The Perfect Pairings For All Types of Wine
Expert Advice

Image: Laura Peruchi,

As wonderful as wine is on its own, we’ve known since ancient times that serving it with food is a match made in heaven. For the longest time, the rules were red wine with red meat and white with white meat, but if you’re serious about the perfect pairings, you’ll want to go beyond that.

The best way to pair wine with food is to base your bottle choice on the dish you want to highlight. The following hints and tips can help you work a bit of matchmaking magic.

Guidelines To Remember

Before you select the wine varietal for your perfect pairing, consider the following basics:

Red with red – There’s no harm in sticking to the red meat with red wine rule as the tannins in the latter are a good match to the former’s higher fat content. However, you can serve poultry in sauces made with balsamic vinegar or tomato with reds too.

Earthy wine with earthy food – Reds, like Pinot Noir, pair well with foods such as mushrooms and truffles as they complement their rich natural flavors.

Acidic wine with fatty foods – If you’re serving fatty dishes like well-marbled steak, roast duck, or oxtail, accompany them with an acidic red wine like Pinot Noir, as it will cut through the heavy fattiness of the food.

Low-alcohol wine pairs with spicy food – Alcohol is fuel for the fire, literally and figuratively. If you’re serving spicy food, choose a wine that’s low in alcohol.

Acid and acid – As a general rule, acidic wines complement acidic food with tomato-based or citrusy sauces and vinaigrettes.

Avoid bitter and bitter – One of the few exceptions to the like pairing with like rule is that bitter wines don’t go well with bitter dishes. Too much bitter can cause flavor fatigue.

Cabernet Sauvignon Pairings

A bold and fruity red Cabernet Sauvignon is a favorite with wine drinkers in The United States and beyond. Even though it’s the first choice of many when serving beef, Cabernet Sauvignon can work with softer and lighter foods too.

Consider these pairings when serving a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon:

Starters & Mains:

  • Beef stews
  • Rib Eye
  • Venison
  • Grilled Ahi Tuna

Side Dishes:

  • Broccoli
  • Tomato
  • Black cherries

Sauces & Spices:

  • Juniper
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Brown sauce
  • Tomato sauce 


  • Bittersweet chocolate
  • Walnuts
  • Cheddar
  • Gorgonzola cheese

Pinot Noir Pairings

One of the lighter reds, Pinot Noir, is surprisingly versatile. Not only does it pair well with red meats, but it also works with chicken dishes, hearty, savory fish and mushrooms.

Pinot Noir is a great and easy drinking wine. Pairing it with the following foods is sure to be met with approval:

Starters & Mains:

  • Roast or BBQ chicken
  • Filet Mignon
  • Lamb
  • Sausage
  • Salmon
  • Tuna

Side Dishes:

  • Dried fruits
  • Figs
  • Mushrooms
  • Strawberries

Sauces & Spices:

  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Nutmeg
  • Truffle and mushroom sauce
  • Lighter red sauces

Desserts, Cheese & Nuts:

  • Crème brûlée
  • White chocolate
  • Brie
  • Goat’s milk
  • Walnuts

Syrah Pairings

A bright, bold, and peppery wine, Syrah is at its best when paired with flavors that can match its charisma and personality.

Rich, flavorful food is a wonderful match for this varietal, and the following pairings will result in a taste sensation:

Starters & Mains:

  • Pork shoulder
  • Game
  • Spicy sausage
  • salmon
  • Tuna 

Side Dishes:

  • Beets
  • Currants
  • Stewed tomatoes

Sauces & Spices:

  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • BBQ sauce
  • Heavy red sauces 

Desserts, Cheese & Nuts:

  • Black Forest cake
  • Mature cheddars
  • Strongly flavored blue cheeses
  • Hazelnuts
  • Walnuts

Merlot Pairings

Known for its soft hints of berry, Merlot pairs well with savory, astringent, and sweet flavors. It’s considered a bit of an all-rounder, and when in doubt, it’s generally a safe bet.

Merlot will always make a great companion for:

Starters & Mains:

  • Steak
  • Grilled red meats
  • Tuna

Side Dishes:

  • Caramelized onions
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes 

Sauces & Spices:

  • Juniper
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Bearnaise sauce
  • Bolognese sauce 

Desserts, Cheese & Nuts:

  • Berries,
  • Dark chocolate that’s sweeter than the wine
  • Chocolate or cheese fondue
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Pecorino
  • Chestnuts

Chardonnay Pairings

Before pairing Chardonnay with food, check whether the wine has strong oak flavors. Oak-aged Chardonnay has very different characteristics to one that has not been stored in oak at all. Depending on how it was matured, a varietal may boast a lemon zest and a chalky minerality or have hints of coconut, pineapple, or tropical fruit.

Due to its diversity, Chardonnay pairs best with:

Starters & Mains:

  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Veal
  • Crab
  • Halibut
  • Lobster
  • Shrimp

Side Dishes:

  • Apple
  • Mango
  • Potato
  • Squash

Sauces & Spices:

  • Basil
  • Sesame
  • Tarragon
  • Cream sauces
  • Pesto

Desserts, Cheese & Nuts:

  • Banana bread
  • Vanilla pudding
  • Almonds
  • Toasted nuts

Oaky Chardonnay Cheese Pairings:

  • Havarti
  • Asiago
  • Stilton

Unoaked Chardonnay Cheese Pairings:

  • Mild, semi-soft cheese

Sauvignon Blanc Pairings

A light, citrusy, and crisp wine, Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with flavorful lighter dishes. It can also highlight the herbs used in the dish it’s paired with.

If you love a lighter white varietal, Sauvignon Blanc should be served with:

Starters & Mains:

  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Turkey
  • Bream
  • Sea Bass
  • Lobster
  • Oysters
  • Sushi

Side Dishes:

  • Green apple
  • Asparagus
  • Citrus
  • Mango 

Sauces & Spices:

  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Tarragon
  • Herby sauces
  • Citrus sauces

Desserts, Cheese & Nuts:

  • Key Lime pie
  • Meringue
  • Sorbet
  • Goat’s milk cheese
  • Feta
  • Pine nuts

Riesling Pairings

Although it’s often thought of as a sweet white wine, it need not always be sweet. Sometimes, Rieslings can lean towards the dry side. This makes it an incredibly versatile wine and the perfect pairing for spicy food.

When serving Riesling, you can pair it with:

Starters & Mains:

  • Duck
  • Smoked sausage
  • Bass
  • Trout

Side Dishes:

  • Apricots
  • Chili peppers
  • Pears

Sauces & Spices:

  • Ginger
  • Rosemary
  • Indian or Thai spices
  • BBQ sauce and
  • Spicy sauces
  • Chutneys

Desserts, Cheese & Nuts:

  • Apple pie
  • Caramel sauce
  • Gouda
  • Havarti
  • Pecans
  • Candied walnuts

By following these guidelines, you’ll be a master at pairing wine with food in no time. Every varietal of wine has its perfect match, and the more you get to know about wine, the more comfortable you’ll be enhancing the flavors of the dishes you serve. Creating an outstanding taste sensation with every meal is something everyone can do, even if you’re just serving burgers in your backyard.