How to Match Your Wine with Food

A basic understanding of wine and food pairing will make for exquisite wining and dining.

How to Match Your Wine with Food

Do you have a great bottle of chardonnay waiting for the perfect occasion, but you are wondering which dish to best pair it with? 

Or maybe you are grilling some beautiful steaks but are not sure which wine you should serve along with them? Which is the best wine to go with burgers or with chocolate? 

If you are new to the world of wine and food pairing, we are here to lend a helping hand. Here are some general guidelines that you can follow to understand the best wine pairings.


Basics of Wine and Food Pairing



Use this guide to understand how to pair many classic wines with different foods.


●  Dry White Wines: Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon blanc, Albariño

Food Pairings: Fish, Starches, Roasted Vegetables

The category of dry white wine is quite vast, but they are mostly bright, light, and acidic. They pair quite well with foods that are similarly oriented, such as light fishes, grilled chicken, spring vegetables, and herby and citrusy dishes.


●  Sweet White Wines: Moscato, Malvasia, Gewurztraminer

Food Pairings: Hard & Soft Cheese, Sweets, Cured Meat

Sweeter white wines go best with rich desserts and salty appetizers. Not only this, but they are also preferred with spicy Asian cuisine as the sweetness helps counter the heat.


●  Rich White Wines: Chardonnay, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier

Food Pairings: Soft Cheese, Rich Fish, Starches, White Meat

The heavier and creamier white wines are capable of standing up to stronger flavors. They are also less acidic and do well with leaner meats. Due to this, they go well with chicken, pork loin, and salmon.


●  Sparkling Wine: Champagne, Prosecco, Cava

Food Pairings: Vegetables, Hard & Soft Cheese, Fish, Starches

Sparkling wines are mostly used in festivities and fun, but they go quite well with most snacks.


●  Light Red Wines: St. Laurent, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Zweigelt

Food Pairings: Rich Fish, Cured Meat, White Meat, Roasted Vegetables, Starches

Lighter reds are considered shape-shifters. They change their ways depending on the dish. These wines interact well with fatty fishes, leaner red meats, white meats, and earthier vegetables such as mushrooms.


●  Medium Red Wines: Merlot, Zinfandel, Red Table Wine

Food Pairings: Cured Meat, Red & White Meat, Starches, Roasted Vegetables, Hard Cheese

These are some of the most versatile wines and can go well with everything from cheese plates to salads to pasta and desserts.


●  Bold Red Wines: Malbec, Anglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon

Food Pairings: Cured Meat, Red Meat, Hard Cheese, Starches

Big, bold red wines are classic steak wines. They are tannic and rich enough to cut through the fat. They also go well with spicy entrees like BBQ chicken.


●  Dessert Wines: Ice Wine, Port, Sherry, Late Harvest

Food Pairings: Sweets, Starches, Soft Cheese, Cured Meat

As the name suggests, dessert wines are best paired with desserts, including chocolate, cheeses, sweets, salty nuts, and anything else that helps round out the meal.


●  Rosé Wines: Provence Rosé, Garnacha Rosado, White Zinfandel

Food Pairings: Hard & Soft Cheese, Roasted Vegetables, Starches, Fish, Cured Meat, White Meat

When in doubt, go for rosé wine. They have the fruitiness of reds coupled with the acidity of whites, making them a great match for a variety of cuisines and dishes.


Tips to Match Wine and Food Perfectly




1.   Identify Basics Tastes


We get over 20 different tastes from food – from the basic, sweet, fat, and sour to extreme flavors like umami, electric, and spicy. However, while pairing wine and food, you need to focus on six primary tastes, which are salt, acid, bitter, spice, sweet, and fat.


  • Basic Taste Components in Wine

Most wines comprise three basic taste components – sweetness, bitterness, and acidity. Based on this, wines from different wine barrels can be categorized into the following:

  • Red wines are more bitter.
  • Sparkling, Rosé, and White wines are more acidic.
  • Sweet wines are sweeter.


