Jean-Marie Pratt's wine matching tips

Tips:

* Don't go for a wine style you dislike just because someone says it will be "perfect" with what you're eating.

* Drink your wines in order from the lightest, less complex and easy-drinking wine to the fullest-bodied, high-tannin, rich-red wine. Whites should usually be served before reds, although a full-bodied chardonnay can easily follow a light, fruity pinot noir.

* Think of the flavours and texture of your dish. Is it mild or spicy, lean or fatty, rich or acidic? Select a wine that shows the same characteristics. Mild food will go with mild wine. Flavourful, rich food will go with full-bodied wine.

* Match acids with acids. If you are eating crayfish with citrus sauce, try a crisp sauvignon blanc. Likewise cream goes with rich, creamy wines, like a full-bodied chardonnay. High-acidity wines usually don't work with creamy dishes, it clashes on the palate.

* Tannins like blood and fat. If you are having grilled red meat or roasted leg of lamb, try a high-tannin red wine such as a Hawke's Bay Bordeaux blend. The tannins will taste softer with the juicy meat, and will help cleanse your palate.

* Spices can kill the taste of wine. Choose aromatic whites such as gewurztraminer and viognier to match spicy food. Some sweetness in your wine will also help combine intense spicy flavours.

* The sweeter the dessert, the sweeter the wine. If you are having a fruity bavarois, choose a late-harvest riesling. If you are having a sweeter dessert, go for a sweeter wine such as a sauternes.

* Wine and cheese are not always a perfect match. Strong cheeses can kill the taste of the wine. A basic rule is the harder the cheese, the better it can cope with high tannins of red wine; the creamier the cheese the more it needs acidity. It's a good time of the meal to return to a sauvignon blanc and match it with goat cheese. Both syrah and pinot noir can go well with a selection of cheeses. Blue cheese is delicious with sweet wine.

- Herald on Sunday

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