15 Rules for Great Wine and Food Pairings
Pinot Noir: Pair with earthy flavors
Chardonnay: Great with fatty fish or fish in a rich sauce
Silky whites—like Chardonnays from California, Chile, or Australia—are delicious with fish like salmon or any kind of seafood in a rich sauce.
Champagne: Perfect with anything salty
- 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, like crispy udon noodles with nori salt.
Cabrnet Sauvignon: Fabulous with juicy red meat
California Cabernet, Bordeaux, and Bordeaux-style blends are terrific with steaks and dishes like lamb chops with frizzled herbs. The firm tannins in these wines refresh the palate after each bite.
Sauvignon Blanc: Goes with tart dressings and sauces
Tangy foods—like scallops with grapefruit-onion salad—won't overwhelm zippy wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Vinho Verde, from Portugal and Verdejo from Spain.
Dry Rosé: For rich, cheesy dishes
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. For an indulgent cheese dish, try these Triple-Decker Baked Italian Cheese Sandwiches.
Pinot Grigio: Pairs with light fish dishes
Malbec: Holds up to sweet-spicy barbecue sauces
Malbec, Shiraz, and Côtes-du-Rhône are big and bold enough to drink with foods brushed with heavily spiced barbecue sauces, like these chicken drumsticks with spicy-sweet barbecue sauce.
Moscato d'Asti: Loves fruit desserts
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. Try it with these honeyed fig crostatas.
Syrah: For highly spiced dishes
When a meat is heavily seasoned—like cumin-spiced burgers with harissa mayo—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.
Grüner Veltliner: Pairs with fresh
Austrian Grüner Veltliner's citrus-and-clover scent is lovely when there are lots of fresh herbs in a dish, like zucchini linguine with herbs. Other go-to grapes in a similar style include Albariño from Spain and Vermentino from Italy.
Zinfandel: For pâtés, mousses and terrines
If you can use the same adjectives to describe a wine and a dish, pairing them will often work. For instance, the words rustic and rich describe Zinfandel, Italy's Nero d'Avola, and Spain's Monastrell as well as creamy chicken-liver mousse.
Off-Dry Riesling: Pairs with sweet & spicy dishes
The slight sweetness of many Rieslings, Gewürztraminers and Vouvrays helps tame the heat of spicy Asian and Indian dishes, like this Thai green salad with duck cracklings.
Rosé Champagne: Great with dinner, not just hors d'oeuvres
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, like beet risotto.
Old World Wines: Made for Old World dishes
The flavors of food and wines that have grown up together over the centuries—Tuscan recipes and Tuscan wines, for instance—are almost always a natural fit. This pappardelle with veal ragù pairs well with a medium-bodied Chianti, for example.