Light to medium bodied reds are wines that have less weight (mouth-feel), intensity and alcohol: 12-13.5%. These wines are generally more savoury than their full bodied cousins, with finer tannins that make them more agreeable for a wider range of food matching possibilities, especially when it comes to spices, light textures, and delicate flavours in food.
The fruit spectrum that you can expect from these wines are from the red spectrum: strawberry, raspberry, red cherry, cassis and cranberries. And, the varieties that you will see in this category are; Gamay, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Nebbiolo, Lambrusco, Zinfandel and Primativo.
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From a production/style perspective, these wines will be picked earlier to preserve fresh fruit and acidity in the wines, and they tend to receive less oak treatment and minimal winemaker influence.
When considering which wine to pair with your food, apply the general food matching advice provided at the end of the post.
Here’s some useful tips for each variety and cuisine styles, so you can start experimenting and exploring till you get the right combination.
When it comes to curries, first consider the texture of the curry; is it creamy or dry? If you have a creamy curry, try a lighter finer style like Gamay or Pinot from a cool climate so you can ensure that the acidity in the wine will help cut through the cream and balance out the mouthfeel. If your curry is dry, you may want to think about a wine with a little more tannin so that the weight of both elements match up.
Then consider the protein. If it’s a yellow or green chicken, you might want to consider a really light red like Lambrusco or Gamay to ensure that the wine doesn’t mask the flavour. If it’s beef, lamb, or duck, then maybe try Pinot, Nebbiolo, Zinfandel or Grenache.
Salads can be amazing with light reds, but you have to first consider the lightness of the overall dish, the spice and the dressing. If the dish is really light fresh and zingy like a Vietnamese or Thai beef salad, stick to white. But for salads that have bigger flavours try Pinot Noir and Gamay.
If your dish is BBQ influenced from Korean or Chinese, then Grenache and Nebbiolo are going to be the best place to start. Both varieties can have a sour cherry note to the fruit make up and these flavours always fit nicely with BBQ’d protein flavours.
When thinking about soups and noodle dishes, think about the major component of the dish first (in these cases it is usually the liquid), and then the protein. If it is a stock; based with beef, lamb, or duck, Pinot Noir will always go well. If it’s a coconut milk, fish, or vegetable stock based dish, then consider medium to heavy bodied white wines. Red wines here will generally not fit, as they can override and mask subtle flavours that are integral to the overall balance of the dish.
For braises and roasts, the depth of flavours can be broad so you have a lot more to play with here. Think about the dominant components of the braise/roast and go from there. If the braise is heavy and savoury, then try a Grenache or Nebbiolo or even Zinfandel. If the dish has spice, then go for something finer like a Pinot Noir or a Gamay.
A great place to start. Think about the general fruit descriptors for the wine and then consider the flavours in the dish look for components that might compliment. For example black fruited wines go great with savoury dishes and sour fruited wines love a little sweetness.
If you have big flavours in your wine you will need big flavours in your food so that the wine does not dominate.
Younger wines generally can have a higher level of acidity. This can sharpen the flavours and can affect the flavour of the food. Acidic flavours can clash with some flavours but acidity in wine is great for cutting through and balancing out fatty, creamy components of dishes.
Tannins can have a drying effect on the mouthfeel of a wine so maybe think about the texture of the dish so that the dish and the wine can complement each other. For example try oily or creamy rich dishes with wines with pronounced tannins.
Find all the great wines mentioned in this article at Wine Selectors.
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