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15 Rules for Great Pairings

1. Champagne is perfect with anything salty.

Crispy Udon Noodles with Nori Salt

Most dry sparkling wines, such as brut Champagne and Spanish cava, actually have a faint touch of sweetness. That makes them extra-refreshing when served with salty foods.

2. Sauvignon Blanc goes with tart dressings and sauces.

Scallops with Grapefruit-Onion Salad

Tangy foods won't overwhelm zippy wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Vinho Verde from Portugal and Verdejo from Spain.

3. Choose Grüner Veltliner when a dish has lots of fresh herbs.

Zucchini Linguine with Herbs

Austrian Grüner Veltliner's citrus-and-clover scent is lovely when there are lots of fresh herbs in a dish. Other go-to grapes in a similar style include Albariño from Spain and Vermentino from Italy.

4. Pinot Grigio pairs well with light fish dishes.

Seafood Tostada Bites

Light seafood dishes seem to take on more flavor when matched with equally delicate white wines, such as Pinot Grigio or Arneis from Italy or Chablis from France.

Recipe to try: Seafood Tostada Bites

5. Choose Chardonnay for fatty fish or fish in a rich sauce.

Sizzling Shrimp Scampi

Silky whites—for instance, Chardonnays from California, Chile or Australia—are delicious with fish like salmon or any kind of seafood in a lush sauce.

6. Off-Dry Riesling pairs with sweet & spicy dishes.

Thai Green Salad with Duck Cracklings

The slight sweetness of many Rieslings, Gewürztraminers and Vouvrays helps tame the heat of spicy Asian and Indian dishes.

7. Moscato d'Asti loves fruit desserts.

Honeyed Fig Crostatas

Moderately sweet sparkling wines such as Moscato d'Asti, demi-sec Champagne and Asti Spumante help emphasize the fruit in the dessert, rather than the sugar.

Recipe to try: Honeyed Fig Crostatas

8. Rosé Champagne is great with dinner, not just hors d'oeuvres.

Beet Risotto

Rosé sparkling wines, such as rosé Champagne, cava and sparkling wine from California, have the depth of flavor and richness to go with a wide range of main courses.

Recipe to try: Beet Risotto

9. Pair a dry Rosé with rich, cheesy dishes.

Triple-Decker Baked Italian Cheese Sandwiches

Some cheeses go better with white wine, some with red; yet almost all pair well with dry rosé, which has the acidity of white wine and the fruit character of red.

10. Pinot Noir is great for dishes with earthy flavors.

Leek-and-Pecorino Pizzas

Recipes made with ingredients like mushrooms and truffles taste great with reds like Pinot Noir and Dolcetto, which are light-bodied but full of savory depth.

11. Old World wines and Old World dishes are intrinsically good together.

Pappardelle with Veal Ragù

The flavors of foods and wines that have grown up together over the centuries—Tuscan recipes and Tuscan wines, for instance—are almost always a natural fit.

12. Malbec won't be overshadowed by sweet-spicy barbecue sauces.

Chicken Drumsticks with Asian Barbecue Sauce

Malbec, Shiraz and Côtes-du-Rhône are big and bold enough to drink with foods brushed with heavily spiced barbecue sauces.

13. Choose Zinfandel for pâtés, mousses and terrines.

Creamy Chicken-Liver Mousse

If you can use the same adjectives to describe a wine and a dish, the pairing will often work. For instance, the words rustic and rich describe Zinfandel, Italy's Nero d'Avola and Spain's Monastrell as well as chicken-liver mousse.

14. Cabernet Sauvignon is fabulous with juicy red meat.

Lamb Chops with Frizzled Herbs

California Cabernet, Bordeaux and Bordeaux-style blends are terrific with steaks or chops: Their firm tannins refresh the palate after each bite of meat.

15. Syrah matches with highly spiced dishes.

Cumin-Spiced Burgers with Harissa Mayo

When a meat is heavily seasoned, look for a red wine with lots of spicy notes. Syrah from Washington, Cabernet Franc from France and Xinomavro from Greece are all good choices.

More ideas: Syrah Pairings
15 Pairing Tips

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Published October 2009
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