Weird Wine And Food Pairings That Actually Work

Think outside the red-wine-with-red-meat square.

19/08/2016 8:56 AM AEST | Updated 19/08/2016 6:36 PM AEST
JGI/Jamie Grill
Plus expert wine pairing tips.

When you think of wine and food matches, what probably comes to mind is the adage "red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat". How boring.

Well, according to Jacob's Creek Chief Winemaker, Ben Bryant, who has been in the winemaking business for 16 years, now is the perfect time to experiment with unusual wine pairings (and to not be intimidated).

"For me, the first reason why wine works so well with food is because wine is a social lubricant, as is food," Bryant told The Huffington Post Australia.

"When we're sitting down with friends, family or companions eating in a casual, convivial setting, wine is generally our go-to choice -- not only because of its versatility and taste, but other underlying factors."

Wine for me is not about pretentiousness. It's about enjoyment, relaxation and having a great time. It's exactly the same as wine matching.

These enjoyment factors include the fact that -- unlike stronger alcohols like vodka -- you can enjoy more wine over the same period of time and experience a whole range of flavours and textures.

"We're generally not looking at high alcohols, so you can sit there and enjoy a couple of great glasses of wine," Bryant said.

"And then it comes to the fact that wine is like a food in many ways, although one is liquid and one is not. The textures, acidity, astringency, bitterness, richness, delicacy... and it's all about how you marry them together.

"Wine amplifies every part of the food and dining experience -- the people you're with, the food you're eating. And the ideal wine match is that which both amplify each other."


"If I take myself out of the classic food wine matching, I think what is most interesting is the exploration factor. To me that is what is the most fun," Bryant told HuffPost Australia.

"What has been the traditional matching -- say, a Cabernet with lamb, or a Shiraz with beef, or Chardonnay with chicken, or a Riesling with fish -- they're the safe go-to's that generally work.

"But I think what is now happening, and what I'm enjoying most about food and wine, is how you play around and experiment. This is what we're starting to see. Not just as a business but certainly within our own wine styles, you can play with so many more layers of texture and nuance, which in wine lends itself to far more diverse food settings."

For your next dinner party (or just plain dinner), try these four different wine pairings that just work.

1. Fish with Shiraz

Although traditionally served with beef, Bryant recommends giving Shiraz with fish a go.

"Some very interesting ones I've seen lately is looking at a more elegant, cool climate, spicier Shiraz with fish like salmon," he said. "If you conceptually think about it, you've got a fish that is quite heavy, oily and dense, and with a spicier structured, more skeletal wine -- it actually works really well."

Rob Fox
Fresh salmon, rice and salad with Shiraz. Perfection.

2. Heavy chicken dishes with Shiraz

"The classic is Chardonnay with chicken, but we're starting to see that evolve and we're starting to be far more creative, driving more texture and intrigue, more layers, and different levels of acidity, fruit and sweetness, which lend itself to what is not the classic cuisine," Bryant said.

"You'll often now see red wines with heavier, richer meats like salmon and heavy chicken dishes."

3. Sushi with dry Rosé

"Sushi is one of the things in life that seems so simple, but it's actually difficult to execute that simplicity really well. Wine can be like that, too," Bryant said.

"You can relish the simple joy of drinking a juicy red or a fresh white, but actually it takes many years of experience for winemakers to be able to create a wine that is perfectly flavoured and balanced, while also having the appropriate texture and mouth feel.

"Sushi is an interesting thing to match wine to because it is slightly sweet yet slightly salty, and when made with raw fish its flavour is delicate. So, I like to choose a wine that will not overpower the sushi. Generally it would be a white wine or dry Rosé. For example, a cool climate Chardonnay like the new vintage 2015 Jacob's Creek Reserve Adelaide Hills Chardonnay."

Getty Images/iStockphoto
Pair fresh sushi with a glass of Rosé. Pink on pink -- too fun to resist.

4. Mexican food with Grenache

"When you think Mexican, you instantly think Tequila or beer, but there are some great wine pairings that you can enjoy, too," Bryant said.

"As a general rule, the best wines to pair with dishes like tacos, Mexican rice dishes or guacamole are flavoursome, medium-bodied reds such as Grenache or Grenache-based blends.

"At home, taco night is casual and relaxed so Jacob's Creek Classic Grenache Shiraz hits the spot."

If you're enjoying a big, powerful chilli con carne dish led by spicy peppers and ripe tomatoes, Bryant said you definitely want to try a plush Merlot or juicy Shiraz with their lovely berry flavours.

"If you have friends over to share the chilli, reach for a bottle of Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz," he added.

Getty Images/iStockphoto
The Grenache will enhance the Mexican flavours of lime, coriander, onions, pico de gallo, salsa verde and jalapeno peppers.

Wine and food pairing tips

1. Experiment

"The ideal objective is for wine and food to enhance the other, but I would say the creativity and experimentation of wine styles and varieties within that sphere is actually where the fun is," Bryant said.

"As winemakers, you're always challenging each other and pushing the boundaries in style, texture, balance and blends. I think wine matching is exactly the same.

"By becoming more bold in food choices and experiences of wine buying, that automatically leads to experimentation."

2. Make mistakes

Did Merlot just not work with that sweet and sour chicken? Don't worry, it's all part of the process.

"To me, there's no such thing as mistakes. It's all a learning experience," Bryant said.

"Wine for me is not about pretentiousness. It's about enjoyment, relaxation and having a great time. It's exactly the same as wine matching."

Lew Robertson
Have fun, be merry and be bold.

3. Trust your instinct

If someone has told you to buy a certain wine which you think isn't right, go with your gut feeling.

"The reality is we all have different perceptions of taste, so every single person will experience wine differently, and that's where the fun is," Bryant said.

"Trust your instinct. Nine times out of 10 your gut instinct is generally right. Go with what you believe and think will work. You will evolve your experience and learning from that."

4. Be bold

"If we look at cooking, there is a food revolution in terms of freshness and health. We're cooking with fresher, brighter and more organic ingredients which sort of forces us to experiment. It's exactly the same as wine and food," Bryant said.

"It's about being as bold and adventurous as we are with food. Be bold."

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