Whether it’s a chilled, crisp glass of demi-sec, a warming, hearty red wine or a sprightly glass of sweet rose, wine lovers will all have a favorite tipple that they turn to time and again because it’s familiar and comforting.
While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying your wine of choice, sometimes it’s good to ring the changes and think about trying something new and different. Even better if you can pair it with the right food, to really get the most from the flavor and taste experience.
Here are some ideas and inspirations for wine pairings and seasonal food that are sure to offer something for everyone, whether red, rose or white drinker and whether vegan, vegetarian or meat eater!
Spring is the season where green shoots and new leaves offer hope and new beginnings. The fruits and vegetables we see during these months are fresh, intense and spark with flavor, so naturally you’ll want wines that not only complement these zingy tastes, but that also offer their own sparkle and vivacity.
Greens such as asparagus, are small and tender during their first crop and perfect for serving lightly steamed with a hollandaise sauce, or in delicious cream of asparagus soup, then teamed with a Sauvignon Blanc.
Flavors tend to verge towards green, light and grassy and we see more salad greens and crisp green fruits like apples and limes, which also pair extremely well with the Sauvignon wine variety. A crisp, green salad served with a selection of cheeses and good, crusty bread and butter or some steamed and minted new potatoes, followed by a light yet sweet tarte tatin would be a perfect meal to set this wine off.
Chardonnay is usually (but not always) a very oaky tasting wine, but more unoaked versions are now available. The latter style is perfect for pairing with spring fruits in savory based dishes. Think a sprightly plate of lemon chicken and steamed greens.
However, Chardonnay, whether oaked or unoaked will pair deliciously with tropical fruit-based desserts that include pineapple or jackfruit. If you’re a fan of cheesecake, then why not try one made with either of these two fruits. The richness of the cream cheese cut through with the sharp, tangy fruit is a real winner with this wine.
A rosé wine is surprisingly more versatile in spring season than at first glance and this is because it is a hybrid of both red and white, making it stand up to light, fresh flavors as well as something that little bit punchier.
A great idea for a main meal to pair with a rose wine is a simple caramelized red onion tart. The sweetness and resinous depth of the onions will pair perfectly with the honeyed tones of the wine. For a sweet treat, rose will combine beautifully with late spring strawberries and raspberries, in a fresh fruit salad served with a little chilled pouring cream and icing sugar.
Don’t discount red wines in spring. Although we traditionally tend to think of them as heady fall and winter warmers, grapes such as Pinot Noir can work perfectly in this season too.
Spring dishes to pair perfectly with Pinot Noir might include anything that has mushrooms in it. Think of a sprightly porcini risotto combined with some spring greens and peas. It’s a meal that offers some comfort and warmth, for the still slightly cooler and darker nights.
However, the other natural pairing with red wines at this time of year is, of course, spring lamb. Think here of something slow cooked at a low temperature, so a shoulder, braised with a little garlic and then served with steamed or mashed potatoes, spring greens and a light, sprightly mint sauce made with fresh mint. These flavors pair perfectly with the tannins in Pinot Noir.
Summer calls for alfresco dining, lighter, fresher food and wines that match these tastes. Of course, we’re now into the season of fresh fish, seafood and barbecued meats served with crisp salads. There’s a wine from every category here – even red – to pair with some ideas for special events and delicious dishes.
Seafood or fresh fish cooked is always going to be a win-win pairing with white wine. Here, you may want to choose an oaky Chardonnay to pair with a light, easy to cook sea bass. This fish has a buttery flakiness and the notes of peach in the wine work to cut through this without destroying the flavor. Serve this with a mixed salad and a simple dish of cous-cous and soused peppers.
For a slightly richer, yet still sprightly suggestion, a seafood cocktail and green salad or potted or buttered shrimps with their slightly mace spiced flavor and crusty white bread would make great alternatives.
Warm weather suits rose wine very well indeed, and particularly al fresco dining. Here, think about a simple pairing of cured meats and cheeses with bread, such as prosciutto and mozzarella with Italian breads like ciabatta or garlic focaccia and olives. To follow, a simple dessert with fresh fruits including chilled watermelon and peaches would fit perfectly to complement the richness of the cheese and saltiness of the cured meat.
Go leftfield here and instead of simply choosing barbecued beef or steak (although there is nothing wrong with that) try a flame grilled, or griddled piece of Scotch salmon served with wilted greens and steamed new potatoes. Pair this with a perfectly tart glass of Merlot, which will complement and cut through the richness of the salmon without overpowering its flavor.
For those who would like to stick to a hearty piece of red meat with their red wine, then think about pairing a Cabernet Sauvignon with a delicious piece of barbecued bone-in ribeye. This piece of meat can stand up to the robust nature of the Cabernet grape, but is still eminently drinkable, even during outdoor eating season, in Summer.
