Recommended Wine:
Food & Wine Pairing Tool

Welcome to Recommended Wine, a tool for you to pair wine with food. You just pick the dish you're planning on pairing with, and we'll find something appropriate that will both excel the wine and your dinner. Visit our wine database to browse for more.

What's for dinner?

Appetizers

Served to whet appetites and cleanse palates before the 'serious' eating begins; dry refreshing wines should come to mind. 

Caviar traditionally goes well with Sparking wine, but if you won't be serving important fine wines after, it's best to go with other dry Sparkling instead of a vintage Champagne. Same principle applies to raw oysters, nuts and olives. Pair with a Spanish Cava.

Amouse-Bouche (mouth amuser) are a chefs way of teasing, showing you what's to come. Pair with mildly tempered full bodied wines like Merlot or Pinot Noir.

Egg based appetisers can dull out your palate and require an assertive full bodied, yet refreshing wine. Pair with a bone dry white like Chardonnay.

Antipasti with Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc and Sushi with any good White wine.

Stray away from serving dishes with strong flavors in them of garlic or onion, instead, offer a themed cheese board with lots of refreshing fruit and a sparkling dry wine.

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Bbq

Barbecue ('Braai' in South Africa ) brings people together. While the commonplace is to wash it down with a cold beer or a smoky bourbon, don't be quick to rule wine out.

The finer the cut, the finer the wine. Here you can bring out that vintage  Bordeaux or  red Burgundy for prized steaks.

New world styles are robust and packed with enough fruit  to match with the smoky or fatty, sometimes spicy barbecues no matter your sauce. Try medium to full bodied wines.

Tender or off-the-bone barbecues match better with medium bodied Merlot or Shiraz or blends.

 

Pairing according to the meat!

Veal can go well with a full bodied, medium to dry White wine such as Chardonnay, and oaked Sauvignon Blanc. Otherwise, tango with medium bodied Red wines like Bordeaux. Or Bordeaux style blends-- wines with some Cabernet Sauvignon or  Merlot.

Roasted lamb, served plainly can be excellent with fine Red wines. There's an age old recommendation for Bordeaux with Lamb. Lamb also gives you the opportunity to try flavorful regional dishes, be sure to pair a local wine with the recipe you chose.

Game has an assertive flavor, from teeny birds to large game like Deer (kid has slightly less flavour and Pairs well with a fruity robust Red wine).  White wines like Chardonnay, Riesling  (Alsace ) and aromatic Cabernet Franc  are good with birds.  Big game requires wine with big flavor; Burgundy  (try Vosne Romanée ),  Italian Barolo, Granache and Rioja(Tempranillo).

Grilled fish served plainly can take delicate light wines with some acidity or light Red wines.  Aged Sauvignon Blanc or Alsatian Riesling.

Sauce and rub. A sweet, spicy sauce will call for a medium bodied Red wine.

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Beef

Beef with Red wine is a no brainer. Here the play is to match weights, Red wine styles are traditionally 'heavier' than White wines.

Broiled beef goes with dry big White wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, white Rioja and light, yet assertive Red wines.

Raw or undercooked (medium rare to rare) cuts will go with assertive wines, White or Red.

The finer the cut, the finer the wine should be. Invest in an awing Bordeaux or Burgundy or wines of similar style but of good quality.

Accompaniments and rich sauces such as creamed vegetables call for robust Red wines, so do fatty cuts of beef.

Well hung beef will require a forceful wine.

 

Serving temperature.

Served hot, pair with a fruity wine while cold meats will take a Rosé with some tannin or a big, full bodied White wine with good acidity. Beaujolais,  Loire reds.

Stews and other simple, informal dishes will go well with equally simple,  uncomplicated wines.

Should you use a wine in the recipe or marinade,  serve the same wine.

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Cheese

The animal fat and character of cheese, makes it just perfect for wine. There's an old adage by the English "buy on apple and sell at cheese" referring to how cheese can improve even the most astringent of wines.

Any type of wine can go with cheese. The most important thing to consider is its fat content, some have less than others. Fatty cheeses would pair well with highly acidic or weighty wines. 

