wine and food pairing

A Guide to Wine and Food Pairing

Introduction to Wine and Food Pairing

Wine and food pairing can elevate a meal from ordinary to extraordinary. The right combination can enhance the flavors and create a harmonious dining experience. This guide will help you understand the principles of wine and food pairing and provide suggestions for popular wine varieties and their ideal food matches.

Why Wine and Food Pairing Matters

The goal of wine and food pairing is to create a balance between the flavors of the food and the characteristics of the wine. When done correctly, the wine can enhance the taste of the dish and vice versa. In some cases, the right pairing can even create new flavors that neither the food nor the wine had on their own.

Basic Principles of Wine and Food Pairing

There are two main approaches to wine and food pairing: complementary pairings and contrasting pairings.

Complementary Pairings

In a complementary pairing, the wine and food share similar flavors or characteristics, creating a harmonious experience. For example, a buttery Chardonnay can pair well with a rich, creamy pasta dish, while a bold, tannic Cabernet Sauvignon can complement a juicy steak.

Contrasting Pairings

Contrasting pairings involve matching food and wine with opposing flavors or characteristics. This can create a balance and prevent one from overpowering the other. For instance, a crisp, acidic Sauvignon Blanc can cut through the richness of a fatty fish, while a sweet dessert wine can offset the spiciness of a hot curry.

Below are some popular wine varieties and their suggested food pairings, including recommendations for specific dishes and cuisines based on related articles from our website.

Red Wines

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied red wine with high tannins and bold flavors. It pairs well with hearty dishes like grilled or roasted meats, especially beef and lamb. Other good pairings include aged cheeses, dark chocolate, and dishes with earthy or savory flavors.

Pairing Cabernet Sauvignon with Chicken:

For a unique combination, try pairing Cabernet Sauvignon with a hearty, flavorful chicken dish like coq au vin or chicken with a red wine reduction sauce. Discover the best red wines to pair with chicken for more inspiration.


Merlot is a medium- to full-bodied red wine with softer tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s known for its fruity flavors and smooth finish. Merlot pairs well with a variety of foods, including roasted chicken, pork, grilled vegetables, and dishes with tomato-based sauces.

Pairing Merlot with Pork

Merlot’s versatility makes it a great match for pork dishes, whether it’s roasted pork loin or a slow-cooked pulled pork. Explore our suggestions for the best wines to pair with pork to find your perfect match.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a light- to medium-bodied red wine with bright acidity and delicate flavors. It’s versatile and pairs well with many foods, including poultry, fish, mushrooms, and dishes with earthy or herbal flavors.

Pairing Red Wine with Dessert

Though unusual, Pinot Noir can be a delightful accompaniment to fruity or chocolate-based desserts, such as a chocolate-covered strawberry or cherry pie. Learn how to pair red wine with dessert for more innovative ideas.

Red Wine and Cheese Pairing

Red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir can be beautifully paired with various cheeses. Aged, hard cheeses like cheddar or Gouda work well with Cabernet Sauvignon, while a creamy brie pairs nicely with a fruity Merlot or a complex Pinot Noir. Check out our beginner’s guide to pairing red wine with cheese for more tips.

White Wines


Chardonnay is a full-bodied white wine that can be buttery and oaky or crisp and fruity, depending on the winemaking process. It pairs well with dishes that have rich, creamy sauces, like pasta alfredo or lobster bisque. Chardonnay also complements grilled or roasted chicken, seafood, and dishes with mild, nutty flavors.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a light- to medium-bodied white wine known for its high acidity and zesty, citrus flavors. It’s an excellent choice for pairing with seafood, especially shellfish, and dishes with bright, herbaceous flavors like salads, pesto, or goat cheese.


Riesling is a versatile white wine that can range from dry to sweet, with flavors of green apple, citrus, and stone fruit. Its bright acidity makes it a great match for spicy foods like Thai or Indian cuisine. Riesling also pairs well with poultry, seafood, and dishes with fruity or sweet elements.

Pairing Wine with Mexican Food

For a delicious fusion of flavors, try pairing a crisp, off-dry Riesling or a zesty Sauvignon Blanc with spicy and flavorful Mexican dishes. Visit our guide on the best wines to pair with Mexican food for more suggestions and tips.

How to Pair Red Wine with Meat

Red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir can be excellent choices for pairing with various meat dishes, from grilled steaks to slow-cooked roasts. Learn how to pair red wine with meat to find the ideal wine for your next meal.

Final Thoughts

Mastering the art of wine and food pairing can significantly enhance your dining experience. By understanding the basic principles of complementary and contrasting pairings, you can confidently choose the perfect wine to accompany any dish. Don’t be afraid to experiment and trust your taste buds, as the most important thing is to enjoy the journey of discovering new and delicious combinations.


Do I need to follow strict pairing rules?

While there are general guidelines for pairing wine and food, the most important rule is to trust your own taste preferences. Feel free to experiment and find combinations that you enjoy.

What about pairing wine with dessert?

Dessert wines, like Sauternes or Moscato d’Asti, can be great matches for sweet treats. Generally, aim for the wine to be sweeter than the dessert to create a balanced pairing.

How do I choose a wine for a multi-course meal?

When planning a multi-course meal, consider the progression of flavors and choose wines that can complement each dish. You can start with lighter wines for appetizers and move to fuller-bodied wines for the main course, followed by dessert wines.

Should I serve red or white wine first at a dinner party?

Traditionally, lighter wines like whites and rosés are served before reds. However, you can also consider the order of the dishes being served and choose wines that complement each course accordingly.

Can I pair rosé wines with food?

Absolutely! Rosé wines can be incredibly versatile when it comes to food pairing. They work well with a variety of dishes, including salads, grilled seafood, and light pasta dishes.

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