Wine Matching Masterclass, Part II: How to match wine and meat


In the second of our three-part series on the basics of food and wine-matching, Hakkasan’s wine buyer Christine Parkinson tells us how to go about pairing wines with meat

It’s hard to pick up a bottle without finding a wine and meat food match on the back label, so it’s a pity these all seem to stick with the ‘white wine for white meat and red wine for red meat’ cliché. You can be much more adventurous than that if you think about what’s happening on the plate. Meat is as much about texture as flavour, so you can suggest almost any type of wine if you make sure the tannin and acidity are right for the job.

Roast meats

These sound traditional so a red Bordeaux or Burgundy seems obvious, but they can be a bit pricy for some customers.

THE WINE Big, herby reds from the Languedoc, or classy Douro blends are affordable alternatives. Any savoury, chewy red on your list can work, so suggest something unfamiliar, like a Bonarda from Argentina. The same is true for grilled steak, and a traditional, dry rosé is lovely with lamb. For roast pork or chops you can opt for a white wine, but it must be full-bodied to handle the dense meat and salty crackling. A big, oaky Chardonnay is fine, but a traditional, oaked white Rioja might well impress your customers more.

CHRISTINE PICKS Bonarda, Finca Las Moras 2007, Argentina for roast beef


Fatty meats

Wagyu beef, British lamb and goose all have lots of fat and you need to pay serious attention to this. Steak tartare has a similar issue: even a lean meat feels really fatty when it’s raw, so the wine will need loads of acidity to survive.

THE WINE Barolo works fine, as does good Beaujolais, but if you’ve got the right customer don’t be afraid to offer Champagne! All that acidity, plus the ‘bite’ of CO2 makes a great, if unexpected match.

CHRISTINE PICKS Beaujolais Villages, Caves de Bel Air, France

Mince etc

Cheaper cuts of meat, such as burgers, meat pies or spag bol, are fairly easy to match with wine. These dishes have plenty of flavour so don’t rely on your cheapest red wine just because it’s an everyday dish.

THE WINE You can nudge the quality up with a crisp Loire red or a New World Cabernet Merlot blend, or try offering a Montepulciano or Barbera. Remember, too, that bangers and mash with Chianti is a match made in heaven!


Chicken and turkey tend to be automatically served with white wine.

THE WINE The best bet is Old World Riesling: pick a light German one for the chicken, and a chunky Alsace for the turkey. A light, fruity red wine without too much tannin will work too, so this is the right time to suggest your best Burgundies and Beaujolais. It’s also your chance to sell a funky light red from somewhere more unusual: an Austrian Zweigelt, Greek Agiogitiko or even a red Lambrusco would all do a great job. If you’re matching wine to duck, remember it’s a darker, more savoury meat, so you’ll need a little extra sweetness in the wine. Pinot Noir is a great match, so either step the Burgundy up to premier cru, or opt for a New World version.

CHRISTINE PICKS Pinot Noir 2008, Seifried Estate, Nelson, New Zealand (for duck)

Fruity sauces

Sauces like cranberry or redcurrant can play havoc with wine by adding sweetness. Wine-based sauces (especially marsala or port) can have a similar effect. One solution is simply to serve the same wine as the sauce is made from, but there are other options.

THE WINE New World wines, with their more pronounced fruit and softer tannins nearly always
do a good job with sweet, fruity sauces. If the sauce is quite subtle, try a South African or New Zealand red blend, which will combine sweet and savoury notes. Alternatively, for a really jammy sauce you’ll need to step up the fruitiness of the wine: think Chilean Merlot or Argentine Malbec.


A cheap cut it might be, but offal needs a completely different approach to burgers etc.

THE WINE The key point is that you have to be careful, as high acidity in the wine can produce a metallic flavour with liver or kidneys. You won’t need as much tannin, either. Play safe with a Southern Rhône red or a Spanish Garnacha.

CHRISTINE PICKS Côtes du Rhône Les Hauts de St Marcel 2007, Rhône, France (for liver, haggis or kidneys)


Game can be very pungent, especially if it’s been hung. It’s also often very lean. The w
ine needs some flesh or ‘oiliness’ to pad out the meat, and there’s no need for it to be red.

THE WINE Alsace Pinot Gris has the right combination of body and fruit to round out a serious game dish, plus a hint of sweetness that contrasts with the intensely savoury game. A weighty white from Friuli would pull off the same trick, or if your customer really fancies a red you could offer a plump, spicy Zinfandel from California.

Savoury sauces

Sauces like mushroom, onion or soy (or a tasty nut loaf) need a drier, more savoury wine. For a tomato sauce, however, you’ll need to take more care. Tomatoes are very acidic, and have a rich flavour. It’s no coincidence that crisp Italian reds often work with them (not to mention pizza, ratatouille and pasta).

THE WINE Pinot Noir loves these ingredients, so this is the chance to sell top red Burgundy. It’s also worth listing Italian reds at various price-points so you can make the most of them.

CHRISTINE PICKS… Savigny-Lès-Beaune Les Picotins, Domaine du Ch Gris 2005, Burgundy, France (for a mushroom or nut sauce)

Top Tip!

Champagne might be white, but Pinot Noir is a meat-friendly grape, making it a geniune contender. Choose a decent, full-bodied champagne and it will work fine with lots of meat dishes.

Wine and meat in a nutshell

  • Lean meats and game need plump, fleshy wines
  • Fruity sauces need New World wines
  • Savoury sauces need Old World wines
  • Use high acidity wines for fatty meat, but low acidity for offal

Thank you to Chalié Richards for supplying the wines.
For more information please visit

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – November / December 2009

About Author

Leave A Reply