John Wilson’s guide to food and wine matching

How to Drink Better: Follow a few basic rules and you shouldn’t go wrong

Matching wine and food – does it really matter?

I return to the subject of matching food and wine, largely because so many people, Irish Times readers included, ask me about it. Dozens of books and thousands of blogs have been devoted to the subject, some well-researched and helpful, others pompous and unduly complicated.

I have always believed that, with a few exceptions, most wine tastes better with food, most food tastes better with wine, and both taste better in good company. Over Christmas, I bought a few cases of mixed red wines. The only things they had in common were price (€15-€25), strength (all were 12%-13.5% alcohol), and the fact that they were my personal favourites. Over a period of several weeks, each evening I picked whatever bottle I felt like drinking without thinking too much about what I was cooking for dinner. Almost all worked perfectly well.

If you follow a few general rules, matching lighter foods with lighter wine, and substantial dishes with full-bodied wines, you probably won’t go wrong. So, white wines and lighter reds with fish, white meats, and cooked cheesy dishes; and full-on red wines with red meats and rich bean casseroles. But even if you drink Chardonnay with your lamb curry (as I did), it won’t be a disaster.


A few things for wine lovers to remember: you can usually taste a lot more of a wine without food, and some wines taste much better on their own. I generally have a glass before sitting down to dinner. Simple, milder foods allow a wine to shine. Plain roast chicken goes really well with both white and red wines. Roast red meat and mashed potato both seem to work well with red wines. Smelly runny cheeses go better with white wine, and Champagne seems to go with pretty much everything, red meats included.