Wine and food is a great combination, and it seems that the possibilities are endless when it comes to food and wine pairings. One very popular rule of thumb is that red wine goes with (red) meat and that white wine goes with lighter proteins like poultry and fish. This guideline has remained popular for a reason, and there is of course a lot of truth to it. However, wine – just like food – is a little bit more complex than that. Some red wines are full-bodied and some are light-bodied. Some white wines have strong oaky flavours and some are light and almost neutral tasting. This rule is a good indicator but it doesn’t tell the whole story, and so here we will go a little deeper, with our first focus being on light red wines.
Light red wines
Lots of red wines are full-bodied. They have strong flavours, sometimes of oak, and feel “heavy” in the mouth. Wines like Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia are considered to be full-bodied. Full-bodied wines can be too heavy for some people, however, and there is plenty of lighter red wine available on the market.
The most famous light red wine in the world is probably Pinot Noir, which is produced in many different countries including Burgundy in France. Burgundy Pinot Noir is a light and delicate wine and the finest examples are the most expensive wines in the world. Domaine de la Romanée Conti is the most prestigious producer in the region, and its top wine, Romanée Conti, fetches incredibly high prices. Other regions producing Pinot Noir include Alsace in France, Germany, Austria and new world countries such as the USA.
If you really want to splash out, you can buy Domaine de la Romanée Conti Romanée Conti 2001 here.
The next best known light red wine comes from a grape called Gamay, though many will know it better from ithe name of the French region producing the best Gamay wines, Beaujolais. Beaujolais produces some great, light red wines with names like Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages, Morgon, Fleurie, Moulin-a-Vent and the world-famous Beaujolais Nouveau.
Try an excellent and very keenly priced Gamay, Marcel Lapierrre Morgon 2015, here.
Light red wines and food
Let’s assume then that you’ve got your hands on a nice, light red wine. Maybe a Burgundy Pinot Noir, maybe a Gamay from Beaujolais. Perhaps even a light Grenache or Garnacha, or an Italian Valpolicella. Whatever tickles your fancy, the next step is to pair it with some food. Here are our top tips and tricks for pairing food with light red wines.
- Earthy flavours are great. Some of the best Pinot Noir can have a delicate earthiness, and this can match exceptionally well with earthy foods. Think of something like wild mushroom roasted in light herbs.
- Consider the body of the dish. Try something light that you would otherwise pair with a white wine. Light fish minimally prepared, such as steamed or baked salmon, will provide a very pleasant pairing for a similarly light Pinot Noir, Gamay or Grenache.
- Cheese and wine is seemingly never a bad idea. Your Pinot or other light red will pair with a surprisingly diverse range of cheeses in different styles. Experiment to find what you like best, and don’t be afraid to take risks. A French comté is a typically great match for a Beaujolais or Pinot.
- Consider heavier meats with lighter sauces and preparations. An overly creamy or rich sauce may overpower or roll over the more nuanced flavours of a red Burgundy, but if you pull away the accompaniments or keep the flavours on the lighter side, you will have no problem pairing light red wine with pork, duck or even beef.
Learn to pair wine and pizza here.