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Wine and Food - Support or Combat


I was thinking - always a risky activity - about comments I read on wine and food pairing. I’m quite surprised by how often I read phrases like “this wine stood up to that food” or “this wine held its own”, and so on. For me these phrases imply an element of combat or competition, as in “stood up to a bully” or “held its own against a team from a higher division”.

I suppose I like to think of wine and food complementing each other, or matching each other, or even contrasting with each other, but with a harmonious rather than competitive aim. Am I over-thinking this, or missing some important element of the relationship between wine and food?

I’m never quite sure when I read that a wine stood up to, or held its own with some food, if there is an implication that it was okay but a much better pairing could perhaps be found.


When I wrote this very recently, here, I meant that the food did not kill the flavours of the wine. The wine was very good showing sweetness and spicyness when served with a curry. It was not a competition, but an opportunity to enjoy both.

So in other words I consider curry difficult to pair, but this wine did the job splendidly.


Fair enough, just my failure of understanding in that case, but I wonder if everybody wants to carry the same meaning.


Yep I use it in the same way as @szaki1974 and recently wrote something similar here

Maybe the phrase makes more sense when you’ve had a wine with food and one of the elements didnt work. I’ve had a wine get completely lost in the meal. Sad times.


I think the dilemma is fair enough. An interesting thing I saw recently was how the concept of pairing wine is different in China from what we think is “right”. It would appear that they would happily pair hot spicy food with big reds where there is a clash (battle) between the spice and the tannins.


I’m sure I read in a previous edition of Hugh Johnson’s Pocket wine book a comment under matching wines with curries something to the effect that you can choose x or y white wines or emphasise the heat by pairing with a St Emilion or other Bordeaux wine. Can’t check the reference - didn’t bring that with us on holidays.


Yes, you are right, the wine should complement the food and vice versa. To put a Barossa Shiraz along with a salmon en croute would be silly, the nuances of flavour in the fish would be swamped by the wine. A good match to Chinese curries is Alsace Gewurztraminer. Chocolate is difficult and the only matches I have found are the red dessert wines from southern France: Collioure, Maury or Rivesaltes Vielle Reserve. Indian food I have found problems with and either ended up as plumping for beer or else just enjoying the wine and having the food as a support act.