Pairing food and wine is one of life's great pleasures. The perfect combination of food and wine approaches the sublime, elevating an ordinary meal to an extraordinary one. Knowing some basics about how to pair foods to wines can help enhance your enjoyment of both.
Easy Food and Wine Pairing Charts
The following food wine pairing charts are by no means comprehensive, there are just so many great pairings! Think of them more as a jumping off point to help you plan your wine and food menu for your next get together.
Red Wine Food Pairings
Consider the following match ups for red wines.
|Cabernet Sauvignon/Left Bank Bordeaux/Meritage||Carpaccio, pungent (stinky) cheeses||Beef, duck, lamb, lentils, hearty stews, beef Wellington||Dark and bittersweet chocolate|
|Right Bank Bordeaux/Merlot||Antipasto, aged cheeses||Veal, sausage, salmon, tuna, eggplant, game meats||Raspberry, cherry or other dark berry desserts|
|Zinfandel/Primitivo||Seared Ahi tuna, spicy chicken or beef satay||Barbeque, tomato sauce, spicy sausage, duck, beef, pizza||Dark berry desserts, carrot cake|
|Pinot Noir/Burgundy||Creamy cheeses, pâté, roasted vegetables||Veal, chicken, turkey, lean cuts of beef, lamb||Berry tart, flourless chocolate cake, crème brûlée, figs|
|Syrah/Rhône wine||Bruschetta, stuffed mushrooms, tapenade||Ham, lamb, pasta with tomato sauce, pizza, barbeque||Cherry pie, chocolate mousse|
|Grenache/Châteauneuf-du-Pape/Priorat||Charcuterie, smoked cheese||Braised meats, dark meat poultry, lamb, osso bucco, duck, Thanksgiving dinner, game meats, boeuf bourguignon||Plum tart, dried cherries|
|Tempranillo/Rijoa/Ribera del Duero||Smoked provolone, olives, tapenade||Mexican food, pork ribs, grilled meat, burgers, cajun food, chili||Spiced chocolate|
|Sangiovese/Chianti/Brunello||Hard cheeses, cured meats, bruschetta||Lasagna, spaghetti, red sauce, roasted meat||Not a great wine for desserts|
|Nebbiolo/Barolo/Barbaresco||Salted nuts, salty cheeses, olives||Fatty meats such as rib roast, pork roast, duck, pork chops, mushroom risotto, game meats||Salted caramel, chocolate pot de crème|
|Malbec||Bleu cheese, stuffed mushrooms||Burgers, steak chimichurri, meats with herbs, grilled meat, lamb, roasted vegetables, beef fajitas||Dark chocolate, chocolate covered cherries|
Pairing Food With White Wine
Here are some pairing suggestions for white wines.
|Chardonnay/White Burgundy/Chablis||Scallops, crudités, hummus, mild cheeses||Chicken, cream based sauces, pork, and seafood||Cheesecake, poached light fruit|
|Sauvignon Blanc/Fumé Blanc||Oysters, crab cakes, wild mushroom and goat cheese bruschetta||Sea bass, lobster, langoustines, chicken, shrimp||Sorbet, key lime pie, lemon meringue pie|
|Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris||Ceviche, ahi tuna tartare, antipasto||Risotto, grilled chicken, lobster, white sauces, crab||Petit fours, apple tart|
|Riesling||Calamari, steamed clams, creamy chesses||Roasted chicken, grilled pork, baked ham||Light cakes, cream based pie, baked apples, apple crisp|
|Gewürztraminer||Chilled shrimp, artichokes||Thai food, pork tenderloin, chicken, turkey, shellfish, hot wings||Pineapple upside down cake|
|Torrontés||Ceviche, goat cheese, charcuterie, mango salsa||Spicy foods, paella, chorizo, Thai food, coconut shrimp||Baklava, sweet potato pie|
|Albariño||Shrimp cocktail, crab cocktail||Seafood of all types, ph'o, sushi, jerk chicken||Not really great with desserts|
|Viognier||Chilled shellfish, oysters on the half shell||Halibut, shrimp, lobster, scallops, crab, grilled chicken, Asian food||Pecan pie|
|Chenin Blanc||Salad, clam chowder, popcorn||Fettuccine Alfredo, cream sauce, veal, trout, white meat poultry||Baked apples, apple pie|
|Muscat/Moscato||Spicy sausage, hard cheeses, almonds, pâté||Thai food, Asian fare, ph'o, ramen||Poached pears, vanilla ice cream, cheesecake|
|Sémillon||Ceviche, bleu cheese, foie gras, pâté||Asian food, spicy chicken, spicy fish (such as halibut with mango salsa)||Crème brûlée|
Rosé and Sparkling
Try the following pairings for rosé and sparkling wines.
