Getting real with wine and food matching

April 6, 2022
3 mins read

There’s a lot of nonsense written about wine and food matching, but our expert in the good grape, PHIL PARKER, is here with the juice.


One thing that really annoys the crap out of me about wine culture, is the whole food and wine matching obsession.

Generally, they fall into two camps. On one side, are wine writers who are vehemently prescriptive about what precise food must be matched with a particular wine. On the other hand – newbie wine fans who worry themselves sick about serving the wrong wine with the wrong food at a dinner party, therefore causing great social embarrassment.

Refreshingly, most of us don’t give a toss and quite rightly drink whatever we feel like at the time. And personally, I think the flavour of food often intrudes on a very good wine which can often be enjoyed by itself.


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A not over-chilled glass of three-year-old chardonnay is a symphony of flavour and complexity in its own right and doesn’t necessarily need to matched with broiled, quince jam glazed spatchcock, resting on a salmon truffle mousseline duvet, accompanied by a string quartet of king prawns in black tie with lemongrass cummerbunds.

And sure – delicately poached snapper and a knock-down-drag-out South Australian shiraz are a dodgy combination. Conversely, a shy floral pinot gris won’t stand up to a hearty venison casserole. But my experience with most dinner parties is that by around main course time, there are about five wines on the table – whites and reds, and everyone is helping themselves to a bit of this and a bit of that, talking nine to the dozen and having a fab old time.

Meanwhile, the po-faced wine writers would be rolling their eyes, and the newbie wine fans sobbing into their soufflés in a fit of confusion.

Yet, there are some classic combinations. The following are some classic food and wine pairings that have stood the test of time and have enriched numerous memorable meals.


Any which way – with a drizzle of olive oil, a dab of butter, hollandaise, aioli, a poached egg or even the good old asparagus roll.
Wine match: sauvignon blanc. Suggestion – Main Divide North Canterbury Sauvignon Blanc 2021 ($21)

Mussels & Scallops.
Mussels – scrubbed, debearded and steamed.  Leave in the shell, reduce the cooking stock and add some wine (sauvignon blanc) cream, seasonings and spices – paprika or chilli, garlic, chopped parsley and/or coriander.
Scallops – poached in water, wine (riesling), lime juice and zest, seasonings and a bouquet-garni.
Wine match: medium riesling. Suggestion – Astrolabe Grovetown Marlborough Spätlese Riesling 2020 ($30)

Chicken & Crayfish.
Chicken e.g., cacciatore – needs a robust chardonnay with plenty of rich toasty oak and creamy flavours.

Crayfish – poached or grilled; not over-sauced but perhaps a beurre-blanc (white wine, shallot and butter sauce).

Wine match: chardonnay. Suggestion – Bogle Californian Chardonnay 2020 ($24)


Burgundy (pinot noir) is the traditional match.  Use well-aged beef, simply cooked.  Roast a topside or fillet steak served with a jus and seasonal vegetables. Merlot or pinot noir are a good match.
Wine match: a sturdy pinot noir. Suggestion – Main Divide North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2020 ($25)


Roast lamb – insert garlic slices and tender tips of rosemary into a leg of spring lamb and serve with your choice of mixed roast vegies and a silverbeet salad. Or Lamb Provençale. Bone a leg or shoulder of lamb, and casserole with wine, tomatoes, onions, olives, rosemary, thyme and anchovies.  Takes about three hours to cook but is meltingly tender and utterly delicious.

Wine match: syrah. Suggestion – Taylors Estate (Aus) Shiraz 2019 $16



For example – a flan made with caramelised oranges, or saucy steamed lemon pudding served with cream flavoured with lemon zest and riesling.  These citrussy desserts go well with a light dessert wine that has some residual acidity to balance the sweetness.
Wine match:  riesling. Suggestion Pegasus Bay North Canterbury Aged Release Riesling 2012 ($40)

These suggestions are by no means hard and fast – feel free to experiment.  Here are a few more:
Spicy foods – for the hot and spicy kind, chilled beer is a good match to quench the thirst and the flames. For more delicate Asian foods like Thai and Japanese, gewürztraminer or a medium riesling are a good match.
Roast pork & gewürztraminer. Roast chicken & pinot noir. Venison casserole & cabernet sauvignon. Cheese board & tawny port. Tomato-based pasta sauce & shiraz.

Bon appetit!

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Originally a physiotherapist, Phil's fascination with the fermented grape juice led to the launch of his wine tour company Auckland Fine Wine & Food Tours at the turn of the century. A seasoned and well-respected wine writer, Phil's oenophilia led to the publication of his wine region guide to New Zealand, The Mad Keen Wine Buff's Road Trip (Random House).

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Korero Te Reo

PHIL PARKER is all for embracing diversity, especially when it comes to wine varieties from all over the world.
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