Wine Pairing Guidelines
The one thing to remember about wine and food pairings is to forget the rules and drink what you like – what you enjoy drinking always take precedence over any recommendations. Think about the meal or the dish you will be serving and what the characteristics of the dish are – mild or flavorful? Fatty or lean? Rich or acidic? Keep the flavors in balance – match mild foods with mild wine and match flavorful foods with big, flavorful wines. Match the richness of the food with the richness of the wine. Full-bodied meal work well with full-bodied wines – a hearty stew or New York Strip with a bold Cabernet. Match acids with acids – foods with strong acids should generally be paired with an acidic wine. Match the weight of the food to the weight of the wine – a light fish dish or simple salad pairs wonderfully with a light, crisp white wine, while a heavy steak pairs well with a Cabernet or Zinfandel. And last but not least, be adventurous!
Wines by Body/Style
Sparkling Wine – Champagne, Cava, Prosecco
Light White Wine – Pinot Grigio, Soave, Vinho Verde
Medium-Bodied White Wine – Macon-Villages, Pouilly-Fuisse, Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, Sauvignon Blanc, White Burgundy
Full-Bodied White Wine – Chardonnay, Premier and Grand Cru White Burgundies
Fruity White Wine– Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Vouvray, Gewurztraminer
Light Red Wine – Beaujolais, Gamay, Barbera, Dry Rose
Medium-Bodied Red Wine – Pinot Noir, Cotes-du-Rhone, Chianti Classico
Full-Bodied Red Wine – Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec, Zinfandel
Sweet Wine – Sauternes, Late Harvest Riesling, Muscats, Moscato, Tokay, Port, Sweet Sherry, Madeira
Sauvignon Blanc – white or light fish, lobster, oysters, scallops, goat, feta or mild cheese, sushi, pesto or Asian light sauces, asparagus, green apples or citrus fruit, key lime pie
Chardonnay – grilled chicken, veal, pork loin, salmon, shellfish, cream sauces, lobster, crab, shrimp, asiago or havarti cheese, potatoes, apples, mango, banana or vanilla desserts
Pinot Noir – lamb, veal, filet mignon, salmon, swordfish, goat cheese, brie, mushroom or light red sauces, dried fruits, strawberries, crème brulee
Cabernet Sauvignon – grilled steaks, beef stew, ahi tuna, cheddar or gorgonzola cheese, pizza, burgers, brown or red tomato sauces, broccoli, tomatoes, chocolate, espresso
Zinfandel – pork, beef, spicy meats, tomato pasta dishes, pizza, pesto, chicken with heavy sauces, blackened fish, ripe brie or aged cheeses, burgers, Cajun foods, salsa, peppers, eggplant, spice or gingerbread cake
Syrah – game meats, ribs, spicy sausage, pizza, herbed sauces, bbq chicken or salmon, sharp cheddar or Roquefort cheese, oregano or sage spiced dishes, tomatoes, black forest cake
Merlot – grilled meats, steak, bacon, seared ahi tuna, parmesan or Romano cheese, pizza, burgers, béarnaise or Bolognese sauces, onions, tomatoes, plums, dark chocolate, berries
Pinot Grigio or Riesling – smoky or spicy sausage or ham, sea bass, trout, swordfish, havarti, gouda, or Swiss cheese, ceviche, sweet bbq sauces, chutneys, chili peppers, apricots, pears, apple pie
Malbec – lamb, grilled pork, stews, lean cuts of beef, pasta with pesto or light tomato cream sauce, sharp cheddar and parmesan cheese, Asian sauces, spicy soups
Moscato – salmon, crab, baked ham, summer salads, charcuterie, peach cobbler, apple desserts, berries
Champagne/Sparkling – appetizers, sushi, lobster, scallops, shrimp, very light dishes, brie, mild cheddar, and edam cheeses, strawberries, chocolate, fruit puddings
Wine Varietal Glossary
Cabernet Sauvignon – full-bodied wines with great depth that improve with the aging process – with tastes of currants, plums, black cherries, and spice, Cabernet spends 15-30 months aging in oak barrels to soften the tannins – adding toasty vanilla flavors.Cava – Spanish sparkling wine produced by the methode champenoise.
Champagne – from the Champagne region of France and produced by the methode champenoise – each comes in a multitude of styles ranging from very dry to sweet. The taste is of full-bodied fruits and yeast – each can be altered in the amount of residual sugar and bottle age will also alter the character of each champagne.
Chardonnay – normally aged in oak barrels – with tastes of apples, pears, vanilla, peaches, melon, citrus, honey and spice – a versatile white wine which pairs beautifully with a multitude of foods.
Chianti – produced from a blend of grapes – a fruity, light ruby colored red – also called Chianti Riserva when aged three years or more – Chianti Classico is produced from grapes in a designated portion of the Chianti wine district in Italy.
Gewurztraminer – has a distinctive floral nose and spicy flavor. This is a medium sweet wine produced from grapes grown mainly in the Alsace region of France, but becoming more common in the US.
Malbec – originally from the Bordeaux region of France, it’s now the signature wine of Argentina. Medium to full-bodied, Malbec has an inky purple color with plenty of acidity and flavors of plums, blackberries, and cherries and tobacco – a great food-pairing wine.
Merlot – with a taste profile of herbs, olives, cherries and chocolate, this wine is soft and medium in weight with fewer tannins than a Cabernet – takes well to oak aging and is frequently blended with Cabernet to soften.
Moscato – this wine, also known as Muscat or Muscat Canelli, has wonderful spice and floral notes and an elegant sweetness – a versatile grape used for blending in spumante and slightly frizzant wines.
Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris – the grapes produce wines that are soft and fragrant with a deeper color than other white wines – with flavors that range from melon to pear, this is a very smooth wine that is easy to sip – a light, crisp wine that is meant to be enjoyed young.
Pinot Noir – the great and noble grape of Burgundy, France. Pinot Noir is smoother and richer than Cabernet but with considerably less tannins – with raisin like flavor and undertones of berries and spice.
Sauvignon Blanc – a pale straw-colored wine with grassy, herbal flavors and aromas with hints of black currants and gooseberries. In California, it’s often labeled as Fume Blanc – New Zealand produces some of the finest Sauvignon blancs using a very fruity style.
Syrah/Sirah – marked by plum and blackberry flavors, this is a deep ruby-colored wine which is full-bodied and full of tannins – a major varietal in Australia, it’s used extensively in France and California as a blending grape.
Zinfandel – has predominantly spicy aromas and red raspberry flavors – some can be bold and intense and others can be light and fruity. Zinfandel is frequently used in blending and is the most widely grown grape in California with much of it turned into White Zinfandel, a slightly sweet, blush-colored wine.