Niels’ Tips for Matching Wines with Food
April 03, 2020

Jonah’s Head Sommelier Niels Sluiman gives us his top tips for matching wines with certain foods to take your dining experience at home to the next level.


During this period of temporary closure, we understand that the need to stay home and practice social distancing can mean sacrificing many of life’s pleasures. We hope to give you inspiration with these tips to bring a little piece of the Jonah’s experience to your home. While you may not have the Whale Beach views, these wine pairing suggestions might make dining-in a little less ordinary.

“When matching wines with food it’s all about creating balance between flavours and it’s important to consider both taste and smell. Scents are actually linked to memories so think about smelling flowers, fruits, herbs and spices in your garden before you start,” says Niels.

The next time you make a cheese board, think about the different cheeses and accompaniments you are using. Semi hard cheeses like parmesan pair well with an aged chardonnay like Bannockburn ‘SRH’ Museum Release 2005 from Geelong, VIC, because there’s a nuttiness that comes through in the wine. Softer cheeses like a powerful blue cheese with a port or sweet wine like Fortified Coates ‘VP Shiraz’ 2006 from McLaren Vale, SA is a classic pairing which gives a nice contrast of flavours. Add some quince paste, fig jam or even dried grapes for a winning combination.

When you’re enjoying warm weather and opt for a more delicate seafood dish like the scallop sashimi that we serve at Jonah’s with lemon and dill dressing, Niels suggests a Riesling like Robert Stein ‘Reserve’ 2016 from Mudgee, NSW which also has a beautiful lime blossom hint to compliment the dish. On the other hand, a dish with rich fish like monk fish served with a saffron butter sauce and roasted parsnip puree needs a deeper wine to cut through but also link all the flavours together to give the perfect balance. Try a complex Australian Roussane like the Yangarra Roux Beauté 2015, from McLaren Vale, SA or a delicate and precise Chablis like the Louis Michel ‘Montee de Tonnerre’ 1er Cru 2015, from Burgundy, France.

For cooler nights when you want to get cosy with a hearty meal, think red meat like the beautiful Jonah’s rib-eye. With meats, it’s important to look at the fat content. The more marbling of the meat, the stronger the wine needs to be so that the tannins and the weight cut through the fattiness of the dish. Niels likes to select a robust Malbec from Argentina like the Colomé Estate 2016, from La Salta.

Moving to dessert, at Jonah’s we have a lychee tapioca with coconut and passion fruit that Niels pairs with a sweet wine from South Australia; Henschke ‘Noble Gewürztraminer’ 2016. This wine has a great bouquet based on tropical notes like lychee, ripe apricot, candied mandarin, and rose petals mixed with a purity and freshness that allows for that perfect balance of flavours.

We all know that when staying home it’s easy to fall into some guilty snacking!

“My go-to is chocolate which actually goes really nicely with an aged Toppers Mountain Tempranillo 2010 from Tingha-New England for its Christmassy flavours of dried fruit, roasted almond, and coffee. A red sweet wine from Italy like a Passito Primitivo from Puglia is also perfect with a chocolate cake,” says Niels.

Thinking about these different elements can make cooking and using different ingredients fun. It’s easy to get trapped into buying the same wines that you’re comfortable with but you miss out on exploring the many varietals that are out there. Don’t be afraid to experiment and discover new things! With days and nights now spent at home, it’s the perfect time to find new hobbies, educate ourselves, and spend time doing things we love that our busy lives wouldn’t usually allow for. We look forward to welcoming you back to Jonah’s when we reopen to answer all of your wine tasting questions and hear about your adventures at home.