Pinot noir grapes have a much darker hue than ...
Pinot noir grapes have a much darker hue than the bluish-gray coloring of Pinot gris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a wine lover, one of life’s most pleasurable activities is to match the right food with the right wine. Coming from Victoria Australia, the Yarra Valley is where I cut my teeth mixing and matching food and wine. I’m sure wine lovers in Houston share some of these experiences in their own local wine events.

Known as one of the premier wine regions in Australia, the Yarra Valley boasts of more than 70 wineries producing wine masterpieces. Where it gets really exciting for me is the wide range of food producers also in the area. A visit here does not only promise you wine-tasting bliss, but also some gastronomic delights guaranteed to make you swoon.

Most, if not all, food producers in the Yarra Valley are known to open their gates to visitors. Because of this, you will be able to enjoy such treats as local berries, cheese and pasta, chocolate and even trout. Because it is a wine region, you can expect to experience some great food pairings for dinner or even lunch. Here’s what I have learned over many weekends in the Yarra Valley and I’m sure the same principles apply in Houston.

Mix and Match Food with Your Wine

When you visit wineries and food is offered, there are some things to remember when it comes to making the perfect match. Although the traditional dictum of red wine being best for red meat and white wine being good for white meat is still a good way to start, experimenting is the name of the game these days. You will discover that roast chicken goes well with Merlot or Pinot Noir while pork is delectable with Chardonnay. You can also base your pairings on the principle of matching your wine’s weight with that of the food. This means that a robust wine like the Cabernet Sauvignon or the Shiraz is best for a rich casserole while a rose or aromatic white wine is ideal for delicate fish dishes.

The Guidelines to Great Food and Wine Pairings

If you think that these pairings are just too general for your taste, then here are some other guidelines that may help you in choosing the best wine and food combination:

Mild to moderate spicy foods are best paired with fruity and sweet wine, but not with the oaked wines containing high levels of alcohol. For this, you can go for the sweeter sparkling wine, Rose or a late harvest white.

As salty food contradicts the flavour of fruit in wines, they should be matched with fruity and aromatic wines containing good acidity. Choose un-oaked wines with just a touch of sweetness.

If you have an affinity for smoked foods, then you should go for rich, fruity wines that are either lightly oaked or totally un-oaked. This is because this type of food naturally overwhelms most kinds of wines. A Merlot or Pinot Grigio may be a great match.

Sweet foods can also overpower the residual sugar or fruit flavour of wines. If you will choose a wine to pair with your simple fruit dishes, go for the sparkling wine. If you are looking for a wine that will go best with the desserts that satisfy your sweet tooth, then ask for such wines as the botrytis or late harvest whites. Tokay, Muscat or Port are perfect for chocolate though if you have craving for that.

Pairing wine with cheese, however, can be a bit of a challenge considering the wide range of cheese styles. As a common rule though, you should match a cheese’s weight to the wine. A perfect matching of cheese and wine would be Roquefort with a strong dessert wine or a Sauvignon Blanc with goat’s cheese.

A guest blog by Leigh Franklin. Leigh is a passionate wine lover who also enjoys the outdoors and wildlife. Leigh currently works at and takes every opportunity possible to enjoy Yarra Valley Wine Tours