12 Sep, 2022

Searching for tips on pairing wine with food? At Dark Horse, we've got you covered with the wine pairing basics, including Chardonnay food pairings.

Whether you’re planning a party for friends and family, or you want to build on your existing wine pairing knowledge – you’re in the right place.  

At Dark Horse, we’re passionate about bold, rich wine that packs a punch. We know what goes into a great glass of wine and how to make it stand out among the rest. Our award-winning Chardonnay speaks for itself, crafted using innovative winemaking technology.  

We love to develop daring relationships between flavours to create delicious pairings. So, if you’re looking for tips on pairing wine with food, read on to brush up on the basics. We’ll cover popular food and wines that team up beautifully, including the top Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon pairings, and what separates dry from sweet wine.  

  • What does dry wine mean? 

  • What is a sweet wine? 

  • Chardonnay food pairings 

  • Cabernet Sauvignon pairings  

  • Malbec food pairings 


What does dry wine mean? 

When a wine is dry, it’s because there’s a lack of residual sugar after the fermentation process. As yeast turns the grape sugar into alcohol, there’s a point at which winemakers can stop it in its tracks to leave more sugar behind. Dry wines are left to be fermented longer, until the yeast has eaten most or all of the sugar.  

Some wines are naturally drier than others, too. For example, grapes grown in cooler climates tend to be more acidic and drier than those from warmer climates, as the grapes don’t ripen as fully.  

A dry wine can still be well-balanced and deliciously fruity, just not as sweet. There’s a whole spectrum of dry red, white, and rosé wines to suit all tastes – no matter how adventurous you are. Chardonnays are often dry white wines, while Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec make good dry red options. Most wine labels will detail how sweet or dry they are, if you’re unsure.  

A dry white wine pairs nicely with roasted root vegetables, fresh shellfish, or even white fish with a bold squeeze of lemon. This is because a dry and acidic wine can cut through the oils of the fish, and this acidity which comes with a dry wine really complements citrusy flavours. If you’re throwing a dinner party, why not bring a bright, versatile wine like our Dark Horse Sauvignon Blanc to the table? 

Dry red wines are generally fuller bodied than dry white wines, so its pairings go a little further – go for richer fillets of fish such as salmon or opt for cured meats like a salty chorizo. The tannins and the acidity of dry red wines balance out the fats and the salts in juicy cuts of meat for a perfect pairing. 


What is a sweet wine? 

A sweet wine is the opposite to a dry wine – here, more sugar is left behind during the fermentation process to produce a sweeter taste profile. We encourage everyone to follow their own path when it comes to wine choices, but sweet wines are right at home when it’s time for dessert.  

Sweet wines can sometimes be referred to as dessert wines thanks to their sweet, fruity tasting notes, but they’re bold enough to be enjoyed alone. The sweetness can sometimes make them richer, depending on the wine type.  

Port is a common sweet, fortified red wine that’s served a fraction below room temperature. It pairs perfectly with rich cheeses, as the sweetness of the wine balances out the creaminess of the cheese.   

As for white wines, sweet Riesling and Moscato make refreshing alternatives and contrast delicately with savoury foods such as cheeses and cured meats. You can also partner sweeter wines with spicy dishes, which might sound odd, but it’s an unexpected pairing – trust us on this one.   

Dark Horse Chardonnay with Halloumi Salad

Chardonnay food pairings 

Chardonnay is a popular, medium-bodied white wine that’s known for its versatility. It’s dry on the palate but has a varied flavour profile depending on the type.  

California is an excellent region for growing and making Chardonnay. Ambitious and award-winning Chardonnay wines – like ours – are often produced in the Golden State nowadays. These wines often carry subtle notes of vanilla and can be rich and oaky. Fruity hints of baked apple, peach and pear combine with notes of honey to make this delicious wine.  

We recommend Chardonnay for sharing with friends, complementing generous servings of:  

  • Grilled halloumi 

  • Creamy, fragrant curry 

  • Mushroom risotto 

  • Truffle pasta  

  • Roasted chicken with herbs 

  • Mild goat’s cheese  

  • Apple pie  

Serve your Chardonnay cool for optimum pairing potential. We suggest chilling for an hour, then removing ten minutes before serving. Ideal for busy and bold dinner parties, summer barbecues and evening treats surrounded by friends. Find out more with our guide to Chardonnay.  


Cabernet Sauvignon food pairings  

One of the most famous red wines, Cabernet Sauvignon offers bold fruit aromas. It’s a deliciously smooth wine made from only the best grapes.  

This indulgent, dry red wine glides across the palate like velvet. It’s known for its complex notes that stem from juicy fruits like black cherries, blackberries, and even dark chocolate. A glass of Cabernet Sauvignon pairs perfectly with fatty, slow cooked meats and barbecued dishes. It’s also the ideal bottle to share during a sumptuous wine and cheese evening. 

With hints of espresso, rich chocolate, and notes of oak, Cabernet Sauvignon pairs beautifully with:  

  • Beef, particularly sirloin steak  

  • Venison  

  • Roasted lamb 

  • Aged cheddar  

  • Gouda  

  • Grilled vegetables, such as portobello mushrooms 

  • Chocolate torte 

For the perfect sip, we suggest serving your bold Cabernet Sauvignon around room temperature, between 15 and 18°C, after allowing it to breathe for 30 minutes to an hour. It’s wonderful for sharing with friends or savouring with a roast dinner. For more tips, read our guide to Cabernet Sauvignon.  

Dark Horse Malbec with ribs

Malbec food pairings 

Like most popular red wines, Malbec is dry but incredibly rich in flavour. It comes with unique tasting notes that manage to simultaneously tick the boxes for both dark and fruity, and bold and savoury.  

Offering perfectly aged, dark chocolate and berry notes, there’s a splash of vanilla and spice with every sip. While Malbec is also famously crafted in Argentina and Australia, our personal favourites come from California.  

Such varied flavours pair brilliantly with well-seasoned and herb crusted meats, along with complex blue cheeses. Enjoy Malbec with: 

  • Roasted pork 

  • Rosemary lamb 

  • Peppercorn steak 

  • Braised beef 

  • Roasted turkey  

  • Blue cheese soufflé 

  • Dark chocolate 

Most would assume red wine is almost always served at room temperature. However, to appreciate the full spectrum of tasting notes Malbec delivers, we suggest serving it slightly cooler. For best results, decant and allow it to breathe for at least 30 minutes to an hour.  

Whichever food and wine pairing you choose, don’t leave Dark Horse wines out of the race – they’re guaranteed to create a winning pairing with your favourite treats.  

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