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Red Wine Food Pairing with Moses Magwaza: “Pinotage and braai are our heritage – they make a wonderful pair.”

Pairing food with red wine is a fine art. We asked celebrated sommelier Moses Magwaza for his expert tips on matching red wine to hearty wintertime dishes.

The art of creating the perfect red wine and food pairing has delighted food and wine enthusiasts for centuries.

At Alvi’s Drift, we certainly share this passion for matching our internationally acclaimed wines with delectable dishes. Join us as we delve into the world of red wine and food pairing with celebrated local sommelier, Moses Magwaza.

This renowned food and wine expert is not just a long-time friend of Alvi’s Drift; he is also a two-time winner of the coveted Eat Out Wine Service Award.

We asked Moses to share his top tips for pairing various red wines with scrumptious, hearty wintertime dishes.

Alvis Drift - According to Moses, red wines pair best with bold-flavoured red meats.
According to Moses, red wines pair best with bold-flavoured red meats.

#1 – As an internationally renowned sommelier, you have explored countless red wine and food pairings. Can you give us an overview of the art of pairing food and red wine?

In my experience, red wine pairs best with bold-flavoured meats, red meat in particular. Full-bodied red wines that are high in tannins pair excellently with rich, salty meat with some fat in it.

The richer the meat, the heavier should be the red wine that accompanies it. I’d say that is a good general rule of thumb when it comes to pairing red wine and food.

Want to learn more about the art of pairing food with wine? Read our handy guide here.

#2 – What characteristics of a Cabernet Sauvignon make it an excellent match for hearty, wintertime red-meat dishes?

Cabernet Sauvignon is a nice, full-bodied wine. It’s quite fruity, with well-balanced acidity and strong tannins. A rich, red-meat dish with mushrooms, like beef stroganoff, would complement a quality Cabernet Sauvignon really well.

I would always serve a Cabernet Sauvignon with a high-protein dish. It will match the substance of the wine.

“If kudu meat is smoked on sweet acacia wood chips, the sweet smokiness of the meat will make a heavenly pairing with a fruity, smoky full-bodied Pinotage. Serve the meat on a bed of mashed potatoes with a red wine jus to add that bit of warmth.”

#3 – How would you recommend pairing Pinotage, a uniquely South African cultivar, with both a rich, red meat-based dish and a hearty vegetarian dish?

Pinotage can be such a beautiful wine. With notes of cherry, plum, mulberry, tobacco, and smoky barbecue, it’s a full-bodied, high-alcohol wine with a lot of dark berries and fruit characteristics on the palate.

My ideal Pinotage pairing will be with venison and game meat. The robust and gamey flavours of kudu, in particular, will harmonise well with a fruity, smoky full-bodied Pinotage.

When pairing Pinotage with vegetarian dishes, always go for the hearty veggies. Your mushrooms, peppers, a bit of tomato, baby marrow, a bit of eggplant. Again, I’d recommend grilling these vegetables to get those chargrilled flavours that will match the smoky notes of this beautiful, uniquely South African varietal.

Did you know that Pinotage is one of our head winemaker, Alvi van der Merwes favourite varietals? Read our interview with Alvi about his favourite wines here.

Alvis Drift - Juicy, creamy dishes beautifully complement the soft tannins and smooth finish of Merlot wines
Juicy, creamy dishes beautifully complement the soft tannins and smooth finish of Merlot wines.

#4 – Merlot is often described as a very versatile red wine. How will this varietal pair with hearty winter recipes?

Merlot is a smooth, easy-drinking wine, and its soft tannins and smooth finish will superbly complement those delicately flavoured, juicy dishes.

I’d pair this varietal with a creamy, sherry-braised chicken. You may wonder why I’m bringing in another type of drink here, but cooking the chicken in sherry and then adding the cream makes for such a beautiful flavour combination.

The sherry lends some nuttiness to the chicken. Add a few leeks and a bit of mushroom for umami, some fennel, some bok choy for contrasting freshness, some pickled onions, and serve it with fragrant basmati rice.

This juicy, creamy dish will beautifully complement the soft tannins and smooth finish of the Merlot.

Our lightly wooded Signature Merlot has been described as a masterful balancing act of fruit, oak and tannin, with intense aromas of delicious black cherries, plums, and just a hint of chocolate and mixed spice. Read this wine’s full tasting note here.

#5 – Sushi and red wine can make a surprisingly good match. Can you recommend a red wine to enjoy with sushi and explain why they go well together?

Sushi is a really light dish, just a bit of fresh fish with rice. But the soy sauce it is enjoyed with has umami flavours, which pair very well with light-bodied red wines. When it comes to sushi, I would go for a lightly oaked Cinsaut – such a versatile variety.

Cinsaut offers flavours of coconut, sweet wood, and vanilla without any harsh tannins. It’s a light, fruity wine that’s refreshing on the palate, yet with enough acidity to match that of the soy sauce.

The wine’s soft tannins and fruitiness ensure that it does not overpower the sushi’s subtle flavours. For a sushi-and-red-wine pairing, I would definitely go for a Cinsaut.

#6 – Shiraz is known for its full-bodied mouthfeel and robust, spicy flavours. What cooking techniques or spices will complement this wine when paired with a hearty red meat dish?

When it comes to Shiraz, I’d say braised beef, slow-cooked in a red wine sauce. This is one of my favourite dishes, and I like to cook it myself.

A bit of peppercorn, a bit of rosemary, paprika, cloves, bay leaves, fresh thyme, garlic – with a Shiraz, you always pick up those nice, spicy notes.

It can be a light Shiraz or a fuller one, but this variety paired with rich, juicy, slow-cooked beef is just a really great match.

