For wine quaffers and foodies alike, pairing food and wine delivers peak geek levels of delight. When I started working with wine over a decade ago in 2011, my favourite part of the job was creating pairings for my restaurant guests. Wine could be used to draw attention to a particular flavour in a dish, its innate acidity used to tease out sweetness, or accentuate a spice tucked into a sauce. Wine was a condiment, and my cupboard was fully stocked. Or so I thought.

When I started working with natural wines, I was frankly flummoxed by the kaleidoscope of new flavours, textures, acidities, depth and detail they offered. Natural wine is so much more than responsible agricultural practices; it is also about taste. And when it comes to food and wine pairing, there is little else more satisfying than using natural wines to deliver an exhilarating impact.

Below you'll find a few of my reflections on pairing food and natural wines that I've gleaned over the years.

Honey Spencer

The flow

Typically wine is paired with food to highlight elements of a dish or ingredient. The wine is static; the dish is evolving. With natural wine, the opposite is true. Natural wine is often constantly changing in the glass, offering an experience of fluidity and flux. The first glass tasted can be an entirely different flavour profile from the last. This experience can be likened to getting to know a person over time: the first impression is not the same as the second, and worlds away from the final. Learn how a particular wine evolves in the glass or throughout the bottle, then choose a dish you think would like to go on that road trip.

The verve

Natural wines are living things. They possess not only intrinsic vibrancy but also vibratory qualities. Their energy digs deep into the dishes they are matched with, shaking them down and giving both a tangible lift and direction.

The fifth taste and beyond

Natural wine is about so much more than fruit, acid, and tannin. Expect minerals, salt, and other savoury compounds like umami and even vegetable characteristics. Expect multiple layers of texture at any one time: smooth and raw, or juicy and dry. Cook or order a dish that offers as many dimensions as your natural wine.

The thrill

One of the biggest payoffs of serving natural wine in a restaurant setting or at a dinner party is that it keeps your diners awake and alert, as opposed to drowsy or, god forbid, bored. This can be attributed to a few factors. Regularly, natural wines have a lower alcohol perecentage. Not always, but quite often. Then there’s the fact that natural wine has an almost guaranteed undertone (and range of) of acidity which keeps the tongue and mind alert throughout a meal. And then, of course, your diner might be so on edge about being served natural wine that they are rooted to the spot in fear, or anticipation (or both).

Natural wine pairings with food 

Mix and match Pair wines according to the hero elements of your grub With all types of food-and-natural-wine pairing, it’s very much about trial and error. Pick up any book on wine, follow the formulas, and enjoy life from the safety net. Or, steady your sea legs and head off on a trip into the uncharted. Here are my pairing hacks.


Try: Your favourite brand of salted crisps with Cati Ribot Cambuix from Mallorca.


Try: Fish and chips and a glug of Tissot Crémant de Jura. A few slices of your favourite salami and Escoda-Sanahuja Els Bassots from Catalunya.


Try: Drunken fried rice or jollof with Petr Koráb Saint Laurent from Moravia in the Czech Republic (red), or Clos du Tue-Bœuf Romorantin from the Loire Valley in France (white), or Mtsvane by Pheasant’s Tears from Kakheti in Georgia (skin-contact).


Try: Sticky miso pork or mushrooms and Nando Rebula (Ribolla Gialla) from Collio in Slovenia. Sugar: Try: Strawberry savarin with crème patissière and L’Archetipo Susumante pét-nat from Puglia in Italy.