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Group of friends toasting with glasses of red wine by festive table
November 10, 2016 | By

Pair wine and food like an expert this holiday season

Welcome to the holiday season; a time for family, friends, feasting and of course… wine! Want to make this year’s festivities unforgettable for all those invited into your home during the holidays?  Pairing your craft wine with food like an expert, using these simple tricks below, will impress every guest.  Once you know the basic rules around wine and food pairing, your options for serving the wines you crafted especially for the holiday will be endless.

Carving traditional stuffed turkey and serving it with mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, vegetables and pumpkin pie.On a basic level, the human tongue can taste sweet, salty, bitter and sour. When talking about food and wine, there are two more factors to consider: alcohol and fattiness. With these six taste factors in mind, we can then ask, how do I compliment these tastes in food with a wine?

Sweet wines pair nicely with salty and acidic foods. Imagine an off-dry rosé with a festive slice of ham and a side of cranberry sauce. The sweetness of the wine can balance the often overwhelming power of these salty and sour holiday favourites.

Bitterness in wine typically comes from the phenolic compound known as tannin. Tannin is tasted in red wines and comes from the maceration of the juice over grape skins during the winemaking process. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s that sensation of your mouth being dried out when you take that first sip of a rich red wine. This can be balanced by pairing it with sweet foods or iron-rich dishes. On the sweeter side of things, a nice rich zinfandel will pair splendidly with a dark chocolate lava cake, topped with Morello cherries. The complimentary flavours of chocolate and cherry will make the wine seem more luscious and fruity rather than harsh and tannic. A more traditional pairing is seen when we look at a savory example, like cabernet sauvignon and a succulent prime rib roast. The iron in the meat and the tannin in the wine will actually cling to each other on a chemical level, which will lessen the sensation of tannin and lift the flavours of both the food and the wine.

A wine that is sour or has higher alcohol will pair well with sweet foods and fatty foods. The acidity and alcohol in wine can be used to balance the sweetness of a food, or to cut through the rich fattiness of others. An example could be sauvignon blanc with a goat cheese mousse dessert. This combines fatty-richness with sweetness and is a brilliant pairing for a wine with higher acidity!

An overhead shot of people eating a family style meal.Let’s break it down…

Sweet wine with salty and acidic foods.

Sour wine with sweet and fatty foods.

High alcohol wine with sweet and fatty foods.

Bitter wine with sweet and iron-rich foods.

Now that you understand basic wine and food pairing, how about trying it yourself? Impress your dinner guests by serving a bottle of En Primeur Winery Series Winemaker’s Trio Red with your own homemade morello cherry lava cake.  The fruit forward flavours of the zinfandel, a dominant variety in this blend, will have your guests wanting another slice of cake, and another glass of wine to drink with it!

Morello Cherry Lava Cake

Makes 6 cakes


  • 1 cup pitted Morello cherries (sour cherries may be used as a substitute)
  • ½ cup sugar


  • 225g of dark or bittersweet chocolate
  • ½ cup butter (softened)
  • ⅔ cup granulated white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup AP flour
  • ¼ cup dark cocoa powder
  • A pinch of salt


  1. cherry lava cake on a plateIn a pot, cook down the cherries and ½ cup of sugar for 30 minutes on med-low.
  2. Set the oven to 375˚F for baking the cakes.
  3. Melt chocolate in the microwave.
  4. In another bowl, beat together ⅔ cup granulated white sugar and butter. Gradually add the eggs. Then stir in the chocolate.
  5. In another bowl, stir together AP flour, dark cocoa powder and the pinch of salt.
  6. Stir the flour mixture into the buttery chocolate mixture.
  7. Pour the batter into either oven-safe ramekins or a muffin pan.
  8. Stick a big spoonful of the cherry sauce into the middle of each unbaked cake.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes until the top of the cakes appear to have cooked.
  10. Remove from muffin pan or ramekin, top with chocolate sauce and enjoy!
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