Pairing Food & Wine

While the core ingredient can determine the main taste component of a dish, often the smell and taste have more to do with the sauce or the jus, the marinade or the dressing, the herbs and the spices. What goes around, inside or on top of the dish can be way more important than the main ingredient when it comes to the decision of not only which type of wine to serve with the food – as in red, white, sparkling or dessert – but also which style in terms of the grape variety, the method of production, time in barrel, sweetness and acidity, etcetera.

Balance is important. Rich meaty dishes tend to go best with rich, full-bodied wines, and lightly flavoured dishes tend to go better with light-bodied, more delicate or ‘minerally’ wines – so that one doesn’t overwhelm the other. If there’s sweetness in the food, the wine should be sweeter. If there’s vinegar or citrus juice in the food, or if the dish has a bitterness about it, the wine should be sharpish, of above-average acidity. Whereas cheese and wine combos can be particularly challenging – definitely not always best friends!

Nevertheless, what follows are some of the basics, some of the classics.


Artichokes and Sauvignon Blanc
Asparagus and Sauvignon Blanc
Beef and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc or Bordeaux-style red blends
Bobotie and fruity Pinotage, or off-dry Chenin
Bolognaise and full-bodied reds
Bordeaux-style red blends and most types of red meat
Butternut soup and Chardonnay
Buttery or Creamy sauces on fish, chicken or vegetables, with lightly-oaked Chardonnay
Cabernet Franc and spicy meat dishes, pork, veal, ham and quail
Cabernet Sauvignon and steaks, roasts, casseroles, stews, venison
Chardonnay and most types of fish, especially shellfish, also buttery/creamy dishes, Hollandaise, tripe
Charcuterie and Shiraz or other spicy wine
Cheeses – see separate recommendations and/but don’t pair with your best wines
Chenin Blanc and seafood, spring rolls and salads if medium-bodied, with chicken and spicy dishes if full-bodied
Chicken and Pinot Noir if roasted poultry, Shiraz if braaied, Chenin and Chardonnay to be safe
Chocolate (dark) and sweet dessert wine or Port
Colombar and light salads or fish
Crayfish and lightly-oaked Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc
Cumin and Coriander (e.g. with lamb) and spicy red (e.g. Shiraz)
Curry and Gewürztraminer or Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc
Foie gras and Noble Late Harvest or Straw Wine, or Riesling
Game/venison and smoky Shiraz or fruity Pinotage – meaty game fish and medium-bodied reds, e.g. Pinot Noir, Pinotage
Gewürztraminer and smoked meats, curries, Thai
Ham & Melon with Viognier
Lamb and medium-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, or full-bodied Cab or Bordeaux-style red blends with rack of lamb, or Shiraz with lamb shanks
Merlot and cold meats, carpaccio
Noodle dishes (sweet-and-sour) and Riesling or Chenin
Oysters and sparkling wine, or crisp Sauvignon Blanc, or rich Chardonnay
Pinotage (full-bodied) with spare ribs, pepper steak, rich game fish and venison, BBQ sauce, oxtail, osso buco – or with boerewors and lamb if medium-bodied and fruity
Pinot Noir and light meals of salmon, tuna, duck, chicken, ham, veal, pasta
Pork and dry Rosé or Blanc de Noir, or Semillon
Port and nuts, fruit cake, chocolate
Relish and Shiraz
Riesling and pork, bobotie, smoked snoek, curries, Chinese food, foie gras, pâté
Rosé & Blanc de Noir (dry) and ham, pork, or if off-dry then with lightly-spiced food
Salads and Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin or Semillon
Sauvignon Blanc and oily/buttery food, various salads, most fish dishes
Semillon and flavoursome chicken, pork, Thai, salads, most seafood
Shellfish and Chardonnay or top Chenin
Shiraz and oxtail, goulash, bredies, venison
Shrimps and light white or dry bubbly
Snoek and Pinotage, or Riesling with smoked snoek
Spare ribs and spicy Shiraz
Sparkling Brut and oysters, smoked salmon, shrimp, sushi
Steak and Cabernet Sauvignon, or Bordeaux-style red blends
Sushi and Sauvignon Blanc
Sweet Dessert Wine and foie gras, Malva pudding, brandy tart
Thai and Semillon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chenin
Turkey and Chardonnay
Walnuts and dry Sherry


Blue cheeses and sweet dessert wines or Port
Brie & Camembert are difficult to match with wine – can try a wooded Chardonnay
Chardonnay (lightly wooded) is the most versatile wine with a board of mixed cheeses
Cheddar (12 months or older) and Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux-style red blends, fruity Pinotage
Cream cheese and light, fruity Chenin
Feta and steely Sauvignon Blanc
Goat’s milk cheese and Sauvignon Blanc
Gouda and medium-bodied, fruity Pinotage
Gruyère and sweet dessert wine
Hard cheese and bold red or wooded Chardonnay
Noble Late Harvest and Roquefort
Pinotage (medium-bodied/fruity) and Cheddar or Gouda
Port and Stilton
Roquefort and Noble Late Harvest
Sauvignon Blanc and goat’s milk cheese
Stilton and Port
Washed-rind cheese and Chardonnay


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