|Rosé||Salad, tuna tartare, ceviche, gazpacho||Barbecue, duck, grilled fish or poultry, picnic foods||Chocolate mousse, cheesecake with strawberry topping|
|Champagne/Cava/Sparkling wine/Prosecco||Charcuterie, nuts, hard or soft cheeses||Lobster, crab, creamy or buttery sauces, white fish, pasta with cream sauces, pesto||Berries and mascarpone cheese|
|Lambrusco||Sliders, prosciutto||Pulled pork, pizza, lasagna, tuna, sardines||Nectarines|
Sweet and Fortified
Sweet wines and fortified wines can pair well with both sweet and savory foods.
|Sauternes/Barsac||Foie gras, blue cheese||Lobster with butter sauce, roasted duck||Crème brûlée, cheesecake|
|Late harvest/ice wine||Stinky or sharp cheese, pâté, spicy sausage||Spicy foods||Poached pears, honey cake|
|Tawny Port||Gorgonzola and walnuts, baked brie||Fatty beef (use in sauces)||Pumpkin pie, chocolate tart, molten lava cake, caramel cheesecake|
|Ruby Port||Cheese board and charcuterie, pâté, goat cheese||Game meats such as venison, duck||Poached pears|
|Sherry||Tapas, tapenade||Ham, chorizo, lamb, beef stew, mushroom stew||Cheesecake, ice cream, flan|
|Vermouth||Figs and goat cheese||Chicken stir-fry, Asian foods, spicy foods, jambalaya, chili||Dark chocolate|
|Madeira||Goat cheese, almonds||Grilled meats, tuna, sushi, swordfish, pork, poultry||Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, chocolate cake|
|Tokaji||Foie gras, pâté, Stilton cheese||Spicy Asian food, roast pork||Pecan pie, pumpkin pie, baked apple|
Food and Wine Pairing Basics
There are some basic rules to successfully matching food and wine. The first and most important rule is this: always drink what you love. Another tip suggests you do not allow the wine to overwhelm the flavors of the food nor do you allow the food to take over the subtle flavor nuances of the wine.
This sounds complicated, but it's really very simple. When pairing up food and wine, start by matching the weight of the wine to the weight of the food. Heavier wines like Cabernet and Bordeaux should be paired with heavier (heartier) dishes. Light wines like Pinot Grigio and Riesling should be matched with lighter fare.
Sweet and spicy dishes accentuate the acidity, astringency and tannic qualities, often referred to as texture of any given wine. Foods high in acids or salt content tend to dull the textures of wine, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. What you're looking for when pairing food and wine is a delicate balance between the flavors of the wine and the flavors of the food.
When matching textures of food with wine, think about what you want the wine to do to the food and vice versa. For example, if you want to bring out the tannins in a Cabernet Sauvignon, serve it with a sweeter or spicier dish. If you think the tannins in the Cab you plan on serving are too "big," cut them down a bit by serving it with a dish that is a bit salty and bitter or fatty.
Drink the Wine You Love
The old fashioned rule of red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat is so restrictive and there is really no reason to follow it. The whole idea of pairing wine with food is for the two to complement one another. If you want to drink your bottle of Caymus with a grilled burger, then do it. Try a bottle of Fish Eye Chard with Pad Thai. Great wine always complements great food, so don't be afraid to throw all the guidelines out the window and experiment with what wine and food you think pair well together. As always, you will never go wrong by drinking the wine you love. If you love it, it's more than likely that your guests will love it as well.