Gert Pienaar – Audley Group Head Chef

After a successful English Wine Week earlier this year, Gert Pienaar – Audley Group Head Chef – has tips for us on how to pair wine and food.

With thousands of wine regions across the world and hundreds of types of grapes, getting to grips with wine pairing can seem like a daunting task. And while there is no denying that a beautifully paired wine can really bring out the flavour in a dish, the truth is that no meal is ever ruined by a wine that isn’t quite right.

However, if you are looking to start matching your wine choices with food, Gert Pienaar, Audley Group Head Chef, shares his top tips.

Get the balance right

  • Pairing wine with food is all about balance. Rich foods need bold flavoured wines which won’t pale in comparison, and light foods need a lighter wine, with more delicate notes. Use the fat content of food to guide you and think about how this matches with the colour and variety of the grape.

Consider the different features of the dish

  • While many people will base wine pairing on meat or fish, it’s also important to think about the other components of the dish, such as the sauce. A creamy sauce will need a very different wine pairing to a vinaigrette even if the meat or fish in the meal is the same

Match acidity

  • High acid wines work well with high acid foods, this is why Italian red wines go so well with tomato-based pasta dishes or pizzas. If the wine is less acidic than the food it can easily taste flat. If you are pairing a summer salad with a vinaigrette try a Sauvignon Blanc, the vinegar can help to enhance the fruit flavours of the wine.

If it grows together, it goes together

  • “If it grows together, it goes together” is a rule that many people will have come across when pairing wine with food. There’s something special about matching a wine with food which has grown at a similar altitude and in a similar climate. This will often result in flavours which complement each other so is well worth trying the next time you opt for some French brie after dinner.

Having said that, don’t be afraid to break the rules

  • Wine has come a long way since the general rule of white wine with fish or chicken and red wine with red meat was created. While it can help you to stay on track it sometimes pays to break from tradition. A light red wine can go extremely well with salmon. Sometimes rules are made to be broken!

What about pudding?

  • While dessert wine may be the immediate choice it’s not always the right wine to pair with desert. The wine should always be as sweet or sweeter than what’s on your plate otherwise the acidity of the wine will seem overwhelming.

Keep it local

  • British wines have grown in popularity over the past five years and should always be considered when pairing wines. Many British winegrowers are also known for their sparkling wines and you can never go wrong with some fizz.

Don’t worry about making mistakes

  • Wine pairing and getting to know what you like, and you don’t like is a journey. Remember that not everyone around the table has the same palette – in exactly the same way that some people like certain foods and others don’t. If you don’t like the pairing, it’s not a mistake. Instead it’s all about trying new tastes. While wine pairing can enhance a meal, getting the match wrong won’t destroy it – put that bottle on the side and have another go.

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