Wine expert reveals the perfect bottles to pair with your favourite meals

Many of us know the struggle of picking the perfect bottle of wine to accompany a meal, particularly when dining with friends. 

But wine expert and Daily Mail columnist Helen McGinn makes the entire process delightfully simple in her new book, The Knackered Mother’s Wine Guide, released last week. 

Here, in an abridged extract, Helen explains the basic rules everyone can follow to help guide their own at-home pairing – and even reveals the best wine to have with your cheese on toast in front of the TV.  

British wine expert Helen McGinn makes the entire process of wine pairing delightfully simple in her new book, The Knackered Mother's Wine Guide. Stock image

British wine expert Helen McGinn makes the entire process of wine pairing delightfully simple in her new book, The Knackered Mother's Wine Guide. Stock image

British wine expert Helen McGinn makes the entire process of wine pairing delightfully simple in her new book, The Knackered Mother’s Wine Guide. Stock image

If you’re going to remember one rule about matching food with wine, make it this one: Think about the weight of flavour of the food you are about to scoff and try and match it with a wine of a similar weight. 

Here, weight refers to the body and the fullness of the wine. This, of course, means there are endless possible combinations and some will work better than others. 

FISH 

Generally speaking, a dry white wine will suit fish more than a red wine will. Chablis, with its steely acidity and (usual) lack of oak makes it a timeless classic for many a simple white fish dish. 

CHICKEN AND OTHER BIRDS

Simple roast chicken with salad loves a creamy Chardonnay, with a bit of oak perhaps, but add all the trimmings of a big Sunday roast and you’ll find that a smooth medium-bodied red does the trick. 

Generally speaking, a dry white wine will suit fish more than red wine, Helen says. Stock image

Generally speaking, a dry white wine will suit fish more than red wine, Helen says. Stock image

Generally speaking, a dry white wine will suit fish more than red wine, Helen says. Stock image

VEGETABLES

Annoyingly, veggie dishes do present some fairly random challenges when it comes to matching them with the right sort of wines. 

I rather like Riesling with asparagus, as it happens. Simple salads call for simple white wines: Pinot Grigio works well. An omlette just needs a glass of crisp, dry white wine, such as unoaked Chardonnay (Chablis, for example) or Gavi (an Italian wine made from the Cortese Grape) or Pinot Gris from Alsace or New Zealand.

And then there’s rosé: highly underrated in the veggie food matching stakes. Believe me, there are endless great combinations.

HERBY FOOD 

If you’re faced with a plate of food that’s absolutely covered in a particular herb, and that herb is going to be the dominant flavour in the dish, you need to find a wine that likes it. Pick a rosé to accompany thyme. Go for a dry Muscat if you’re minted. Basil loves Italian whites, while rosemary prefers a red, especially if served with lamb. 

What wine when? 

Here are some combinations to try, both classic and not so classic. Remember to scribble a note in your posh notebook/on your phone so that you can repeat the successful pairings and avoid the ones you don’t like. 

DISH

Simple salad

Mushroom risotto 

Thai fish curry

Burger

Five-spice pork belly

Lamb chops with butter

Chicken curry (mild)

Lasagne 

CLASSIC PAIRING

Pinot Grigio

Chianti

Gewürztraminer 

Cabernet Sauvignon

New Zealand Pinot Noir

Red Bordeaux

Beer

Chianti

NOT-SO-CLASSIC 

Picpoul de Pinet

Chilean Pinot Noir

Australian Pinot Gris 

Californian Zinfandel 

NZ Chardonnay

Argentinian Malbec

Champagne  

Southern Italian Red (Primitivo, Nero d’Avola) 

… And for those snacks in front of the TV 

BEANS ON TOAST 

Add a dash of HP sauce and match it with a New World Shiraz or Malbec. If you don’tt like HP, stick with a soft, juicy Spanish red made from the Tempranillo grape or a red from the South of France with the Carignan grape in it. 

CHEESE AND CRACKERS

This is my Sunday night staple; call it a ritual even. After a fairly hefty Sunday roast, I still have to have something to eat in the evening to mark it and put off the Sunday night blues… 

It’s eaten on the sofa with a glass of whatever we’ve got left over from lunch, as long as it’s red. In a perfect world this would be a glass of Amarone (an Italian red) with hard cheese, but a splash of Rioja is just as warming. 

The Knackered Mother’s Wine Guide: Because Life’s too Short to Drink Bad Wine by Helen McGinn, published by Bluebird Books For Life, £8.99

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