What you should look for: Red wines with power and body that have a good tannic structure made from grapes like cabernet sauvignon, syrah and malbec.
Why it matters: You should always aim to pair a red wine that has equal weight and richness when serving it with red meat, so the meat doesn’t overpower it. Higher tannin red wines work very well, as they cut through and soften red meats and fats. Because oak barrels also contribute tannin to a wine, oak-matured red wines are a great choice.
2017 Bodegas Caro Amancaya, Argentina, £17.50
Country: Mendoza, Argentina
This wine is a blend of malbec (70%) and cabernet sauvignon (30%) – two red grapes that are classic pairings with red meat. It has notes of juicy cherries and cassis, with toasty and chocolatey notes from the oak. This is the perfect wine to pair with BBQ meats: ribs, sausages, lamb chops or an Argentinian bife de lomo with chimichurri.
2017 Crozes-Hermitage, Domaine de Thalabert, Paul Jaboulet Aîné, £24.95
Country: Crozes-Hermitage, Northern Rhône, France
This wine is made from 100% organic syrah grapes (known in Australia as shiraz), which is the key grape from the Northern Rhône in France. The combination of dark fruit notes, such as purple plums and black cherry with notes of liquorice, violet and black pepper, pair best with slightly spiced or peppery meats.
2017 Stark-Condé Cabernet Sauvignon, £21.50
Country: Stellenbosch, South Africa
South Africa (and Stellenbosch in particular) has a long tradition and reputation for producing excellent, top-quality red wines made from cabernet sauvignon. Expect notes of blackberry and blueberry, mocha and tobacco from maturation in oak barrels and bold but smooth tannins. Pair with a statement piece of red meat like beef wellington, whole leg of lamb or fillet of venison.
What you should look for: Light and crisp white wines often pair best with fish dishes. If you are going for a rich or buttery fish course then you can opt for a white wine with more body and oak, such as a white burgundy (chardonnay), but ultimately you want a wine that works in balance, showing gentle fruit flavours, not too much oak and bright acidity.
Why it matters: Red wines are generally avoided when pairing with fish as the combination of fish and tannins can leave a bitter taste on your palate. However, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to give red wine and fish pairing a go, try pairing meatier or earthier fish (like salmon, tuna or grey mullet) with lower-tannin red wines such as pinot noir or grenache.
2018 Domaine de la Tourmaline, Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, £9.99
Country: Muscadet, Loire
Muscadet, with its lively citrus notes and mineral character, is a beautiful pairing with seafood like crab, lobster, prawns and scallops. Look out for muscadet ‘sur lie’ which denotes that the wine has undergone extended lees ageing (that’s contact with leftover yeast cells) after fermentation which adds richness and weight for a heightened culinary experience.
2019 Soalheiro Alvarinho, £16.95
Country: Vinho Verde, Portugal
Soalheiro is one of vinho verde’s top producers and this is a gastronomic style of vinho verde made from 100% alvarinho with notes of ripe grapefruit, nectarine and white flowers, with zingy acidity on the finish. The ideal pairings are seared tuna, prawn pad thai or crispy squid – the freshness of this wine is great at cutting through fried dishes, too.
2019 Pieropan Soave Classico, £14.95
Country: Soave, Italy
You can’t go wrong pairing dry, crisp Italian white wines with fish dishes. Expect notes of ripe pear, lemon and elderflower and a mineral finish with this delicious soave. Serve it with classic Italian seafood dishes like spaghetti alle vongole or fritto misto.
What you should look for: A medium to full-bodied chardonnay is a classic starting point, but there are so many other delicious white grapes that achieve a similarly voluptuous style. Red wines should be light-to-medium bodied with smooth tannins and fresh acidity, such as pinot noir and the gorgeous red wines of Sicily.
Why it matters: The richness and butteriness of chicken dishes allows for white wines with more complexity and texture. With red wines, be careful not to overpower the dish, so think of fruit-forward, bright red wines, which invariably work very well.
2011 Vina Gravonia Blanco Bodegas, R.Lopez de Heredia, £23.95
Country: Rioja, Spain
This classic style of white rioja exudes flavours of apricot, honeysuckle, thyme and beeswax and sumptuous nutty and vanilla notes from extensive ageing in oak barrels. This is made by one of rioja’s oldest and most famous bodegas and is such an interesting and unique style of wine for an excellent price. Pair with a classic roast chicken with all the trimmings.
2018 Mâcon-Lugny Louis Latour, Burgundy, £14.99
Country: Burgundy, France
This is a great value crowd-pleaser from Burgundy, made from 100% chardonnay. Notes of ripe peach, grapefruit and butterscotch mix with a fresh finish – it’s such a versatile wine that can work with so many dishes. For a little bit of indulgence, enjoy it with some crispy fried chicken – a match made in heaven.
2017 Terre Nere, Etna Rosso, £21.60
Country: Etna, Sicily
An elegant and mineral-driven red wine made from grapes sourced from the slopes of Mount Etna. The volcanic soils contribute to the complexity and freshness of this stunning wine, which contains notes of red cherries, wild strawberries, subtle cinnamon and dried herbs. Pair this ethereal style with coq au vin, chicken wrapped in parma ham, or tomato-based chicken dishes.
