finding the right match food and wine pairing guidelines

Many self-claimed wine aficionados insist on drinking robust reds with all dishes. Others think all chardonnay is too oaky or riesling is always sweet. (Neither of which is necessarily the case).

Many self-claimed wine aficionados insist on drinking robust reds with all dishes. Others think all chardonnay is too oaky or riesling is always sweet. (Neither of which is necessarily the case). Still others don’t “do” white wine at all.

It’s fine to have preferences. But stubborn imbibers are in for some nasty food and wine mismatches.

Quaff a burly shiraz with, sole amandine rather than, say, crisp sauvignon blanc is asking for trouble. The chemistry doesn’t work. Don’t get me wrong. Red wine with fish can work very well. Pinot Noir and salmon trip the light fantastic very well. And I’m a big of seared pepper-crusted tuna and Cabernet Franc. Try a fruity Spanish red with garlicky mussels and chorizo.

But a white fish’s delicate flesh withers beneath red wine’s furry tannins.

Artichokes, asparagus, spinach and mint are unruly characters that play havoc with red or white wine. Still, we prefer to celebrate spring’s bounty with wine rather than water. These ingredients just need a little taming—a squeeze of lemon, perhaps, or a splash of cream, or a sprinkle of cheese. Put a tender asparagus omelette up against an off-dry riesling, the most misunderstood, food-friendly varietal. The wine’s restrained alcohol, pretty fruit and zesty acidity cuts through mouthcoating butter and egg while flattering the asparagus. (Riesling loves salmon, ham, pork, chicken, and Asian spices, too)

Artichokes fool the palate into thinking all liquids, even water, are sweet. A splash of lemon juice will encourage the thistle to make nice with wine. Try an unpretentious Bardolino; a red wine so pale and non-tannic it’s nearly rose. Or go Greek retsyna with sharp lemon-pine character”

Mint and spinach match well with lighter style Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet based. Blend. The eucalyptus notes often found in California or Aussie Cabs also fare well with roast lamb (easy on the mint sauce!).

A cold lamb, spinach and sweet onion salad napped with a creamy lemon dressing is simply marvellous with a buttery chardonnay.

Italians mix and match acid-laden wines, red or white, with tomato tossed pastas. For a quick economical meal, pop a Chianti or valpolicella in the fridge for 20 minutes or so or put the chill on Soave or Pinot Grigio. (Pour a little to sip on while prepping the pasta). Chop one or two juicy tomatoes. Chiffonade a few basil leaves. Mince a clove or three of fresh garlic. Toss with pasta cooked al dente and a douse of good olive oil. Serve with a simple green salad and the wine(s).


Wine with Food, The Wine Lover’s Cookbook and Right Wine are a must for anyone wanting to really get the skinny on food and wine pairing. Available through

Suggested Wines (available through Yukon Liquor Corp.) with some of the dishes mentioned above.


Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 1/7501$22.85 (sole)

Fetzer Bonterra Organic Chard $20.55 (cold lamb salad)

Muller R. Bishop Of Riesling $14.10 (asparagus and/or cheese omelette/poached salmon)

Masi – Soave Classico $16.10 (fresh tomato and basil or seafood pasta)

Santpietre Pinot Grigio $15.65 (fresh tomato and basil or seafood pasta)


Concha Y Toro Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon $15.65 (roast lamb)

Sterling – Vintners Cab Sauv $17.25 (roast lamb)

MadFish Cab Merlot/Cab Franc $16.45 (seared tuna with peppercorn crust)

Ruffino Chianti $18.15 (pasta and tomato)

Bolla Valpolicella Classico $15.60 (pasta and tomato)

Piqueras Castillo Almansa Reserva $14.85 (garlicky mussels with chorizo)

Morande Reserve Pinot Noir $18.10 (grilled salmon)

Julie Pegg is a Vancouver-based

food and wine writer.

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