Quite often I’m asked about my thoughts regarding pairing food and wine. Before I give you my opinion, let me explain. I’ve said it many times; I’m no expert. These are just my thoughts. Whenever I’m preparing a meal for family and friends, these are the things that pop into my mind when I’m out shopping for a few bottles of wine to add to the occasion.
Note: There are many more varietals than are mentioned below, and there are many more pairing suggestions that could be included with each varietal. So think of this as a guide, not as an “end all – be all” of what to serve with what.
Because these are only my thoughts and suggestions regarding pairing food and wine, the list of wine and pairing suggestions do change from time to time.
My Thoughts on Pairing Food and Wine
To make this user-friendly, I’ve separated wines into general categories, with each wine varietal listed in alphabetical order under each category. Now, here are my thoughts.
- Champagne or Sparkling Wine – is perfect when paired with anything that’s salty or sweet. I do like it with savory and sweet dishes of all kinds: smoked fish, caviar, fried foods, chocolate, and strawberries, to name just a few.
- Moscato d’Asti – is impressive with most dessert dishes and especially desserts with fruit in it such as crumbles or pies.
- Prosecco – works well with both sweet and savory appetizers, entrées, and desserts.
- Chardonnay – is especially nice with a fatty fish or a creamy sauce. When I grab a bottle of Chardonnay, I think of whitefish of all kinds, and, of course, chicken, turkey, pork and many types of lightly sauced pastas. I also love it with a variety of nuts.
- Dry Riesling – pairs with sweet and spicy dishes. My favorite is when I’m serving it with pork and shellfish. We can’t forget the fact that it works very well with salads of all kinds and some egg dishes such as quiche, eggs benedict or frittatas.
- Pinot Grigio – pairs well with just about anything. It goes especially nicely with pasta dishes, chicken and, of course, a variety of cheeses.
- Sauvignon Blanc – is a lovely match with all kinds of tangy dressings and sauces. I love it with a variety of cheeses. You can’t overlook the many delicate fishes and seafood, all sorts of vegetables and anything with large amounts of fresh herbs.
- Viognier – is such a lovely wine varietal that can go with so many things from fish to braised meats. Try it with all kinds of shellfish, sauce with herbs, even many curries, as well as Moroccan cuisine.
- Barbera – is great with hearty meats – roasted or grilled, or even with a spicy soup.
- Cabernet Sauvignon – is a hearty wine that goes nicely with a better cut of red meat or duck, grilled or roasted. When these meats are prepared with a spice rub and lots of black pepper, it’s a divine pairing. Don’t forget to add some mushrooms to give it an earthy finish.
- Malbec – this varietal will never be overshadowed by a sweet or spicy barbecue. One thing that you must try is a bit of chocolate with this wine…heaven!
- Merlot – is one that I love to pair with a hearty mushroom soup. It also works very nicely with milder cuts of beef.
- Pinot Noir – is a super versatile wine that can go with just about any kind of dish. I love it with all types of meats, fish of all kinds, a huge variety of cheeses and even some chocolate desserts.
- Syrah – is perfect with hearty sausages and meats. I will often serve it with tapas dishes, especially olives of all kinds. It pairs nicely with lamb, lots of pepper and herb-infused dishes as well as roasted and barbecued meats
- Tempranillo – is a wine varietal that pairs beautifully with a high-quality cut of meat, grilled or roasted.
- Zinfandel – is one of my favorite varietals. It’s such a great match with everything from hamburgers to pizza and anything that’s grilled. It also complements Spanish or Mexican foods nicely.
- Rudy Port – is an excellent match with any variety of red berries or desserts made with these berries, such as a raspberry tart. We can’t forget the many varieties of soft cheeses and nuts or any kind chocolate desserts.
- Tawny Port – is one of my all-time favorites when it’s served with walnuts and honey on a crostini. Then there’s dark chocolate, figs and an incredible variety of soft cheeses. Yum.
- Moscato & Muscat – is such a beautiful complement to fresh fruit or fruit desserts.
- Sauternes – Aside from the fact that it pairs well with many desserts, it will surprise you by pairing well with all kinds of savory cheese and dishes from Roquefort cheese to fried chicken.
When it comes to pairing food and wine, in the end it gets down to what to buy when you’re trying make a good choice. So if you’re staring at a wall of wine and have no clue what to buy, the best advice I can give is to read the labels. If doing that isn’t helpful, ask the wine buyer for his or her thoughts. Both these things work for me whenever I’m stuck and don’t know what would be the best selection.
So what do you think? Did you find this helpful? Do you have your own thoughts in regards to pairing food and wine and what goes with what?
Time for a glass and something to eat…
P.S.: Check out a few of my favorite wine tools and resources below. 🙂