Okay, so you know a little bit about wine. You may know what the different types of wine are, or how to choose the right wine for your tastes based on the label and terminology used to describe it. That’s a great start, but how do you know which types of wine to pair with which foods? Just because you know wine works well with cheese or chocolate, that doesn’t mean you’re ready to go out there and pick up the perfect pairing for your next dinner party.
But don’t worry! That’s where this article comes in. Below, we’ll show you a list of some of the most popular wine and food pairings, and we’ll let you know just why these pairings tend to work. This way, the next time you find yourself at a loss for what type of wine to serve with your meal or small plates, you can remember what you’ve learned here and call upon your newfound wine knowledge to impress your friends, family, and guests. And you may even find a combination you’ve never considered before that you’ll want to enjoy again and again on your own—whether or not you’ve got a big event coming up!
Food and Wine Pairings
• Roasted/cooked veggies: Try a dry white wine like a pinot grigio, a light red wine like pinot noir, or a medium red wine like zinfandel. Choosing something on the dry side can help you balance the richer flavors of roasted vegetables as well as the hearty overall taste of this type of ingredient.
• Salad and fresh/raw veggies: Unlike roasted vegetables, raw and fresh veggies require a much lighter pairing that won’t overpower them or their flavor. Stick to dry white wine like sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio in most instances. A sparkling wine or champagne can also be a very nice touch when serving wine with your salad or lighter vegetable-based entrees, too.
• Hard cheese: Hard cheese is one of the most versatile ingredients when it comes to wine pairing, and a huge variety of wines work nicely with this type of cheese. Try balancing the flavors of hard cheese with a sweet white Riesling or Moscato, or go with a sparkling wine or champagne instead. Depending on the other ingredients present, medium red or bold red wines like merlot or Malbec can also work nicely.
• Soft cheese: Soft cheese is also versatile, although a little bit less so than hard cheese. Sparkling wine and champagne also work well here, as does sweet white wine. Otherwise, try chardonnay, which is a very high-quality pairing for soft cheeses. If the soft cheese is also sweet, a dessert wine like sherry or port can be a very nice touch, too.
• Potatoes, bread, rice, and pasta: Starchy foods can be paired with absolutely any type of wine. The starches go well with all wines, and the other ingredients present in the dish can help you narrow down the right wine for your pairing. For example, if you’re serving carbonara (pasta with a heavy cheese/cream sauce), you may want to stick with wines that pair well with the type of cheese you’re using in the sauce (likely Parmesan, a hard cheese).
• Rich seafood/shellfish: Crab, lobster, and similar rich seafood and shellfish ingredients only work with a couple of types of wine. Stick to rich white wine like chardonnay or light red pinot noir for best results—but always err on the side of white wine when it comes to shellfish.
• Light seafood/shellfish: Lighter variations of seafood and shellfish m ay work nicely with prosecco or champagne, or with sparkling wine instead. Sweet and rich white wine may also work nicely with this type of ingredient, so try a Riesling if you’re interested in going with something other than a sparkling beverage with your fish, scallops, or shrimp.
• Cured meat: Cured meat comes in a lot of different varieties—although if you’re thinking “sausage,” then you’re on the right track. Some types of cured meat is very mild, while other types are spicy and hearty. The type of meat you’re serving will help you narrow down the wine you want to use with cured meat. Some cured meats pair well with a balance of a light white wine, while other require a bold red to balance them out perfectly. In rare instances, you may even want to choose a dessert wine to finish off a salty meal.
• White meat/poultry: Rich white wine like Marsanne and chardonnay or light red wine like St. Laurent or pinot noir are perfect for white meat and poultry dishes. Sometimes, a medium-bodied red table wine may work as well.
• Red meat: Medium or bold reds are the ideal choices for red meat. Stick to merlot, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, Malbec, or Syrah if you’re looking for something to pair with red meat. The type of red meat you’re serving and its fat content can help you narrow down your choices a little more from there, but generally speaking, a red wine with a red meat is an excellent pairing regardless.
• Dessert: Last but not least, sweets and desserts require a sweet, dessert wine! Ice wine and port are good choices, as are Moscato, Riesling, and other sweet, light, white wine. Don’t go with something too dry if you’re pairing desserts and sweets, as the sweet ingredients will make the dry wine seem much more bitter than it really is.
Now that you know a little more about which foods to pair with which types of wine, you can get a bit more creative in making these decisions for yourself. For example, you may be serving a meal which incorporates several foods listed above—so you might want to pick a wine that spans all of these categories. Or, on the other hand, you may want to serve a different wine with each stage of the meal for a truly elegant experience. Whichever method you end up choosing, you’re sure to be pleased with the results when you understand a little more about wine pairings!