Matching Wines and Sauces
The function of a sauce is to complement the main ingredient, bring the whole dish together and add incredible flavor. While many sauces are derived from the five “mother sauces” of French cuisine (béchamel, velouté, tomate, espagnole and hollandaise), simple pan sauces that cut time but not flavour are more and more common.
How do you choose a wine to create a harmonious pairing with dishes that include sauce as an ingredient or served on the side? First, understand the sauce’s flavour and texture profile then think about styles of wine will interact.
1. Sauce Profile: Rich & Creamy
These Include: French white sauces such as béchamel, Mornay (béchamel with cheese), Hollandaise and Bernaise (emulsions of egg yolks and butter), Italian Alfredo sauce (butter, cream and cheese), and Asian sauces with coconut milk, which tend to be spicy as well as creamy.
- To help offset the richness of the sauce choose a sparkling wine (the bubbles cut through the fat from the butter or cream) or a crisp, refreshing white wine
- For a flavour and textural match, choose a lush Chardonnay that has spent time in an oak barrel or even a lighter red
- To balance both the richness and spiciness of coconut milk curries , choose a semi-dry Riesling with good acidity and slight sweetness
2. Sauce Profile: Rich & Hearty
These Include: Espagnol (Spanish) sauce, a rich meat stock thickened with a nutty brown roux and tomato, classic French demi-glace, Bordelaise sauce (dry red wine, bone marrow, butter and shallots), and meat-based Bolognese sauce.
- Balance the richness of the sauce by choosing a big, bold red with higher tannins, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
3. Sauce Profile: Bright & Lively
These Include: Tomato-based sauces, such as Marinara, and citrus sauces. Uncooked tomato sauces will have fresh, livelier flavour than ones made with cooked tomatoes or tomato paste (note: if you add cream, cheese or meat, tomato sauce will be richer and less acidic still). Barbecue sauces for beef tend to be tomato-based with spicy, peppery tones. By their very nature, citrus sauces, especially those with lemon and grapefruit, can be very acidic and tart – and can make wine taste sweeter.
- To stand up to the acidity of the sauce, choose either a mid-weight wine with good acidity and lower tannins such as a Rose or a red with some richness
- Or a hearty, rich red wine such as Cabernets and Merlot
- If you prefer a white wine try a Pinot Grigio or tangy Sauvignon Blanc
4. Flavour Profile: Salty-Oily-Spicy
These Include: Sauces with pesto, garlic and oil (including aioli), and hot spicy sauces such as Arrabiatta and Puttanesca (anchovies, black olives and capers)
- To help tame the bite of raw garlic in pesto, choose a white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio or sparkling
- To help lift the flavours of olive-oil based sauces choose wines with light, fresh acidity like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Riesling
- To offset hot, spicy sauces and bold, briny flavours of anchovies, black olives and capers in Puttanesca try Rosé or a flavourful mid-weight red