shiraz like those from the Southern Forests’ generally show spicy characteristics. It will hold its own when paired against something rich, like lamb stew, or a roast beef.
The best way to learn more about wine and food pairings is to experiment to see it for yourself. The perfect food match will make your chosen wine sing.
Photography by Frances Aldrijdch for Pemberely of Pemberton and Southern Forests and Valleys Wine Association.