The Basics of Pairing Wine With Food

Updated by Jim Deckebach
"Learn The Basics of Pairing Wine with Food -"


Pairing wine and food can create a more meaningful dining experience. While many people enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, it's important to note that some wines pair better with certain foods than others. White, blush and red wines can have a variety of complex flavor profiles, each of which complements different flavors in food.


Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio has a light, crisp, delicate taste. Usually, pinot grigio has hints of fruit flavors, such as melons, pears, and lemons. Pinot Grigio pairs nicely with light seafood dishes along with lighter, cream- or oil-based pasta dishes, such as shrimp scampi. Grilled chicken dishes and recipes with fresh herbs can also pair well with this wine.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon blanc is another light-bodied wine that tends to have a high acidity, which creates a crisp taste. Because of its acidity, the wine pairs well with tart dressings and sauces, cheeses, seafood such as oysters or clams, and delicate fish such as halibut. Instead of being in competition with each other, the acidity in both the wine and the food come together to heighten the flavor of the meal.


Chardonnay tastes and aromas will depend on the brand of the chardonnay. There are two main types of chardonnay: oaked and unoaked. Chardonnay would be considered oaky if it is aged in oak. If it is not aged in oak, the chardonnay would be considered unoaked. Overall, chardonnay will tend to have strong fruit flavors, such as pears, melons, and apples, along with hints of vanilla. Because of this, chardonnay pairs well with foods such as shellfish, delicate fishes like tilapia, vegetables, and dishes that have rich sauces, like fettuccine Alfredo.


Riesling has a nice, light sweetness. Depending on the brand, some Rieslings are dryer than others, but the sweetness in the wine will still be present. When drinking Riesling, flavors of white peach, apple, and lime come out in the wine. Because of these characteristics, Rieslings will pair nicely with spicy dishes, such as Indian curries. The sweetness in the wine will help tame the heat of the spice coming from the food, making the flavors milder. Other than spicy dishes, Riesling also pairs with shellfish, meats such as pork and ham, and salads.



White Zinfandel

White zinfandel is usually a sweet, blush-colored wine. White zinfandel is a versatile wine because of the sweetness in it, which allows it to pair with a variety of different foods. White zinfandel goes well with pasta dishes, especially those with cream sauces such as carbonara and Alfredo. Other foods that white zinfandel complements include fish, meats such as pork, lamb, and bacon, mild cheeses, Asian and Indian cuisine, antipasto, and desserts.



Pinot Noir

Pinot noir is typically the starter wine when novices are looking to dive into red wines because of its light body and earthy flavors. When drinking pinot noir, hints of dark berries, plums, cherries, and warm spices come through. Because of the low levels of tannins in this red wine, it pairs nicely with fatty fishes such as Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, and tuna. Other foods that pair with this wine include meats like lamb, venison, and pork.


Malbec is a wine known for its plump, dark fruit flavors, such as blackberry and red plum. Other flavors that can be recognized in this wine are vanilla, cocoa, and sweet tobacco. Usually, malbec has a nice, smoky finish, which lends a smoky flavor to the food it's paired with. Meats and proteins such as sirloin steak and ostrich pair well with this wine; it also goes well with charcuterie boards, chicken, and dishes with red sauces, such as spaghetti with marinara sauce and meatballs.


Merlot is a soft, ripe, elegant wine with black cherry flavors that finish with notes of chocolate. Because of the simplicity of this wine, it goes well with a variety of foods, such as beef, pork, lamb, chicken, berries, mushrooms, blue cheeses such as Gorgonzola, and pork.


Chianti has very distinct flavors of red fruits, dry herbs, smoke, game, and balsamic vinegar. Because of the complexity of the wine, it tastes best with simpler dishes like pasta with marinara sauce, venison, lamb chops, and duck.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet sauvignon is one of the driest red wines. Notes of plum, blackberry, and black currant come out in this wine, creating a dark, fruity flavor. Because of the strong tannins in this wine, foods such as sirloin steaks or lamb chops will pair well with it.


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