Wine Education

Wine and Food Pairing

The pairing of wine and food has undergone some revision in the past few years. Many people mistakenly believe that they will ruin the whole meal if they make the “wrong” wine choice. The good news is that it’s impossible to ruin a good meal if you select a wine that you enjoy, regardless of what the “wine experts” say. Remember, follow your own tastes and don’t be afraid to experiment.

If you want to talk “rules” of wine and food pairing, the oldest one in the book is red with meat, white with fish or fowl. But rules are meant to be broken. In recent years we’ve become bolder and begun to pair Pinot Noir, which is a light red wine, or even Merlot with salmon. And we personally know some white wine drinkers who will enjoy their Chardonnay whether liver pâté or a juicy grilled steak is on the menu.

That being said, there are some general guidelines you may find helpful when selecting a wine to enhance your meal.

Select light-bodied wines to pair with lighter food, and fuller-bodied wines to go with heartier, more flavorful dishes. Using the salmon example above, the Pinot Noir works beautifully with the fish because you are matching light to light. Otherwise a full-bodied, heavier wine will overpower a light, delicate dish, and similarly, a lighter style wine will not even register on your personal flavor meter if you sip it with a hearty roast.

Consider how the food is prepared. Is it grilled, roasted, or fried? What type of sauce or spice is used? For example, chicken with a lemon butter sauce will call for a different more delicate wine to play off the sauce than chicken cacciatore, with all of the tomato and Italian spices, or a grilled chicken breast.

For every food action, there is a wine reaction. When you drink wine by itself it tastes one way, but when you combine it with a bite of food, the taste changes. This is because wine is like a spice. Elements in the wine interact with the food to provide a different taste sensation like these basic reactions:

Sweet foods like Italian tomato sauce, Japanese teriyaki, and honey-mustard glazes make your wine seem drier than it really is, so try an off-dry (slightly sweet) wine to balance the flavor (Chenin Blanc, White Zinfandel, Riesling).

High acid foods like salads with balsamic vinaigrette dressing, soy sauce, or fish served with a squeeze of lemon go well with wines higher in acid (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Noir).

Bitter and astringent foods like a salad of bitter greens, Greek kalamata olives and charbroiled meats accentuate a wine’s bitterness, so complement these with a full-flavored, forward, fruity wine (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot). Big tannic red wines (like many red Zinfandels, and Shiraz or Syrah wines) will go best with your classic grilled steak or lamb chops, as the fat in the meat will tone down the tannin in the wine.

Pairing Chart


Cabernet Sauvignon Seared Tuna, Cioppino Duck, Quail, Squab Beef, Lamb, Venison Aged Cheddar, Aged Gouda Thyme, Italian Parsley, Bay Leaf, Rosemary
Chardonnay Crab, Shrimp, Lobster, Sea Bass Chicken, Turkey, Guinea Hen Pork, Chicken, Veal Jarlsberg, Brie, Camembert, Munster Tarragon, Chervil, Italian Parsley, Dill
Gewurztraminer Scallops, Crab, Smoked Salmon Turkey, Chicken Pork, Ham, Prosciutto Smoked Gouda, Goat Cheese, Boursin Ginger, Curry, Cilantro
Grüner Veltliner Halibut, Sea Bass, Sole Chicken, Turkey, Game Hen Pork, Veal Brie, Gouda, Feta Coriander, Caraway, Dill
Merlot Tuna, Salmon Quail, Duck, Squab Beef, Lamb, Venison Aged Cheddar, Parmeson, Provolone, Aged Gouda Basil, Italian Parsley, Mint, Thyme
Petite Sirah Salmon, Tuna, Red Snapper Chicken, Game Hens, Duck, Quail Beef, Italian Sausage, Lamb Asiago, Aged Cheddar, Aged Goat Cheese Thyme, Basil, Italian Parsley, Bay Leaf
Pinot Grigio Trout, Swardfish, Crab, Calamari Chicken, Turkey, Game Hen Pork, Prosciutto Ricotta, Fontina, Provolone Basil, Chervil, Italian Parsley
Pinot Noir Salmon, Tuna, Swordfish Duck, Quail, Squab Lamb, Italian Sausage, Pork, Boar Parmeson, Asiago, Fontina, Cambozola Thyme, Fennel, Basil, Italian Parsley
Primitivo Cioppino, Tuna, Bouilliabaise Quail, Duck, Game Hens Italian Sausage, Lamb, Beef Parmesan, Fontina, Asiago, Ricotta Salata Basil, Oregano, Thyme, Italian Parsley
Rosé Salmon, Shellfish, Grilled Sea Bass, Trout Chicken, Chicken-apple Sausage, Game Hens Pork, Prosciutto, Ham Goat Cheese, Parmesan, Feta, Gouda, Munster Italian Parsley, Basil, Chervil, Chives, Curry
Sangiovese Swordfish, Tuna Duck, Quail, Squab Lamb, Pork, Beef Asiago, Parmesan, Fontina, Ricotta Salata Basil, Thyme, Bay Leaf, Fennel
Sauvignon Blanc Oysters, Crab, Sole, Trout Chicken, turkey, Game Hens Pork, Veal Goat Cheese, Boursin, Feta, Fresh Mozzeralla, Ricotta Dill, Chervil, Chives, Italian Parsley, Cilantro
Tocai Monkfish, Calamari, Swordfish Chicken, Guinea Hen, Pheasant Veal, Pork Taleggio, Gorgonzola, Fontina Basil, Oregano, Italian Parsley, Chives
Zinfandel Tuna, Cioppino, Bouillabaise duck, Quail, Pheasant, Chicken Beef, Lamb, Italian Sausage, Barbecue Ribs Parmesan, Aged Cheddar, Aged Gouda, Asiago, Dry Jack Black Pepper, Basil, Thyme, Italian Parsley, Bay Leaf, Fennel