What you should look for: For duck and game, you can play with light-to-medium bodied red wines and combinations of fruit flavours and earthy, spicy notes. The classic red wine grapes for these types of dishes are pinot noir, grenache and gamay (the grape of beaujolais).
Why it matters: Duck and game have a rich and savoury quality, so are traditionally paired with sweet, fruity sauces for a satisfying contrast in flavours. Choosing wines that similarly balance the spectrum of flavours takes these dishes to another level.
2017 Miroglio, Soli Pinot Noir, £12.95
Country: Thracian Valley, Bulgaria
This has to be the best value-for-quality pinot noir that I’ve tasted. A Bulgarian beauty from the Thracian Valley and a bit of an insiders’ secret, this is medium bodied, electric red berry juice, with a hint of honey and spice. Duck is your go-to poultry for this wine – I’m thinking duck à l’orange, honey-glazed duck breast or duck in plum sauce.
2016 Chateau Pesquie Terrasses Rouge, £14.95
Country: Southern Rhône, France
This is a beautifully crafted blend of 60% grenache, infused with red berries and spice, and 40% syrah, imparting blackberries, pepper and perfume. A medium-bodied wine with silky tannins that pairs perfectly with rich poultry dishes, the best of which is seared duck breast with a peppery red wine reduction.
2018 Domaine Lapierre Morgon, £28.99
Country: Beaujolais, France
A cult beaujolais that is miles from the simple ‘beaujolais nouveau’ wines, this bottle is from Morgon, one of the ten Cru appellations in Beaujolais known for delivering wines with structure and elegance. Enticing notes of dark cherry, violet and star anise shine when paired with wild game birds such as pheasant and grouse.
What you should look for: For green, leafy vegetable dishes and fresh salads, sauvignon blanc is an overall winner, with pinot grigio and other crisp Italians whites a delicious alternative. When incorporating cheese into a vegetarian dish, it’s hard to beat the versatility of chardonnay or an assyrtiko from Greece. For rich vegetarian dishes, in particular those that have mushrooms, truffle or tomato sauces, the wonderful red wines of Italy beckon – those from Tuscany and Piedmont are great choices.
Why it matters: For vegetarian dishes, a good starting point is pairing wines with similar flavours and weight. Sauvignon blanc has citrus and herbaceous notes, chardonnay tends to have more body and texture, and central and northern Italian reds can have earthy, umami qualities – so bear these in mind when marrying with vegetarian dishes.
2019 Simpsons Wine Estate, Gravel Castle Chardonnay, £17
Country: Kent, UK
This is a chablis-style chardonnay (just without any overt oak flavours) from the Wine Garden of England, Kent. Notes of grapefruit, yellow pear and a touch of pineapple, with a lovely creamy texture from lees aging, match with Welsh rarebit, pesto pasta or – my dream pairing – a cheese fondue.
2018 Dourthe Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux, £11.99
Country: Bordeaux, France
Bordeaux sauvignon blanc typically falls somewhere between the restrained style of sancerre and the zesty and aromatic style of New Zealand. This is a fresh and fruity sauvignon blanc with notes of green mango and zingy lemon, balanced by an herbaceous and mineral finish. Asparagus and goats’ cheese tart or herby courgetti pair beautifully with this wine.
2018 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo, £22.40
Country: Piedmont, Italy
Made from nebbiolo, the red grape behind the famous and expensive wines of barolo and barbaresco is available here for a stunning price. Piedmont is world-renowned for its truffles, and the red wines from the region with their similar heady, fragrant and earthy qualities, are a match made in heaven.
What you should look for: Nothing too tannic, old, sweet, aromatic or just too unusual – go for classic styles and seek balance, elegance and restraint. Medium-bodied red wines, crisp dry white wines, pale rosés and traditional-method sparkling wines are reliable.
Why it matters: Balanced wines deliver fruity flavours and refreshing acidity, and these crowd-pleasing wines give you more leeway to pair with a wide range of dishes.
2015 La Rioja Alta Viña Alberdi Reserva, £17.69
Country: Rioja, Spain
Red riojas, with their delicious combination of red and black fruit flavours, savoury notes and often hints of sweet vanilla from oak aging, are one of the most popular red wine choices for groups of diners enjoying a range of different dishes. This wine is from a top producer – enjoy midweek with tapas and a cheeseboard or at the weekend with a roast.
Taittinger Brut Réserve, NV Champagne, £28
Country: Champagne, France
This is one of those few wines that can be enjoyed from brunch through to dinner and at all times in between. Non-vintage champagnes from the famous Grandes Marques houses balance complexity and freshness, and can be enjoyed at a range of occasions and with a variety of dishes. The Taittinger Brut Réserve is a classic example.
2019 Love by Léoube, £15.99
Country: Provence, France
This pale, fresh rosé, with its delicate berry fruit and floral notes, is an easy-drinking style with enough complexity to match a wealth of dishes. Some of the best Provence rosé pairings include sushi, pizzas and pasta – and of course BBQs. Don’t be shy to pair rosés with summer meat recipes such as delicate lamb and pork skewers, as the subtle red fruit flavours in the rosé provide enough oomph to stand up to these types of dishes.