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8 Jun 2020

Which wines go best with lockdown dinner favourites?

From sausages to shepherd's pie and baked beans on toast to spag bol, discover which vinos will add va-va voom to confined mealtimes
Bruschetta, glass of red wine and cheese on table

Wine expert Kathryn McWhirter has been writing about food and wine matching for decades.

Here, she shares some of her perfect pairings.

See the rest of the best food and wine pairings we couldn't fit in below (including barbecues, eggs, desserts, meat and more).

Spag bol

An easy one with plenty of red wines - you might try primitivo or its American cousin zinfandel, shiraz/syrah, maybe barbera from Italy or Argentina.


The milky sauce of lasagne makes it harder to partner perfectly, but it should likewise be pretty good with barbera or shiraz.

Vegetable lasagne

Try picpoul de pinet or chianti.

Chilli con carne

With or without cumin, chilli con carne is great with beaujolais and valpolicella, and Portuguese bairrada.

Head to our round-up of the best red wines.

Cottage pie

Make a cottage pie with beef and the best wines could be gamay (perhaps from beaujolais), cu00f4tes-du-rhu00f4ne or other southern French red.

Shepherd's pie

Make it with lamb mince, and the answer could be merlot, or inexpensive bordeaux.

Baked beans

On toast or potato with lashings of butter they are magical with an inexpensive off-dry German riesling.

See our pick of the best vegan wines.


Sausages like the same wines as whatever meat they're made from, but herbs and spices will make all the difference.

If flavoured with sage, go for sauvignon blanc or syrah/shiraz.

Discover the best oven chips to serve with your sausages.


Wondering what to drink with toad-in-the-hole? What flavour are your toads?

Cumberland likes pinot noir. Pork and herb and pork and leek like carmenu00e8re.

Toulouse goes for South African pinotage or Spanish rueda.

Tinned tuna

Tuna when fresh is a surprising red wine fish, but the brighter, saltier tinned version is better with white wine.

Try sauvignon blanc or unoaked white rioja, but in a risotto or bake, think about the other flavours too, herbs or spices.

Tinned sardines

Sardine Saturdays have become a feature of our family lockdown - sardines in olive oil mashed with chopped parsley, lemon zest, capers and a bit of caper juice, spread on crispbread.

So far it stars with alvarinho/albariu00f1o or godello grapes from Northern Portugal and Spain.

Compare the best white wines.

Thai food

Thai food may have high acid, some sweetness, super-charged chilli, fish sauce, ginger, and a delicious complexity of herbs and spices.

Except for the sweetest dishes, sauvignon blancs cope with many Thai dishes, or off-dry riesling or pinot Gris/pinot grigio.

Chinese food

It's hard to generalise about Chinese cooking, but red wines may taste tougher than they really are, dry whites may taste flat. Inexpensive off-dry German wines may cope best.

Indian food

There could also be sweetness in that Indian/Bangladeshi take-away or ready meal, and a similar wine-foxing array of simultaneous dishes.

But the spices find good wine partners, as do ginger, onion and garlic. Many Indian dishes over-emphasise the tannin (bitterness, astringency) of red wines.

Roses can work, but best may be aromatic whites. Try viognier or sauvignon blanc, or if you'd really like a red, a light one from the Loire Valley, especially from the cabernet France grape.

Macaroni and cheese

If your mac 'n' cheese is made with cheddar, try Cchardonnay, sauvignon or semillon or a blend from those, or touriga nacional or a Douro blend from Portugal, or pinot noir.

Emmental socially distances itself from wines, but a cheese dish made with gruyu00e8re will get up close and personal with riesling, red rioja, tempranillo, montepulciano d'Abruzzo, red bordeaux, or beaujolais.


Cooked mozzarella is yummy with folcetto (red, Italian) and with sauvignon blanc.

Discover what's been named the best frozen pizza.

Five tips for perfect wine matching

  1. Match the biggest flavour(s) in a dish. That's likely to be herbs, spices, tomatoes, garlic, ginger or vegetables rather than any fish or meat. At the very least, herbs and spices could skew the ideal wine.
  2. Be led by the grapes. If New Zealand sauvignon blanc tastes wonderful with dill or sage or asparagus, so will other sauvignons, such as sancerre. You might also try similar-tasting grapes, like verdejo from Spain or Bacchus from England.
  3. Match sweetness. Try this at home: think about the taste of your dry white or red and then try that wine with dessert. The wine will taste dull and fruitless. It's best to match the sweetness of food and wine. Ideally, don't drink your poshest wine with sweet and sour sauce.
  4. Acidity matters. If your dish contains sharp elements such as lemon or lime juice, tomato or vinegar, then a zingy wine with good acidity will taste better alongside, while rounder, softer wines may taste flabby. A wine with higher acidity can also cut through the fattiness of a dish, like vinegar through fish and chips. A wine may have higher acid because it comes from cooler places by the sea, or high in hills or mountains.
  5. Don't overpower. Big flavours overpower tiny flavours.