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Five Simple Rules For Pairing Wine With Food

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Five Simple Rules For Pairing Wine With Food

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Five Simple Rules For Pairing Wine With Food


Here’s a mini crash course in ensuring your food and wine always agree.

1. Think like a poet
Remember this simple rhyme: Smoke with oak, sweet with heat, sweet with sweet.

In other words, pair grilled or smoked foods with wines that have been aged in oak, like Chardonnay. When tucking into spicy food, choose a slightly sweeter wine, in particular, German Rieslings, whose sweetness helps to cool the palate. And always pair desserts with a dessert wine that is preferably sweeter than, or at least as sweet as, the dessert itself.

2. Pair fat with acids
Dishes that are higher in fat like pan-fried foie gras or rib eye steak need a little something to brighten their flavours. To that end, wines that are high in acid (Burgundy Chardonnay, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and Champagne) or tannins (Bourdeaux Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Rhone Syrah) help to cut through the richness and cleanse the palate between mouthfuls. The only exceptions to this rule are cream-based dishes, which are usually more suited to a light and crisp white wine.

3. Pair sweet with salty
Sweet wines go fabulously with salty food. It’s the same principle that applies to how caramel always tastes better with salt. Sweet wines both highlight and level out the salty flavours in foods like cheeses or cured meats.

4. Pick a place
When in doubt, pick a wine from the same region as the cuisine you are serving. Italian wines are made to go with Italian food, while Spanish wines practically beg for a plate of tapas to be served alongside them. Sharing the same terrior means the food and drink will have inherently natural flavours that complement each other.

5. Pick the dominant flavour
Don't base your wine selection on the protein on your plate. Rather, look for the dish’s dominant flavour (for example, the sharp mustard sauce that is served with a pork chop) and pair the wine to that, not the meat.

A classic dish to pair with white wines is often a creamy plate of risotto. This Italian rice dish is simpler than it looks, and will serve up as a restaurant-style dish that is sure to impress your guests at home.

Here’s an easy recipe for an elegant seafood risotto that you can make right in your own kitchen!


Seafood Risotto
Makes 4 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 25 minutes


Clams 20
Fresh Prawns 12
Scallops 8
Olive Oil 3 tbsp
Butter 3 tbsp
Minced Garlic 1 tbsp
White Wine or Vermouth ¾ cup
Chopped Parsley 2 tbsp
Vegetable Stock 2½ cups
Minced Onion ½ cup
Arborio Rice 200g
Passata (Italian tomato sauce) 1 tbsp
Salt and Pepper to Taste


  1. Rinse clams and discard any that are even slightly open. Place clams in a large bowl, cover with cold water and add a very large pinch of salt. This will encourage them to spit out any sand trapped inside the shells. Leave for about 20 minutes.
  2. Wash the clams several times in running water, drain and set aside. Again, throw away any clams that are open.
  3. To prepare the prawns, remove their heads and shells, keeping their tails intact. Run a knife against the backs of the prawns and remove any black veins. Press the knife against the backs of the prawns so they open up like a butterfly. Rinse prawns and pat dry with a paper towel.
  4. Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel.
  5. Place a tablespoon of olive oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the prawns and the scallops till they are caramelised on the outside and just cooked within, turning them so all sides are cooked evenly. Remove to a plate and set aside.
  6. In the same skillet you used earlier, place a tablespoon each of olive oil and butter over medium-high heat and add the garlic.
  7. Fry for a few seconds, allowing the garlic to release its fragrance, then add the clams and ¼ cup of white wine or vermouth. Give it a stir and cover the skillet with a lid.
  8. Shake the pan occasionally. Remove the lid after 4 minutes and add 1 tbsp of the chopped parsley. Give the mixture another stir and cover the pan with the lid again.
  9. Once all the clams have opened, about 4 minutes, transfer the clams to a bowl.
  10. Bring the vegetable stock to a low simmer next to where you are going to cook the risotto.
  11. Use the same skillet to make the risotto. Place the onion, 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter in the skillet.
  12. Fry for a minute, then add the rice. Fry for another minute, making sure all the grains are warm before adding the remaining ½ cup of white wine or vermouth.
  13. Let the wine evaporate completely until the onions and rice are dry, stirring occasionally.
  14. Start to add the stock, a ladleful or two at a time, stirring and scraping the rice in the pan as you do. When each addition of the stock has almost evaporated, add the next ladleful.
  15. Continue cooking the risotto for about 15 to 18 minutes, adding stock continuously, but slow down towards the end so the rice doesn’t become too wet or soupy. The risotto is ready when the grains are soft but still have some bite to them (you don’t have to use up all the stock).
  16. Turn down the heat and add the remaining tablespoon of butter. Stir, taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Transfer to a serving platter.
  17. Top the risotto with the clams and all its juices, the scallops and prawns.
  18. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped parsley and serve immediately.



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