Blue  cheeses are flavorful and slightly salty. They require wines with medium to full body.  Pair fruity, less tannic Red wines with soft blue cheeses like Gorgonzola or Bleu de Bresse. While you can also contrast the saltiness of Stilton with a sweet Port.

Hard matured cheeses. 

Find a robust Red wine; say Shiraz or an old Barolo, to go with a well matured hard cheese like Gloucester. Milder cheeses in this category (Gruyère) will pair with fruity medium quality reds.

Soft, full fat cheeses.

Fine Red wines pair well with prime cheeses like Brie or Camembert because the cheese is creamy and  the wine has rounded off its tannins. Full bodied, bone dry White wines can pair well with any cheese in this category, from soft Ricotta to creamy Bel Paese.

Fresh cream cheeses.

Aren't too picky about their partners. Pair with any White wine from medium dry to semi sweet not forgetting light Red wines. Consider the type of milk used because each has different degrees of subtle flavor. Herby cheeses in this category call for robust wines like a young Pinotage.

Novelty cheeses.

Cheeses infused with strong flavors like garlic, covered in nuts or smoked can pair with any uncomplicated straightforward wine.

Proceeded or pre-packaged cheese from the supermarket will pair with just about any wine.

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Chicken

'White wines go well with white meat', if you had a penny for every time you heard that!

 

Picking wine for poultry often depends on the stuffing and cooking methods used; chicken (and Turkey) seep flavor from other ingredients.

Stuffing. Rich stuffing would require a weighty White wine or a light Red, while subtlety flavored stuffing call for light Reds and medium bodied White wines.

A dish like Chicken in Champagne sauce will demand Champagne served with it.

Creamed sauces require sharp acidity to cut through hence full bodied White wines like Chardonnay, white Graves and white Côtes du Rhône .

Everyday wines go well with cold roast poultry,  as long as they (the wines) are assertive and light to medium bodied.

Boiled chicken will take a robust dry to medium dry White wine or a medium bodied to light Red.

Casseroles of chicken cooked in White wine will pair with young wines.

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Desserts

When picking a sweet wine for dessert, consider the level of sugar in the actual dessert. Very sweet desserts tend to overwhelm even the finest wine and make it watery.  The best pairings are those which the wine does not compete with the desert.

Sparkling wine. Fruity, full bodied sparkling wines of medium quality and some non vintage Champagne can cut the cream of rich desserts and cleanse the palate.

Chocolate!

Will stun the palate and put it in a trance for some time. Offer Coffee or Coffee based liqueurs instead.  Should your mousse have some fruit in it like strawberry, try a fruity light Red wine. Try Chocolate Block, a South African Shiraz blend.

Egg based dessert.

Crème brulée and custards pair with full bodied White wines with sharp acidity, here you can try a full bodied sparkling. A light Red wine with some acidity will pair well too.

Cake and pudding.

Spare the Dom and serve a non vintage champagne , Asti or any inexpensive sparkling of good quality- preferably after the cake.

With desserts dishes, fortified wines like sweet Marsala and liqueurs pair well. Fine dessert wines would be better appreciated on their own or with cheese.

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Fish

A curious thing happens when you pay close attention to fish, you start to notice that fish from different waters have varying levels of intensity of flavor and fat.

Fish from rushing rivers and cold water decidedly more flavorful and with less fat about them. Probably from all that swimming against currents! Going deeper (quite literally) in the sea, they get fatter the deeper and colder the water gets. Here think weighty wines.

Riesling are the fail safe wines for fish while Vodka is better with Eel, Swordfish and Shark.

Salmon, salmon Trout and Char are delicate with subtle flavors. Served as a main would work well with a great wine. Find a good German wine up to the Auslese category.

Cooking method matters, some open textured fish like Hake and Mackerel tend to bend to the will of cooking. They pair well with straightforward, medium dry to dry White wines.

Fried with batter, baked or served with melted butter; pair with a wine that can cut through the fat. A medium to full bodied, yet assertive White wine.