Food Matching:


Smoked Salmon – Champagne, Pinot Gris

Oysters – Champagne, Muscadet

Shellfish - White Burgundy, California Chardonnay, Albarino, Austrian Grüner Veltliner

Delicate white fish (steamed or sautéed) – Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Albarino, and Blanc de Blancs Champagne

Fatty pink or red fish (such as tuna) – Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, southern Côtes du Rhône, and red Bordeaux

Barbecue – Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône, Barbera, Dolcetto, Zinfandel, and Rosé

Pizza – Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône, Dolcetto, Zinfandel, and Rosé

Fatty cheeses – Sancerres, Pouilly-Fumé, Sauvignon Blanc

Leaner cheese – Nebbiolo, Barolo, Barbaresco, red Bordeaux

Blue cheese – Barsac, Sauternes, sweet Vouvray, Port

Duck – Pinot Noir, red Burgundy, and southern Rhônes

Sichuan dishes – Riesling, red Côtes du Rhône, Mâcon-Villages, Spanish Garnacha, and Rosé

Sushi / Sashimi – Pinot Noir, red Burgundy, Beaujolais, Albarino, Pinot Grigio, and Rosé Champagne

Risotto, Mushroom / Truffle – Barolo, Barbaresco, and red Bordeaux

Noodle soup – Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino, and Blanc de Blancs Champagne

Foie Gras (cold terrine) – Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc

Foie Gras (sautéed) – Sauternes, Barsac, and sweet Vouvray

Thai cuisine – Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, southern Côtes du Rhône, and Shiraz

Vietnamese – Pinot Noir, Shiraz, southern Côtes du Rhône, Bordeaux, and Rosé

Cantonese – nearly all the classic whites and reds of Europe work well, but above all, white and red Bordeaux, Rioja, and classic Tuscan and Piedmontese reds

Hunan – Shiraz, Zinfandel, southern Côtes du Rhônes, and Rosé

Shanghainese – Pinot Noir, red Burgundy, Côtes du Rhône, Dolcetto, Barbera, and Rosé

Sharks fin soup – white Burgundy, California Chardonnay, and full-bodied Champagne

Roast Pork – Pinot Noir, red Burgundy, southern Côtes du Rhône, and Shiraz

Veal – rich whites or lighter reds

Abalone (fried) – white Burgundy, California Chardonnay, Albarino, and full-bodied Champagnes

Beef (grilled or in sauces) – red Bordeaux, red Rhône, Tuscan reds, Piedmont reds, California and Washington States Cabernet Sauvignons and Syrahs, and Australian Shiraz

Kimchi – Zinfandel, Dolcetto, Beaujolais, and southern Côtes du Rhône

Vegetarian – Pinot Noir, red Burgundy, southern Côtes du Rhône, and Rioja

Curries – Alsace, Champagne, and Riesling