Wine to Dine

Perfect Wines for Braises

By Katie Ayoub, senior writer for Kraft Culinary Centre

What wine goes with what food?

The key to a good food and wine pairing is harmony. Each should enhance the other – the wine making the food more vibrant, and the food bringing out the nuances of the wine.

Often, diners aren't sure what wines match well with the food on the menu. By offering suggestions, you increase check average and, more importantly, you extend hospitality.

Good hospitality is remembered, and repeat business just might be the return on that investment.

Good rules of thumb when recommending wines:

  • Suggest wines that hail from the same region as the dish. So, if serving pasta with a tangy tomato sauce, perhaps the food-friendly, fruity Chianti would be a good match.
  • Pair lighter-style wines with lighter-style foods. For rich or strongly flavored dishes, suggest more complex, robust wines.

Pairing up for the braise

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The culinary technique of braising coaxes out the deep, layered flavors of your dish with a low, moist heat. The key element, therefore, of a braised dish is the liquid, which is often reduced to a sauce. Look to the braising liquid or rendered sauce to find the perfect wine pairing. Braised meats cry out for warm, toasty, big reds that can enhance rich, hearty flavors in the dish. However, braised seafood asks for soft, round white wines that won't overwhelm.

Heartier Wine Pairings

BBQ Brisket Pizza Zinfandel
  • Big, concentrated fruit cuts through the richness of the brisket

Braised Stuffed Flank Steaks
  • Its forward fruit is a nice counterpoint to the sausage stuffing and tangy vinaigrette

Braised Lamb Shanks Pinot Noir
  • The wine's smoke and spice match this dish's deep flavors, while cleansing the palate with its bright fruit

BBQ Pork Polenta Sopes Cabernet
  • Bold, spicy notes balance the acidity from the vinaigrette and stands up to the barbecue sauce and chili

Heartier braises should be paired with wine that can stand up to bold ingredients in order to enhance the amazing layers of flavor from low-and-slow braising. A Zinfandel, with its earthiness and good dose of tannin, would pair beautifully with beef dishes. With its coffee notes and bright fruit, a Pinot Noir would be a great match for braises that call for brewed coffee. Lastly, a big, fat Cabernet, which holds some good herbal qualities, would enhance the spices in any recipes that bring some heat to the party.

Lighter Wine Pairings

Braised Endive with Halibut Fillets Sauvignon Blanc
  • Bright acidity matches the high notes of the vinaigrette

Whole Braised Red Snapper
  • Melon and citrus notes play beautifully against the roasted red pepper and pesto

Braised Endive with Salmon Fillets Chardonnay
  • A full, buttery profile with a clean finish is the perfect match for rich salmon

Wines paired with these dishes should complement with lively acidity. Chardonnay or White Burgundy have good body and a complexity that will stand up to the unctuous salmon. The fragrantly crisp notes offered by Sauvignon Blanc provide enough tang to match the vinaigrettes featured in the braises.

Flavor notes

Katie Ayoub is a wine expert, certified by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc, Chicago, in 1996.

Wine and Braises