A sommelier-approved guide to choosing the best wine to match food — and making both taste their best.
Asian dishes, curries, sushi
Best Choice: Riesling
Second Choice: Gewürztraminer
Why: Spicy dishes work well with crisp whites with just a touch
of sweetness to tame their heat.
Turkey, quail, pheasant, guinea hen, duck
Best Choice: Pinot noir
Second Choice: Beaujolais
Why: Wild birds have earthy flavours that are stronger than plain old chicken so they often pair better with bolder reds.
Best Choice: Pinot grigio
Second Choice: Sparkling wines like Spanish cava and Italian spumante
Why: The pinot grigio cuts through the richness of the risotto, helping to add a lighter note to the meal. This is another regional match.
Best Choice: Shiraz
Second Choice: Sangiovese
Why: The brawny flavours in this Cajun classic cry out for the deep, plummy notes in a full-throttle shiraz.
Best Choice: Champagne or sparkling wine
Second Choice: Unoaked chardonnay
Why: Oysters’ briny and oily qualities smother most wines. Bubbly will stand up to oysters, though, and refresh the palate after each bite. The iodine in the oysters will make a more tannic wine, such as cabernet sauvignon, taste bitter and metallic.
Best Choice: Cabernet sauvignon
Second Choice: Zinfandel
Why: The meat’s juicy proteins soften the tannins in the cabernet and make the wine taste smooth and fruity.
Best Choice: Riesling or gamay
Second Choice: Cabernet sauvignon or barolo
Why: An off-dry riesling has a complementary sweetness against the glazes on ham or pork as well as the chutneys and sauces that often accompany it.
Fruit flans, cobbler desserts
Best Choice: Icewine or sauternes
Second Choice: Late-harvest Riesling
Why: Lighter fruit-based desserts work well with these wines because of both their sweetness and balancing acidity.
Best Choice: Port
Second Choice: Madeira
Why: The richest, most decadent desserts demand a wine that’s even sweeter and richer (otherwise the wine would taste thin and even bitter). Both vintage and tawny ports pair beautifully with the flavour and texture of chocolate.
Choose the perfect dish to serve with your favourite wines using our Recipe Finder.
Natalie MacLean, author of the bestseller Red, White and Drunk All Over, offers a free wine newsletter at www.nataliemaclean.com.