  • Basic Taste Components in Food

To understand the right wine and food pairing, simply strip the dish to its basic dominant tastes. For instance, baked macaroni has two taste components: salt and fat. Green salad has bitterness and acidity, whereas creamed corn offers sweetness and fatness.


2.   Find Contrasting or Congruent Pairings


  • Complementary Pairing

Let us take the example of a simple dish: baked macaroni. The creamy béchamel sauce of the dish will go well with zesty wines like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio to create a fantastic complementary pairing.


  • Congruent Pairing

A creamy white wine will add to the dish’s creaminess. So, a mac and cheese dish with creamy béchamel sauce paired with a Chardonnay or Viognier will create a strong congruent pairing.


Advanced Wine and Food Pairing


It is best to follow the abovementioned rules of wine and food pairing as a beginner. But once you are an expert at the rules, you can start breaking them once you know how to. Afterall, rules are made to be broken, right?

Some of the best wine pairings defy logic. For instance, champagne goes great with fried chicken. Muscadet and sushi, Riesling and Moo Shoo Pork, Merlot, and Red Chile Enchiladas are some other great pairings that sound strange.

Once you understand the basics of pairing a dish with a wine, the techniques of balancing fat, tempering spice, and matching acidity, you will have a lot of room to explore. 

If you are faced with a meal without an obvious pairing – such as Korean BBQ, you can go ahead and experiment with different wines from expensive bottles to used wine barrels.



●  Pinot Noir: Pair with earthy flavors

Dishes containing earthy ingredients like truffles and mushrooms go great with red wines such as Dolcetto and Pinot Noir. This is because they are quite light-bodied but loaded with a savory depth.


●  Chardonnay: Pair with fatty fish in a rich sauce

Silky whites such as Chardonnays from Australia, Chile, or California work best with fatty fishes like salmon. You can also pair them with any seafood dish made in a rich sauce.


●   Champagne: Pair with anything salty

Most of the dry sparkling wines like Spanish cava and champagne come with a faint note of sweetness. This makes them extremely refreshing when taken with salty foods such as udon noodles with nori salt.


●  Cabernet Sauvignon: Pair with red meat

Red wines like Bordeaux and California Cabernet work best with red meat dishes such as lamb chops and steaks. The firm tannins contained in these wines help refresh the palate after every bite.


●  Sauvignon Blanc: Pair with tart sauces and dressings

Tangy dishes such as scallops with grapefruit and onion salad do not overwhelm zippy wines such as Vinho Verde from Portugal, Verdejo from Spain, and Sauvignon Blanc.


●  Dry Rosé: Pair with rich, cheesy dishes

Some cheeses pair better with white or red wines, but almost all of them pair excellently with dry rosé. This is because rosé contains both the acidity of white while coupled with the fruitiness of red wine. For indulgent cheese dishes like Triple Decked Italian Cheese sandwiches, go for Dry Rosé.


●  Pinot Grigio: Pair with light fishes

Light seafood dishes such as tostada bites tend to taste even more flavorful when paired with delicate white wines. Try pairing them with Arneis or Pinot Grigio from Italy and French Chablis.


●  Malbec: Pair with sweet and spicy barbecue sauces

Shiraz, Côtes-du-Rhône, and Malbec are bold enough to be taken with foods having strong flavors like barbecue sauces.


●  Moscato d'Asti: Pair with fruit desserts

Sparkling wines like demi-sec Champagne, Asti Spumante, and Moscato d’Asti help bring out the flavors of the fruit in desserts instead of sugar. Try them with delicious desserts such as honeyed fig crostatas.


● Syrah: Pair with high-spiced dishes

Heavily seasoned and spiced dishes such as cumin-spiced burgers with harissa mayo pairs best with a red wine with spicy notes. French Cabernet Franc, Greek Xinomavro, and Syrah from Washington are some great options.


In Conclusion 


Wine and food pairing can be as simple or as complex as you like. But the most important thing to remember is to have fun and drink what you love!

Rachel Moore works as a Marketing Manager at Rocky Mountain Barrel Company that provides used wooden barrels for spirits, like bourbon barrels, whiskey barrels, rum barrels, and wine barrels. They are proud to partner with 1400+ breweries internationally.