Garnishes with fruit work with fruity, medium dry wines.

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Pork

Chops and cutlets will take an assertive, full bodied Red or White wine. If grilled, pair with an Italian Valipollicela.

Casserole pairings of pork depend on other ingredients for the resulting flavour.  Should you use a regional recipe,  serve wines local to that region.

Pork roasts tend to have a substantial amount of fat. Go for wines packed with fruit and acidity. Medium to full bodied Red wines like a Beaujolais  (Gamay) and dry White wines.

Grills of Ham and bacon or their cold cuts go well with robust ordinary wines. Find a young wine that takes your fancy that's packed with fruit or medium tannin.

 

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Spicy

Nothing beats the excitement brought on by hot spicy food.

Thai, African, Indian or Mexican; we all have our guilty pleasure go-tos.  The heat coming from every bite makes us crave cold refreshments. Notice how water does nothing to cool the fire but milk or orange juice does? This is because of the weight, light drinks do little to coat the palate and temperature the heat.

Steer clear of tannic wines. Spice and tannins have an unhealthy relationship that brings out the worst in each other causing the tannin to taste bitter and the spice hotter.yikes!

Full bodied to medium bodied wines work well especially with spicy barbecue.

Sweet tempers heat. As a contrast, pair with a young late harvest with minimal acidity.

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Vegetarian

Pairing vegetarian or vegan dishes can be as explorative and fun as pairing with meat dishes.


Keep in mind the ingredients your the dish when pairing wine and how it will eventually taste, then find a wine to complement or contrast textures and flavours in it.

Contrast: Tofu pairs well with bold young  Reds like Malbec, Carmenere, Shiraz and Pinotage. Feel free to chose a finer wine or a White wine as long as you feel it has the necessary assertiveness  heavy mouth-feel.

Compliment: Depending on what you chose to focus on, matching flavours in food to their wine counterparts always works. Earthy flavours like Mushroom go well with earthy wines like Pinot Noir.

Consider your sauce.  Rich sauces like Mushrooms with a Peanut butter sauce or Coconut cream sauce add weight to your dish which makes a good pairing with bold red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or weighty Whites like Chardonnay.

Note; Tannin in Cabernet and cuts through the fat and acts as a palate cleanser while the weight of the Chardonnay will balance with the weight of the sauce making the combined flavour lighter.

Cooking method: Rich White wines like Chardonnay and rich Reds work with smoky and savoury flavours that result from cooking methods such as grilling or caramelising.

Rosé all the way: You can never go wrong with Rosé. They carry the fruity quality of Red wines but with some acidity and weight making the best pairing for just about anything!

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One of these wines will be perfectly paired with appetizers

Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Riesling,  Champagne, Asti, Dry Cava, Merlot.

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One of these wines will be perfectly paired with bbq

Pinot Noir, Dry Riesling, Rosé,  Pinotage,  Aussie Shiraz,  Red Riojas  (Tempranillo ), Chianti (Sangiovese ),  Argentine Malbec,  Chilean Carmenere,  Barolo and Cabernet Sauvignon.

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One of these wines will be perfectly paired with beef

Rosé,  Beaujolais, Big Chardonnay,  Shiraz,  Pinotage, Nebiollo, Oregon Pinot Noir.

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One of these wines will be perfectly paired with cheese

Chardonnay,  Sauvignon Blanc,  Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Pinotage, Riesling.

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One of these wines will be perfectly paired with chicken

Pinotage, Zinfandel, Gamay, young Beaujolais, Mediterranean Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir.

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One of these wines will be perfectly paired with desserts

TPort, Marsala, Khalua or any liqueurs, Late Harvest, Ice Wine, German sweet wines.

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One of these wines will be perfectly paired with fish

Gewürztraminer, Sylvaner,  Riesling, Chenin, Chablis, Muscadet, Italian Trebbiano.

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One of these wines will be perfectly paired with pork.

Shiraz, Pinotage, white Rioja, Chardonnay, Valipollicela, Beaujolais, Califonian Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir.

