Basic Food and Wine Pairing

There are many articles about pairing wine with meals. The basic answer is white wine with fish or chicken, red wine with steak or pasta, but there’s more involved. Someone asks which white wine goes better with fish, well it depends on what type of fish you are having and the flavor style (mild or spicy) as well as your taste preferences.

Many wines are vinited in a range of styles from light to full texture, depending on the producer so a heavy oaked Chardonnay may go well with a cream based pasta but an un-oaked Chardonnay might pair well with a mild fish or poultry. There are many wines and since so many cross over the lines for basic food pairing, due the unique vintages and blending, it is nearly impossible to come up with a complete list that is simple and straight forward.

There are some people that only drink red wine and others that only drink white and still others that drink both but a limited selection. No matter what your preference, there is either a red or white wine that you will find compatible with your main course whatever that may be. So don’t stress, work within the boundaries of your taste preferences and gradually experiment to expand your taste palate.

Think of it this way the food and wine you’re having need to compliment each other or balanced by their flavor, texture and acidity.

Spicy foods pair best with a sweet or flavorful wine.

Beef dishes pair well with a bold full-bodied wine. (Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel)

Pasta with tomato sauce (Acidic) goes well with a wine with higher acidity like Chianti or Sauvignon Blanc if you prefer white wine.

Pasta with a creamy white sauce works very well with a Chardonnay. Cream based pasta contains milk so acidic wine would not be a good match.

If you’re having fish with a strong lemon sauce I would suggest something like Sauvignon Blanc but with a mild fish, Riesling might be a better choice.

There are many varieties of fish, some are mild and flaky and others are more like a steak (swordfish). When I have swordfish I like a medium body wine like Pinot Noir, it seems just bold enough for that texture and taste. Pairing wines with meals should not be stressful, relax and enjoy the process, try experimenting you might discover a great combination.

Here’s a no stress basic wine-pairing list. This is by no means a comprehensive list and there are some that may dispute some of my selections but that’s ok. You may discover as pairing that’s not mentioned but if it works for you that’s what really counts.

Steak & Barbeque………. Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Zinfandel, Malbec, Norton (Missouri), Bold Reds

Poultry………. Riesling, Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chianti, Merlot, Rioja, Burgundy

Pork………. Pinot Noir, Chianti, Merlot, Rioja, Riesling

Fish………. Semillon, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir (swordfish)

Shellfish………. Chablis, Riesling, Burgundy, Chardonnay

Tomato based Pasta (red)………. Chianti, Sangiovese, Italian wines, Merlot, Zinfandel (red)

Creamy Pasta (white sauce)………. Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Barolo, Chianti

Spicy foods………. Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Rose’

Matching food and wines from the same country work well because they are produced to enhance the local fare.

Let your server, or the menu guide you to a wine selection. The restaurant wants you to come back so they don’t want to steer you wrong with a bad wine pairing.

Sometimes the season can lead you to a wine selection. Personally, I drink more white wine in the summer than the winter because it’s just more refreshing in the Missouri heat. I love Cabernet Sauvignon but sometimes it’s just too heavy on a hot summer day.

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