The Ultimate Guide to Food and Wine Pairing

There are few things more relaxing than sitting back with a wonderful meal and a glass of wine. But many people don’t realise the importance of matching the wine with the food. Drinking the right tipple will enhance flavours, whereas the wrong drink can spoil the palate and ruin even the best cooking! Here at Erin Hampers, we are experts in curating beautiful culinary experiences. Let us help you navigate the tricky waters of sommelier knowledge with our ultimate guide to food and wine pairing…

Types of wine

Red wine – Made with red grapes, red wines tend to be fuller bodied, with a slightly higher alcohol content. There are three main subcategories:

  •  Fruity dry
  • Herbal dry
  • Sweet

In addition, there are hundreds of subcategories, which can seem overwhelming to the wine novice! But trusting your taste buds and enjoying the experience is the key…

White wine – Produced mainly with white grapes, although red grapes can be used occasionally. White wines can generally be categorised into two main types:

  • Sweet (such as Riesling or Gewürztraminer)
  • Dry (such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio)

Rose wine – Made using a variety of techniques, (such as bleeding, pressing, limited maceration, and run off), rose wines are generally made from red grapes varietals. They can range from dry varieties such as Pinot Noir Rose, to sweet and semi sweet, such as White Zinfandel.

Sparkling wines – These can come in a range of colours, from white to red and rose. A secondary fermentation period causes the wine to produce bubbles. A popular choice for celebrations and special events, there are many varieties, from Champagne to cremant, cava, and prosecco.

Dessert wines – These are predominantly sweet (although can range towards dry), and are often fortified with spirits. They can be either red or white.

Pairing wine with food

With an almost endless variety of wines available, there is something perfectly compliment every dish. First, you need to identify the basic flavours in your wine. These can be assessed in three main categories – bitter (which tends to be found in red wines); sweet (a flavour found in several wine types, notably whites, roses, sparkling and dessert wines); and acidic flavours (most often found in white and sparkling wines).

Second, identify the texture of your wine. It’s “body” is the way it feels inside the mouth.

  • Wines under 12.5% alcohol are considered light-bodied.
  • Between 12.5% – 13.5% are medium-bodied.
  • Any wine over 13.5% is said to be full-bodied.

Next, decide the direction of your pairing. Would you prefer to match similar flavours together, or provide a contrast? These different approaches to food pairing are known as congruent (for instance, pairing beef and mushroom together, as they have many shared compounds); and complimentary (coconut and chocolate share few features, but go together well).

Finally, some considerations and suggestions:


  • Your wine should always be more acidic than the food. So if you are eating something particularly acidic, for instance with vinegar or lemon juice, you should look towards white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc or Champagnes. For those lucky enough to have one of our Indulgent Gift Hampers, you could pair our Irish Goats Cheese with the delicious bottle of CA’VIVE Prosecco

  • Red wines such as our Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon from the Erin’s Fine Selection  go perfectly with rich meals such as pastas, bolognaise, and pepperoni.

  • – Match flavours of a similar intensity – delicate foods with delicate wines, bold foods with bold wines. Our Classic hamper  gives you the choice – the dry French Sauvignon is perfect to sip whilst nibbling Keogh’s fine crisps; or crack open the Merlot to enjoy Sheridan’s crackers with some cheese and preserves.

The world of wine and food pairing can seem complex, but remember that enjoyment is the key! At Erin Hampers, our selections are expertly curated to give the ultimate culinary experience. Erin Hampers is Cork’s premier online hamper store offering a wide range of luxury food and gift hampers, delivering to Cork and throughout Ireland.

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