Have you tried our great-value, multi-award-winning Signature Shiraz? This medium-bodied red wine boasts rich and intense aromas of ripe, dark fruit such as plum and mulberry, with notes of pepper, savoury spice, eucalyptus, and sweet vanilla.

#7 – Cape red blends have gained popularity for their complex flavours. What kind of meat dish would showcase the diverse flavours of this red blend?

Cape blends are bold, with lots of ripe fruit flavours, but they are also quite smooth on the palate.

For this wine, I’d suggest a slow-roasted, crispy pork belly. This is such a flavourful and rich cut of meat in itself, so I would add just a little bit of fennel, salt, and pepper.

The meat must be juicy and tender but still sliceable. Not shredded. The crackling must be crispy. Preserving the texture of the meat is important here.

Wine blends allow winemakers to be really creative. Read our Q&A blog on the art of creating wine blends with our Alvi’s Drift cellar master Riaan Marais and head winemaker Alvi van der Merwe here.

Alvis Drift popular, award-winning Sparkling Brut Rosé is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Our popular, award-winning Sparkling Brut Rosé is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

#8 – Red wine pairings aren’t limited to meat-based dishes. Can you suggest a vegetarian meal that beautifully complements the flavours of a specific red wine?

I would suggest a creamy mushroom risotto to be paired with a Pinot Noir. This red varietal is typically lighter in both colour and tannins, with a lively, fresh acidity.

Pinots are also loaded with red fruit flavours like raspberry and cherry. As they age, these wines often develop savoury notes of wild mushroom, cumin, and a bit of forest floor.

Pairing this wine with an earthy, creamy mushroom dish, the wine’s acidity will cut through the creaminess, and the wine’s mushroom flavours and forest floor characters will complement this dish perfectly.

Our multi-award-winning Sparkling Brut Rosé is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Left on lees for several months to develop a fuller mouthfeel, this award-winning brut rosé sparkling wine is created with a focus on showcasing the fresh, clean apple and strawberry flavours from each grape varietal.

#9 – When pairing Cabernet Sauvignon with red meat, what specific flavours or ingredients should one consider in a dish to achieve an exceptional balance between wine and food?

The Cabernet Sauvignon grape has a thick black skin that is packed with tannins, so it makes for quite a big, bold wine. When serving red meat with this varietal, your seasoning must be perfect. Enough saltiness and also a bit of pepper.

When it comes to red wine, salt softens the tannins and brings out the fruity notes in the wine. So always ensure that you season your red meat correctly when serving a Cabernet Sauvignon. Add salt to soften the tannins and pepper to bring out that bit of spiciness in the wine.

With its dark, black cherry-coloured heart and youthful, ruby-red rim, our Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc boasts an inviting nose with intense aromas of spice, cedar wood, blackcurrant, and just a hint of mint. Learn more about this full-bodied wine here.

“Pinotage is our heritage wine, and braai is our heritage food. Perhaps that’s why these two make such a wonderful pair – the salty smokiness of the meat along with the fruit and smoky characters of the wine just make a fantastic match.”
Alvi’s Drift Verreaux Pinotage was named Grand Cru National Champion Best in Class winner
Alvi’s Drift Verreaux Pinotage was named Grand Cru National Champion Best in Class winner in the 2023 National Wine Challenge Awards (NWC Top 100).

#10 – Compared to other red wine cultivars, what makes Pinotage a standout choice when pairing it with a rich, red meat-based dish?

Pinotage is a great wine to pair with a wide range of foods, including red meat, game, spicy foods, and stews.

In Pinotage, you’ll pick up that earthy, smoky flavour profile that is so typical of this wine. It really complements the richness of game meat. With Pinotage, you even sometimes pick up a little bit of tomato leaf character that pairs so well with spicy dishes.

Pinotage can be light or heavy, depending on the individual wine’s fermentation or ageing process. Most often, Pinotage is considered a medium-bodied wine, which makes it a versatile choice for pairing it with a wide range of dishes.

You can really play around with Pinotage when it comes to food and wine pairings.

Our flagship Verreaux Pinotage was one of two Alvi’s Drift wines named 2023 Grand Cru National Champion Best in Class winner in this prestigious local wine competition. Read all about our twenty-five 2023 National Wine Challenge Awards (NWC Top 100) here.

#11 – Which Alvi’s Drift red wine is your personal favourite for wintertime food and wine pairing?

Without a doubt, my ultimate favourite red from Alvi’s Drift is their Reserve Drift Fusion.

I love the wine’s complexity – the intense aromas. That little bit of black fruit with the beautiful, subtle, exotic spice. You’ve got vanilla, a bit of star anise just right at the back. And it’s got that nice, balanced acidity with a firm, well-integrated tannin structure.

I’m a Zulu man, so I love my meat. This winter, when the family gets together, I’m going to try something that I’ve never tried before. I’m going to have the Reserve Drift Fusion with goat meat.

Traditionally, we prepare goat meat very simply, just with salt. But I think I will play around with different spices and seasoning this time, as I’m sure this complex red blend will pair beautifully with the flavours of the lean, slightly sweet goat meat.

Did you know our popular Reserve Drift Fusion red blend was named Grand Cru National Champion Best in Class winner, and also bestowed Double Platinum Top 100 status in the 2023 National Wine Challenge Awards (NWC Top 100)?

Our head winemaker, Dr Alvi van der Merwe, shares his tips for avoiding the notorious red wine hangover.

Discover the Joy of Red Wine and Food Pairing

Delicate and light, medium-bodied and smooth, or full and intense – whatever your preference in red wine, there’s a mouthwatering dish waiting to be paired with its perfect red wine match. Bon appétit!

Learn More About Our Winery and Our Award-Winning Wines

Explore our award-winning collection of internationally acclaimed wines, browse our online shop, or discover the rich and storied history of our third-generation winery here.