Pairing wine with food can be overwhelming for a lot of people. In fact, there is a science about it that is studied by sommeliers, but there’s also an art to it. My advice though is not to overthink it. There are a few basic rules, and some tips that can help point you in the right direction, all of which I will talk about in this blog post.
First, let’s start with a few basic guidelines:
If you want to keep it super simple, remember that white meat pairs well with white wine, and red meat pairs well with red wine. That’s about as basic as it gets, and you’re unlikely to make a bad choice if you remember this guideline.
Another easy guideline is that if you are cooking with a white wine, serve your dinner with a white wine. Same for red wine; if your dish contains red wine, serve it with a red wine.
Ready to dig a little deeper? Let’s break it down by course/main dish:
A lot of people put out snacks, hors d'oeuvres or light bites for guests to nibble on before dinner. To keep it simple, my go-to is to serve a dry rosé wine or champagne. Either one is a crowd pleaser and goes with a wide range of foods.
A few of my personal favorites:
When it comes to fish, let’s split them into two categories:
Fatty fish (like salmon) or fish served in a heavier, rich sauce, pair well with a silky white, such as a Chardonnay. Remember, a full-bodied wine with a full-bodied dish.
Lighter fish or seafood dishes pair well with an equally delicate wine, like a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or my personal favorite — Albarino.
Our general rule discussed above talks about pairing white meat with a white wine. However, there are definitely some nuances here that we’ll discuss. For example, sometimes the main protein in a dish isn’t the primary flavor, the sauce is. In those cases, you want to match the wine to the sauce. For example, if you’re serving pork in a zesty red wine sauce, consider a red wine instead of a white wine.
Roasted chicken tastes great with a richer white wine such as Chardonnay, but because it has more complex flavor, you can also choose a light-bodied red like Pinot Noir or Grenache.
If you’re grilling some BBQ chicken, the smoky flavors pair well with richer red wines like Zinfandel, or what some call BBQ’s best friend, Malbec.
Lastly, if you’re going the southern route with some fried chicken, there’s nothing better than a Rose Champagne or sparkling wine!
You’re probably familiar with the classic pairing of a Cabernet Sauvignon and steak because they are delicious together! However, don’t be afraid to pair a Bordeaux or a Bordeaux-style blend with red meat as well. Equally delicious and a bonus if you’re trying something new.
Dessert can be tricky, and honestly, most people tend to pair coffee with dessert. However, if you’ve put a lot of thought into your dinner and wine pairing, don’t stop there! If you want to go the extra mile with a wine pairing for dessert, my best tip is to choose a wine that is a bit sweeter than the dessert. If you are serving a very sweet dessert, look for the very sweetest wine you can find or the acid in your wine will overpower the sweet taste of your delicious dessert.
Typically, your sweet wines will be a Riesling or a late harvest Zinfandel. “Late Harvest” is the key indicator here; if you see it, you know it will be a sweet wine. And don’t ever be afraid to serve bubbly with your dessert – it’s always a hit and of course, one of my personal favorites.
These quick tips will put you well on your way to pairing the perfect wine with your dinner. Bon Appétit!