Red Wine Food Pairings

There’s nothing like enjoying a fine wine with a meal. It’s a simple way of making any meal feel a little more indulgent or mark it as a special occasion. Aside from the occasion, the right wine can enhance and complement the flavours of the food you’re eating and vice versa.

Choosing which red wine will pair best with your meal may seem complicated and daunting, but there are some simple guidelines you can follow to get it right every time.

Bold wines go well with bold foods, while more delicate wines can be overpowered by rich dishes.  Sweetness and umami in food can make wines seem more hard and less fruity, but salt and acidity generally make wines seem softer and fruitier. Many people enjoy pairing wine with food that has complementary flavours – a savoury and earthy Cabernet with steak and mushrooms. Yet sometimes using a higher acid wine as a palate cleanser is very satisfying!

Red wines in general, and especially a red Bordeaux, tend to go better with richer, heartier meals. The tannins and acidity help cut through the fattiness of meats like steak and lamb by clearing your palate and helping you enjoy the flavour of the meat with each bite.

That same richness of flavour in the wine means that they can often pair well with rich, tomato-based dishes. A Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, will pair equally well with a perfectly cooked steak or a delicious ratatouille.

The ‘Te Motu’ flagship wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, hand harvested from low-yielding vines. The wine enjoys extended élevage and maturing in premium French oak before beginning a minimum 3-year term resting in bottle. The blend used varies from year to year, and on average only 4,500 bottles are produced in each vintage.

You could also try our 2017 ‘Kokoro’ Bordeaux-style wine – a Merlot dominant blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Syrah. Or, pair your meal with our 2015 ‘Kuikui’ 100% Syrah. We also have many wines under our Dunleavy range that are great for everyday pairings!

Here are a few great red wine and food pairings to try

A Cabernet Sauvignon generally has high acid and tannin so it is a great choice if you’re eating a meal that’s hearty and rich. Steak and lamb pair well with this wine, as do portobello mushrooms and hard, strongly flavoured cheeses like pecorino, aged cheddars and goat’s cheese. For a special occasion, try a vintage of our ‘Te Motu’ flagship with roast lamb, or for more everyday try our Dunleavy ‘The Strip’ with grilled portobello.

Merlot is another red wine that you can pair with richer dishes, yet is softer and more rounded than Cabernet Sauvignon. Along with meaty dishes like steak, pork and roast chicken, a Merlot will also pair well with tomato-based dishes, including tomato-based pasta.  Our ‘Kokoro’ blend goes beautifully with charcoal grilled pork loin and chimichurri.

If you’re pairing your food with a Bordeaux, check which grape variety is most prominent in the wine. This will give you a good indication of which type of food it will pair with best, based on the above.

If you’re into boldly flavoured, or foods on the spicy side, give Malbec a try. As it’s not quite as rich in tannins, it can pair really well with leaner meats. It’s also a great wine to pair with a juicy burger – if that’s what you’re into.

Pinot Noirs, meanwhile, pair perfectly with gamy, earthy dishes – think venison, mushroom risottos or even salmon. It’s a very versatile wine, so will pair well with both meat and vegetable dishes. But, because it’s not as rich in tannins as a Cabernet or Merlot, it doesn’t work as well for richer, fattier meats. It’s also a great wine to pair with more subtle cheeses like Gruyere or Havarti. While we don’t produce Pinot Noir, our Dunleavy ‘The Family’ Merlot blend is produced in a lighter style and goes well with leaner meats and subtle cheese.

Syrah pairs well with grilled meat or vegetables. So, if you like barbequing, this could be an option to try. It also pairs well with falafel and pasta puttanesca. For special occasions, our ‘Kuikui’ pairs well with char grilled Wagyu, or for your next get together, try our Dunleavy ‘The Grafter’ with lamb and veggie skewers.

If you’re a fish and red wine lover, don’t despair. While a little less common, fish and red wine can go together. A lighter Pinot Noir will go well with white fish or salmon, as well as other seafood like oysters, crab, lobster, or mussels. Meanwhile, if you’re definitely a bold red wine drinker, go with tuna or swordfish. Also, important to consider is what sauce or accompaniments you have with your seafood – bold reds pair great with salty and fatty sauces!

If you find it hard to remember specific food pairings for red wine with food, here are some key things you can keep in mind.

–  Red wine, in general, pairs well with rich, hearty foods, as it tends to overpower delicate flavours. This is why you wouldn’t generally pair red wine with a delicate white fish, or a salad.

–  If you’re planning a wine and cheese evening and will be serving predominantly red wine, go with strong, hard cheeses like aged cheddars and pecorino, though blue cheese can work well too.

– Vegetarian dishes can work really well with red wine too. Tomato-based pasta sauces and stews can pair nicely with a robust red wine, as do mushrooms.

– Don’t forget dessert. If you’re after a sweet dessert rather than a cheese board, chocolate and wine are a match made in heaven. Dark chocolates go very well with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. But steer away from pairing a bold red with very sweet dishes.

Final thoughts

The most important thing to consider when pairing wine with food is to choose a wine that you like. Don’t drink a wine you’re not a huge fan of, just because it matches the food. Experiment, and learn what you like and don’t be afraid to experiment a little. You’ll soon find what works for you and what doesn’t.

And, if you’re ever after any inspiration, next time you’re at a restaurant check what their wine and food pairing recommendations are and give them a go. You’ll be able to get a feel of why a certain wine works with a certain food, and the extra dimensions the pairing adds to both.

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