Wines to pair with chilled tomato soup followed by lamb tagine and finishing with raspberry pannacotta. Wine recommendations for fantastic wines to pair with each course. Food pairing with wine made easy.

This post provides a selection of wines for each course, plus wines that work for more than one course. Wines to complement the food and add to the dinner party fun.

Ask Janne Wine, a wine challenge

It was a Saturday morning and I noticed I had received a text from one of oldest friends, Neil. That could mean only one thing. 

He wanted wine advice for a dinner party he was holding that night.

I love when he does this.

I love the challenge of thinking up wines that would work well with his menu.

I like to give lots of options, ensuring there will always be something he can find in his local supermarket.

Food pairing with wine

Wine buying made easy!

When people ask me for wine recommendations particularly for pairing with food I like to recommend grape varieties, countries and wine regions rather than a specific bottle of wine. This is partly because food and wine pairing is an art not a science. There is no one right answer.

More importantly though I want to make wine buying as easy as possible and avoid frustration.

Many times, having read about a specific wine from one of my favourite wine writers, I have been frustrated by not being able to find that particular wine in my local supermarket or wine shop. Leaving me staring at row upon row of wine bottles, unsure of what would be a good substitute.

By giving recommendations in terms of wine regions, grape varieties and wine styles you should always be able to find an appropriate wine no matter where you shop.

Today’s wine challenge

What wine to pair with…..

  • Chilled tomato soup
  • Lamb tagine
  • Raspberry pannacotta

My first reaction was envy. I know how good a cook Neil is and the menu looked delicious, my mouth was watering.

It was also a great challenge. Some of the dishes were going to present lovely wine issues and there was such a delicious range of flavours to complement.

My first decision was to think of a different wine for each course but keeping my mind open to wines that I thought would work well for more than one course. That gave me some Wild Cards to add to my list of wine recommendations.

What wines to pair with the starter?

Tomatoes can be slightly difficult to pair with wine due to the acidity of the tomatoes.

You need to ensure you have a high acidity fruity wine otherwise the wine can seem “flaccid” and lacking in flavour against the tomatoes.

I also had to consider that cold tomato soup is light bodied so would need a light bodied wine.

I could have gone for a red wine but I decided to focus on white as I know that Neil loves white.

Wines to pair with chilled tomato soup

  • A light fruity Pinot Grigot from Alto Adige, Italian
  • Albarino, Galicia region, Spain
  • Picpoul de Pinet, South of France

First choice – Pinot Grigio

My first idea was to match local wine with local food. That gave my first choice. Where are tomatoes a fundamental ingredient? Yes, Italy. There are lots of Italian whites to chose from but I have gone for a Pinot Grigio.

Pinot Grigio was the white wine of choice for many years in the UK but it fell out of favour, being replaced by Chardonnay then New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I think this was largely due to the prevalence of not very good Pinot Grigio with little flavour. I only discovered how good Italian Pinot Grigio could be on a trip to Lake Como many years ago.

Fortunately Pinot Grigio is making headway in the UK again. This time the majority is rather good, hence I felt happy to recommend it.

Not second best

Albarino and Picpoul de Pinet are both on my list and are definitely not second best to the Pinot Grigio. If I am looking for a glass of refreshing fruity white wine I will often select these (I probably would pick Albarino before Picpoul de Pinet). These are increasingly available in the UK, good value and improving in quality. What’s not to like.

Wild Card!

Provencal Rosé does twice the work.

A deliciously dry Provencal rosé would work refreshingly well both with the starter and main courses.

It is so versatile working on its own and with a wide variety of foods.

This style of rosé is my wine of choice in the summer.

What wine to pair with the main course?

For the main course of lamb tagine I had to think about the combination of meaty lamb with dried fruits and light spice which make tagines so moreish.

With the wine I wanted to match the fruitiness of the dish with a dry red perhaps with a slight bitterness to complement the meat but nothing too tannic or oaked.

A tannic oaky wine could be too bitter and peppery. Pepper been the wrong type of spice to complement the cinnamon, ginger and cumin of the tagine. Therefore my selections are (mainly) dry fruity red wines low in tannin and oak.

Wines to pair with Lamb Tagine

  • A light fruity merlot from Chile
  • Young fruity Rioja from Spain
  • Valpolicella from Italy

Chile, a wine region that excites

Here my number one choice was my latest wine passion, Chilean Merlot. Suddenly there seems to be a proliferation of these great value, bursting with fruity flavour, easy drinking reds in supermarkets. Thanks to the wine educator, Nina Cerullo I now specifically target Chilean wines.

Her description of the changes in grape growing and wine making in Chile when I attended her WSET workshop on Syrah/Shiraz (check out my post here) got me so excited about the potential of Chilean wines it is now (almost) top of my list of wine regions to look out for.

Wild Card!  Keeping it Local

To be completely different and keeping with the local theme, a Moroccan red would be a fascinating wine to try wit the lamb tagine. It would also make a good dinner party discussion particularly since most people have no idea wine is made in Morocco.

It would be difficult to find though, so difficult I confess I have never tried one. But I want to!

Lebanese wine is more available, particularly Chateau Musar and would be a good alternative. I have tried this and it is more tannic than I would ideally want in the wine for this course but it would be a great wild card choice and is a good wine.

What wine to pair with the mouthwatering dessert?

This sweet and creamy dessert has some added acidity due to the raspberries. However the rule of pairing a sweet dessert with sweet wine still holds. A sweet fruity wine would be ideal with acidity to cut through some of that creaminess.

Wine to pair with Raspberry Pannacotta

  • Recioto della Valpolicella from Italy
  • Monbazillac, the delicious sweet wines made near Bergerac in South West France
  • The wonderful Hungarian Tokaj

An instinctive choice

My first choice, Recioto della Valpolicella, was an instinctive reaction. This wine had been a revelation when I had first tasted it. Fruity, a sweet (but not too sweet) wine, low in alcohol it was the perfect accompaniment to the dessert I enjoyed at a family dinner.

Made using the same grape drying technique that makes the more famous Amarone della Valpolicella it produces richness to the fruit flavour. Watch out when buying this wine, make sure you get Recioto (meaning sweet) not Amarone, as you will see from my post on the delights of Amarone here it is anything but sweet.

Sauterne vs Monbazillac

I could have gone for a Sauterne, the famous sweet wines from Grave. But not so far away, also in South West France, is Monbazillac. A village near Bergerac which specialises in sweet wines that are a better value alternative to Sauterne.

Not forgetting wonderful Tokaj

When I started wine training many years ago, with lots of enthusiasm but little knowledge, my first Tokaj was one of those wow! moments. These sweet wines burst with delicious fruitiness. With a smooth sweetness, they are like no other sweet wine. Made from local grape varieties including the wonderfully named Furmint these are well worth trying at least once.

Wild Card!  Fun with fizz

Given my passion for sparkling wines I really couldn’t let a post go by without adding a fizz option. For the starter and dessert I think a dry sparkling wine would be ideal and a fun way to start and end the meal.

Crémant would be my first choice with Crémant de Loire or Blanquette de Limoux being my top choices.

Of course you could always push the boat out and go for Champagne if your wallet allows, but I think Crémant works just as well. Made using the same techniques as Champagne just with different grapes.

If you are going for Champagne look out for blanc de blanc as these types of Champagne tend to be particularly good with food. A tip I learnt at a wine tasting with the head of Champagne Delamotte.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and find it useful.

Please do share your thoughts and particularly your wine recommendations in the comments section below or on instagram using #askjannewine.