Should I always drink red wine with meat and white wine with fish?

How to Drink Better: If you don’t know a lot about wine, but would like to know more, this new series will help you get to grips with it

Q: Should I always drink red wine with meat and white wine with fish?

A: Wine is there for your enjoyment, so you should feel free to drink whatever wine, beer or other drink with your evening meal and ignore all the experts who tell you otherwise. There have been many books and countless articles written about matching food and wine, and there certainly are some perfect matches. But, unless you are lucky enough to be sharing a house with a Michelin-starred chef, you may have to settle for something less. Matching food and wine should be fun. It is not a scientific process, so feel free to experiment.

Over the next few weeks, I will offer a few pointers – not rules – on how to choose a drink to go with your evening meal. This week, ordering a wine in a restaurant. I know many diners find the experience very stressful, and we will return to the subject again. One problem we all face, unless we are eating alone, is we are very likely to be ordering a range of different starters and main courses. So, how do you choose a wine that will match grilled salmon, a gourmet burger and mushroom risotto?

Luckily, there are some crowd-pleasing, all-purpose wines that go with a wide variety of foods. It is worth remembering these, and not just for eating out; they are really useful at home too. All-purpose white wines have enough fruit and body to go well with white meats, such as chicken and pork, as well as that refreshing acidity you need with most seafood dishes. Flexible reds are medium bodied with lots of fruit and light tannins. They have enough body to go with powerful red meats, spices and rich tomato sauces, yet will also go nicely with white meats and even salmon and tuna.


My favourite all-purpose white wines would include Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Albariño, Picpoul de Pinet and Muscadet as well unoaked Chardonnay (such as Mâcon). Flexible red wines include Pinot Noir, Gamay, Merlot or a Valpolicella Ripasso. The other alternatives are medium-bodied rosés which match well with a wide range of foods and, if you are all feeling adventurous, orange wine.

With beer, the problem doesn’t arise, as each diner can choose their own, although the selection of craft beers in many restaurants is very limited. I usually order a pale ale, lager, or pilsner to go with lighter dishes including seafood, a medium-bodied red ale with white meats, and full-bodied beers including stout with more substantial foods.