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One of these wines will be perfectly paired with spicy

Australian Shiraz, Argentine Malbec,  Chilean Carmenere, Zinfandel, Late Harvests.

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One of these grapes will be perfectly paired with vegetarians

Rosé, Chardonnay,  Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Tempranillo (Rioja), Carmenere, Pinot Noir,  Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blancs

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Searching for wine can already be frustrating offline, let’s figure out how hard it can be on the web, where you often still can’t see the bottle and let it “inspire” you, and were there aren’t shelves that let you at least orient according to wine color, grape varieties of regions where it comes from.

Wine and food pairing is essentially matching food to wine according to flavour. Done right, can be nothing short of a revelation.  It also a great way to learn about wine, both for the beginner and connoisseur. Recommended wine aims to make your wine pairing A-B-C-easy with uncomplicated guidelines to achieve the best possible match.

So how do I  pair wine with food?

Let's  start at the beginning. The simplest way in which we 'feel'  food is through our senses. You may taste it and appreciate its flavour though the two are completely different. Flavour is subjective and as a result of upbringing or experiences in your life. Taste is objective and measurable. In a room, many can tell you if something tastes sweet,salty, bitter or sour but few can get hints of butterscotch or anise from a dish.

The third thing to consider is the structure of wine. A great wine is one that has balance. Tannin (mouth drying sensation akin to drinking strong tea), acidity, alcohol and body(weight) are the building blocks to a good wine. The sharpness of one can be mitigated by the balance of the others or all can have perfect harmony and wow you each time you take a sip!

Considering these three things (taste, flavor and structure of the wine) gives you a running start before you even pick out the wine or dish to pair it.

Once you know the basics, playing around with them will be fun and quite easy. You will also find yourself considering the wine before the dish, as it should be.

Here are a few general principals to consider while pairing:

1.  Always serve a flexible wine.

Not simple, flexible. The most flexible wines are those with good acidity like Sauvignon Blanc,  Riesling and some reds like Pinot Noir,  Shiraz and Pinotage their acidity acts as a palate cleanser and refreshes the palate after each bite. They pair well with salty, Spicy and fatty foods.

2. Pair a regional dish with a wine from its region.

Regional wines are made to pair with their local dishes; South African Braai to South African wines, French to French and Italian to Italian.

3. Consider the weight.

A heavy bodied wine to a heavy dish, a light wine to a light dish. This is the basis of the adage 'White wine pairs well with white meat and Red wine with red meat'. Reason being: White wines were made lighter than Red wines while red meats are much heavier than white meats say Beef against Chicken.

4. Dominant flavour.

This could be from the sauce added to the main component that makes the dish taste much richer. Like cream sauce on poached fish would call for a full bodied white or light red wine. Considering the dominant flavour of a dish can make pairing with spicy and vegetarian food easy.

5. Mirror flavors/ play at comparisons.

Zoning in on a single taste or structural component of the wine and food means it will lessen it's punch and eventually be 'cancelled out'. Acidity+ acidity =less acidity.

6. Play with contrast.

Opposites attract. A sweet wine served with a salty companion can be an excellent pairing. Like Stilton cheese with Port.

7. Make sure the wine you serve at dessert is sweeter than the actual dessert. 

Leave champagne and cake to weddings because everyone is too happy to notice the wine tastes lighter.

8. Your cooking method matters.

Is it grilled, sautéed, pan fried or slow cooked? Whatever method you chose,  you already have a good idea of what flavor you want to bring out. Work with that. E.g. grilling adds a charred effect to red meat that pairs well with tannic wines like Cabernet Sauvignon.

9. Serve wine in the right order.

Young before old, White before Red and dry before sweet.

10. Serve the same wine used in the marinade.

It goes without saying that if you won't drink a wine, don't use it to Marinate food. Low quality wines will impart their harsh qualities on the food and badly affect its taste. Find a good wine and serve it to go with the food as well.

Ready to go? You can easily order wine online nowadays, taking full advantage of competitive pricing. Wine pairing is a simple art that done right, can bring you great satisfaction as well as a better appreciation and understanding of wine.