For dessert, a simple summer pudding, or summer fruit crumble, eaten at blood heat temperature and served with chilled pouring cream or ice cream makes a lighter, yet still robust, dessert to accompany the wine.
“The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” is upon us now and as the nights draw in, the temperatures drop and we gravitate our evenings back in the warmth of the house, it’s time to rethink our menus and our wine choices. Although you may think this is the time of year to gravitate from lighter wines, you may be surprised to know white and rose still have a lot to offer us.
When the weather turns cooler our thoughts turn to heartier foods such as root vegetables and fruits such as apples and pears that can often be stored for winter.
Here, a little off the beaten track for some, is the Viognier grape. This is a native of France but has also been grown in America and Australia. It’s a white that boasts a creamy and slightly spicy undertone that pairs perfectly with dishes that contain root vegetables. Think here of spicy parsnip soup, or roasted pumpkin and butternut squash served with aromatic roast chicken (or turkey for Thanksgiving).
The Riesling grape comes into its own during this season. Tending towards a bright acidity, this pairs perfectly with all the dessert dishes that can be made with fruits such as bramley apples and pears. Think about traditional fruit crumbles with real English custard, apple pies or even Pears in Chocolate sauce.
Thanksgiving holidays during Autumn mean family get togethers, hearty meals and a time to reflect and celebrate. This year opt for a Rose to match with your turkey and side dishes. The spiky, sharp tastes of homemade cranberry sauce will work in total harmony with a jammy, slightly sweet tasting Zinfandel.
This truly is red wine season, and the vegetables and meats that come into their own during fall pair perfectly with either the Pinot Gris grape or the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Roasted pumpkin soup, curry or risotto pairs well with the former, whilst with the latter you might want to consider a hearty grilled lamb or beef steak served with garlic and rosemary butter, mashed or fried potatoes and broccoli or wilted spinach. Again, think here about hearty dishes that contain mushrooms, particularly those that are more earthy or pungent in aroma and flavor. A mushroom stroganoff with wild rice, or a hearty penne and mushroom pasta bake with some rich cream cheese, finished with parmesan would be wonderful to set off the rich, earthy flavor of a wine such as Pinot Noir.
Riesling is again a great choice to pair with some of the more robust winter flavors on offer. At this time of year our thoughts wander towards hearty dishes with lots of carbs to accompany them and something like Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni will stand up very well to the acidity and refreshing nature of the Riesling grape.
For those who are keener on Sauvignon Blanc, there are great opportunities here to pair this dry wine with often overlooked vegetables such as artichokes, fennel and endive, which can all be notoriously bitter. These veg can work well when braised gently in chicken or vegetable stock and herbs and served either as a side dish or a main meal in their own right with lots of roast potatoes to mash into the sauce/soused juices. These two wines are often better paired, particularly at this time of year, with vegetarian and vegan dishes rather than meat or fish. That said, there is something to recommend a hearty, comforting fish pie, made with the strong taste of fresh smoked haddock and salmon to pair with either of these sprightly wines.
Just as we saw in fall, there is nothing to stop you drinking rose in winter. In fact, there are a few hearty, jammy versions of this wine that will stand up to robust dishes of casseroled or stewed beef, lamb, mutton or even chicken. Depending on the sweetness of the Zinfandel it can be paired with dishes such as these, as can Brut Rose, which will offer a refreshing counterbalance of light, zippy, citrus notes.
Equally, these wines will pair with sweet, vanilla scented desserts such as a brioche bread and butter pudding served with custard or cream, or even an old fashioned steamed pudding made with a layer of winter fruits, or jam at the bottom of the dish and topped with sponge to either bake in the oven or steam on the hob for a good couple of hours.
This is, naturally, the season in which red wine comes into its own. There are so many flavor combinations and dishes that marry together here. We’re in the season of hearty leafy green veg, rich stews and lots of mashed potatoes and gravy. Think here about combining a Merlot wine with a delicious steak pudding, and lots of wilted savoy cabbage or broccoli and kale to soak up the delicious juices from the rich, slowly and softly cooked meat. This robust wine with its plum notes will suit the richness.
Finally, the often-overlooked Syrah or Shiraz is a winner for any winter spiced dishes that are being served. Think here of hearty curries, chili or even spiced pizzas with cured meat on them. You could even pair this wine with a chorizo omelet and crusty bread as its sharp, zippy flavor will complement the richness of the meat and eggs.
Whatever your tastes and budget there is a wine to suit your food choices, whether you’re entertaining friends and family, or just simply enjoying a relaxing evening at home with the one you love. Remember the rules for perfect food and wine pairings are not set in stone and you might find a new taste combination you love, simply by picking up a new wine to try with a favorite dinner. Enjoy experimenting and having fun with your choices!