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Pairing wine with tricky ingredients

Not all ingredients are easy to match with wine. We share the expert advice from Ronan Sayburn MS, from the new book from 67 Pall Mall, Wine and Food. The Perfect Match.

Wine pairing with eggs

Egg yolk coats the mouth in a very glutinous manner, and crumbly hard-boiled eggs have a sulphurous quality. As eggs usually are not eaten alone, except at breakfast, wines should be matched against the main flavour ingredient in an egg dish. This could be onion, bacon, salmon, or even red wine, as in Oeufs en Meurette.

To match with hollandaise sauce, Chardonnay is often best, with its creamy, buttery overtones and some oak; if the hollandaise is more lemony, then choose assertive, crisp, high acid wines. Airy, light soufflés do not have a problem with the coating texture of the egg, so when matching food with soufflés, concentrate on the main flavouring.

If it’s cheese, you want a lactic flavour in the accompanying wine, so choose something that has been through malolactic fermentation. Try oak-aged, creamy-textured wine with soft acidity, such as a barrel-aged Chardonnay.

A smoked salmon soufflé, on the other hand, works well with young, assertive Sauvignon Blanc. Mayonnaise can have similar issues to runny egg yolks, so you need a wine match with the acidity to cut through that oiliness.

Therefore, with a Waldorf salad, an English Bacchus would work well, with its very strong celery and grapey character and high acidity. Quail’s and gull’s eggs are more delicate in taste and match well with young Champagne, especially when hard-boiled and dipped in celery salt.

Wine pairing with certain vegetables

Especially tricky to match with wine are artichokes, asparagus, fennel and spinach. Artichokes may make wines taste metallic or sweet, due to a chemical known as cynarin.

Serving the vegetables with lemon juice, light vinaigrettes or lemony hollandaise (all difficult to match with wine in their own right) can help remedy this, as long as you choose young, punchy, crisp wines.

Sauvignon Blanc works well, as does Chenin Blanc, Riesling or Pinot Grigio. Braising the vegetables, adding cream, Parmesan cheese or lemon juice is the best way to soften their edges, making it easier to match them to a wine.

As the vegetable is often a side dish, it does not cause too many problems at a dinner.

Wine pairing with truffles

There is an affinity between truffles and the Nebbiolo grape of northern Italy. Truffles, with their deep, rich and earthy flavours, may overpower some wines, but should not cause issues when used sparingly as a garnish. Old Champagne works very well with white truffle, although Richard Geoffroy – who has been making Dom Pérignon since 1990 – told me his favourite food-and-wine match ever was 1959 Dom Pérignon with a virgin olive oil ice cream, which was s served to him at elBulli restaurant. Classy

Wine pairing with oily fish

Oily fish may distort the flavour of wine, so a wine with a high acid content is best to cut through the oil. High-acid, gentle-flavoured wines are best. Try pairing mackerel or herring with Muscadet, or Gaillac, Soave, Trebbiano or Sauvignon Blanc, or even ice-cold Scandinavian eau de vie.

Try Vinho Verde from northern Portugal with sardines grilled on the beach, or even the red Vinho Verdes. Oily fish are better suited to cooler climate, high-alcohol styles of red wine; try northern Italian reds made with varieties such as Schiava or Viosinho, which is used in Portugal for red Vinho Verde.

I had one of the best seafood meals of my life in Portugal: oily sardines with a red Vinho Verde with rich red cranberry fruit and low tannins.

Wine pairing with smoked foods

These can be difficult to match with wine, depending on just how smoky we are talking. Manzanilla and Fino Sherries go well with smoked foods as do Rieslings from Germany and Australia, with their high acidity and touch of sweetness.

Smoked salmon is quite forgiving with wine, and is classically matched with Chablis or Champagne.

Wine pairing with pickles and sauces 

When you are serving a food with a sharp, sweet, intense accompaniment such as chutney, cranberry sauce, or apple or mint sauces, to name a few, tread carefully.

If you pair a roast leg of lamb with expensive Bordeaux, then throw vinegary mint sauce over the meat, it will kill the wine. Take care and use prudence with any high-sweetness vinegar flavours.

Wine pairing with vinaigrettes 

When you are making a dressing for a dish to be paired with a good wine, consider using flavoured oils, or dressings made with lemon juice or wine. Use vinegar sparingly. Wines to go with vinaigrettes should be sharp whites and, even then, more mellow vinegars such as balsamic, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sherry can be more forgiving.

Or Buy Food and Wine, The Perfect Match here, from Foyles

See also:

‘Nightmare’ food and wine matches – from the sommeliers

Decanter’s guide to pairing wines with truffle dishes

Cooking with wine: The expert advice on what to use

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