Wine and Food Pairing

How to pair food and wine

By Halliday Wine Companion

13 Apr, 2023

Learn how to pair food and wine with Halliday Wine Academy.

Food and Wine Pairing Guide

When it comes to pairing food and wine, it's important to think of it as more of an art than an exact science. The food and wine matching ‘rules’ aren’t hard and fast, but there are some general guidelines that will provide you with a good foundation to riff off and find with your own, idiosyncratic approach.

It might seem simple to say, but the best wine pairings are the ones that you enjoy. So if that means washing down a steak with chardonnay, lobster with riesling, or a block of chocolate with a bottle of pinot noir, then that’s perfectly okay (read more about chocolate and wine pairing). 

All of that said, if you want to get technical about food and wine pairing you can. Sommeliers have the skills to guide you in restaurants and with this list of quick tips, you can bring that expert know-how home. 

But remember, the key is to have fun – pairing food with wine doesn’t have to be a head spin. Do you love the combination you’ve come up with? Does the food taste good and the wine have you reaching for more? If you answered ‘yes’ to either of those questions, then you’re on the right track.

Red wine being pouredThe key to a great food and wine pairing is to trust your palate.

Here are our three guiding rules when it comes to matching food and wine:

1. Try to match the weight of the wine with the weight of the food 
Weight in wine refers to how the combined alcohol, extract, sugar, acid, flavour and texture can create a sense of ‘bigness’. This can be interpreted as body – as in light, medium or heavy.

Weight in food takes into account the main ingredients and the methods used to cook the food.  

2. Take into account wine structure 
Structure is the sum of acid, sugar, tannin and alcohol, and all can have a significant impact on the ideal food match. Wine that is high in acid matches well with food that has high acidity, and will cut through oil, butter and natural fats.

3. Learn how to use bridging ingredients 
Bridging ingredients are those particular ingredients that help 'build a bridge' between your wine and the meal you're eating. Great examples of bridging ingredients are: mushrooms, nuts, herbs, beans and legumes, cheese, cured meats, and olives.

Duck and red wineA classic food and wine pairing is pinot noir and duck.

How to pair food and wine with Liebherr

When selecting wine to pair with food, remember that while aroma of a wine is important, ultimately it's the taste where harmony between food and wine should be found. Liebherr recommends aiming to match the characters and intensity of the flavour of the wine with the dish. Similar flavours found in the wine and the food will complement each other. For example, a spicy shiraz works wonderfully with steak in pepper sauce, and a wine with citrus flavours – such as pinot gris – will pair with a grilled fish with lemon.

Below are some of James Halliday's favourite food and wine pairings.

How to match food and wine

by James Halliday
Oysters, cold crustacea, tapas, any cold hors d'oeuvres 
Caesar salad, trout mousse 
Young riesling
Cold salads, sashimi 
Young pinot noir
Seared kangaroo fillet, grilled quail 
Pastrami, warm smoked chicken
Young semillon
Antipasto, vegetable terrine 
Young medium-bodied cabernet sauvignon
Rack of baby lamb
Pinot gris, colombard
Crab cakes, whitebait 
Light- To medium-bodied cool-climate shiraz
Rare eye fillet of beef
Verdelho, chenin blanc
Cold smoked chicken, gravlax 
Young botrytised wines
Fresh fruits, cake
Mature chardonnay
Grilled chicken, chicken pasta, turkey, pheasant 


Chilled fino
Cold consommé
Young light-bodied pinot noir
Grilled salmon
2–3-year-old semillon
Aged pinot noir (5+ years)
Coq au vin, wild duck
2–3-year-old riesling
Seared tuna
Young grenache/sangiovese
Osso bucco
Young barrel-fermented semillon sauvignon blanc
Seafood or vegetable tempura
Mature chardonnay (5+ Years)
Braised rabbit
Young off-dry riesling
Prosciutto & melon/pear
Hunter Valley shiraz (5–10 years)
Beef spare ribs
Cool-climate chardonnay
Abalone, lobster, Chinese-style prawns
Saltimbocca, roast pheasant
10-year-old semillon or riesling
Braised pork neck
Medium-bodied cabernet sauvignon (5 years)
Barbecued butterfly leg of lamb
Mature chardonnay
Smoked eel, smoked roe
All wines
Off-dry rosé
Chilled fresh fruit


Warm consomme
Aged pinot noir
Grilled calf's liver, roast kid, lamb or pig's kidneys
Barrel-fermented mature whites
Smoked roe, bouillabaisse
Mature Margaret River cabernet merlot
Lamb fillet, roast leg of lamb with garlic and herbs
Complex mature chardonnay
Sweetbreads, brains
Cool-climate merlot
Lamb loin chops
Fully aged riesling
Chargrilled eggplant, stuffed capsicum
Mature Grenache/rhone Blends
Moroccan lamb
Aged marsanne
Seafood risotto, Lebanese
Rich, full-bodied Heathcote shiraz
Beef casserole
Southern Victorian pinot noir
Peking duck
Young muscat
Plum pudding


Dry oloroso sherry
Full-flavoured hors d'oeuvres
Mature pinot noir
Mushroom ragout, ravioli
Sparkling Burgundy
Mature merlot
Pot au feu
Pea and ham soup
10-year-old Heathcote shiraz
Char-grilled rump steak
Aged (10+ Years) semillon
Vichysoisse (hot) 
15–20-year-old full-bodied Barossa shiraz
Venison, kangaroo fillet
Sauvignon blanc
Coquilles St Jacques, pan-fried scallops
Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon
Braised lamb shanks/shoulder
Mature chardonnay
Quiche Lorraine
Muscat (Old)
Chocolate-based desserts
Chardonnay (10+ Years)
Tokay (Old) 
Creme brûlée
Mature semillon sauvignon blanc
Seafood pasta 
Vintage port
Dried fruits, salty cheese 
Young Tasmanian pinot noir
Squab, duck breast

Next steps on your wine journey

Halliday Wine Academy: Fundamentals of Wine in-person education course
Join Jane Faulkner in Melbourne and Mike Bennie in Sydney for our Fundamentals of Wine in-person course. Across one two-hour session each week for four weeks, Jane and Mike will guide you through course materials and a selection of highly rated wines. Find out more.

Halliday Wine Academy: Introduction to Wine online education course
Across eight modules, Halliday Wine Academy's Introduction to Wine course offers a detailed look at the Australian wine landscape. Learn about wine varietals, Australian wine regions, how wine is made, how to taste and describe wine, how to approach food and wine matches, along with handy tips that address common wine questions. Find out more.

Related article: Red wines for summer.

Image credit: Wine Australia/Ewen Bell.