Iconic wine pairings with a twist

December 26, 2023 (Last Updated: December 21, 2023)
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There is something uniquely exciting about finding new ways to enjoy old favourites, especially when shared. These thought-provoking pairings are a feast for the palate and are sure to spark imagination and delight guests.

Here’s what you need to know to start enjoying wine from your collection with fun new accompaniments or even host with the absolute most this season.

Far From Cheesy

This time-tested pairing is a classic for good reason. Nothing starts a good time off quite like cool, crisp wine served with creamy, soft cheese. Better yet, when you know which pairings work, you won’t believe the sensorial magic you’ll experience.

Brie and bubbles? Yes, please! Contrast Brie’s creaminess with the tart acidity of dry champagne. Savour full-bodied Gorgonzola with a satisfyingly sweet moscato. Or serve earthy goat cheese with citrusy Sauvignon Blanc to bring out the nutty, herbal notes in the cheese.

Absolutely Unbeatable

One of the more avant-garde ways to enjoy wine is by pairing it with music. Yes, really. If traditional pairings use smell and taste, why not upgrade them with the added element of hearing? This sensory delight is sure to change the way you enjoy your wine and your music.

Crank up effervescent, upbeat pop by Dua Lipa as you sip on a crisp rosé. Nurse a glass of spicy, rich Shiraz with vintage rock from the likes of Dire Straits. Listen to smooth jazz by Norah Jones while you enjoy a wooded Chardonnay.

Snack Attack

Weekend warriors and serial snackers unite: wine and biltong pairing is actually an official thing! The aromatic spiciness of biltong complements a host of wines in ways that will help you savour new flavours in each element. Chilli sticks are soothed by a smooth red blend. Lean game biltong, such as ostrich or eland, is enlivened by a medium-bodied Sangiovese or Merlot.

Treat yourself to a nibble of ultra-rich Wagyu biltong paired with a cherry-forward Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Dessert, Upgraded

If the thought of brainstorming a dessert course for when you’ve already delivered a perfectly planned meal is enough to drive you out of the kitchen, worry not. The ultimate fuss-free dessert is here: wine and chocolate pairing!

Pair a spicy Shiraz with a heady chai or citrus dark chocolate. Unite Cabernet Sauvignon with its long-lost lover: salt-sprinkled dark chocolate. Or finish off on a traditionally sweet note by serving flowery milk chocolate with a sweet dessert wine.

Light The Braai

Surprise and delight at your next braai with a braaibroodjie and wine pairing! These aren’t your ouma’s braaibroodjies: Get creative and play with flavour on the fire. We all love the classic cheese, tomato, and onion fire-toasted sandwich, but we can let it rest as we explore new taste sensations.

Pair a snoek and cream cheese braaibroodjie with a delightfully crisp Chardonnay. Serve a goat’s cheese, honey and fig sandwich with a hearty Shiraz. Whip up a piquanté pepper, mozzarella and biltong braaibroodjie to enjoy with a glass of Pinotage.

Things to note

Ultimately, you can craft a unique wine pairing with almost anything. The basics will always stay true: You want to pair a food or an experience with a wine that allows both elements to shine.

Pairing is a fantastic way to discover gorgeously fleeting notes in wines by coaxing them out with complementary, sometimes weird and wonderful, flavours. There’s no one ‘right” wine – so get out of your comfort zone and experiment!

Avoid mixing high alcohol-content wines with spicy foods. Also, check the serving temperature of each wine to nail the pairing. And lighter-intensity meats go best with lighter-intensity wines. You’ll lose the sparkle of a light wine if you serve it with a heavy dish.

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A version of this article was published in the Food&Home Autumn 2023 Issue.

Feature image: Pexels

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