Wine Pairing

Wine pairing is a delicate process of combining food dishes with the perfect wine to help elevate the dining experience. Food and wine pairing has been a technique of matching complementary flavors with the goal of heightening enjoyment of each component. The concept can be applied when matching wines with various dishes. Wine pairing is not only about matching food and wine solely for their excellence, but also to maximize the value that each component brings to the whole experience.

Read on to discover everything you need to know about pairing food with wine, finding the best wine pairing with Salmon, the best dishes to eat with a Sauvignon Blanc, to the top two methods of pairing. 

How to Pair Food and Wine

For all foodies—and even casual wine drinkers—pairing a nice glass of wine with a delicious plate of food can be the combination that sends your taste buds into orbit. But how do you do it? It is important to note that selecting a wine that’s best for its price point is not the worst way to go about wine pairing. You will probably find at least one or two reasonably priced wines in your search that are worth a try.

two glasses of white wine paired with two dinner entrees

There are general rules of thumb and more nuanced ones as well. Let’s start with some basics:

Choose a Food and Wine That you Like

It’s important that you pair your food with a wine that you’ll actually like. If you usually don’t do white wines, you probably won’t like a glass of it with food. Stick to what you enjoy and branch out from there. You can always see some of our options wine options from our online selection.

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Why is food and wine pairing important?

Wine and food need to balance each other out, with neither one overwhelming the taste of the other. This doesn’t mean doing opposite pairings—rather,  pair equal flavors to create a good balance. Think a bold red wine with a hearty plate of lamb or a light-bodied white wine with grilled fish for a delectable, delicate experience. Sometimes, opposite flavors can work together, like a sweet Riesling with fried rice.

What are the 2 basic rules for Wine Pairings?

When doing wine pairings, match the wine to the most prominent element of the dish. This could be the seasonings, sauce, or the main ingredient. For instance, chicken in a sauce with mushrooms has an earthier, richer flavor—so it’ll need red wine, but grilled chicken with a creamy lemon sauce would pair well with a white. That’s why most wine connoisseurs recommend pairing wine with the sauce of the dish instead of the meat.

Flavor Profiles To Consider for Wine Pairings

You got the basics down, but now comes the more nuanced part. When it comes to wine pairings with food, there are six main flavor profiles to keep in mind:

  • Acidic
  • Fatty
  • Bitter
  • Salty
  • Sweet
  • Alcohol

Each profile can be mixed and matched with another to create excellent wine pairing combos. For example, you can try a bitter, tannic wine with sweet food or to cut through fatty dishes. These flavor profiles & wine pairings will come in handy for dinner or special celebrations.

Quick Wine Facts:

  • Red wines have more bitterness.
  • White and Rosé wines have more acidity.
  • Sweet wines have mostly sweet notes.

Graphic showing Wine Pairing Flavor Profiles

Methods of Wine Pairing

Here are the two methods of pairing wine and food: 

Congruent Wine Pairings

A congruent pairing is when you pair two similar flavors together that amplify each other and create a good balance—like Chardonnay and creamy mac and cheese. 

Contrasting Wine Pairings

Also called a complementary pairing, a contrasting pairing is when one flavor cuts through and balances out the richness of the other. Mac and cheese can work great with Chardonnay for an overall creamy, rich experience, but mac and cheese can also go great with a sharper Pinot Grigio.

Graphic showing popular food and wine pairings

What Makes a Good Wine Pairing: 10 Pairings You’ll Love

So, what makes a good wine pairing? Consider this your cheat sheet, or your wine pairing guide. It’s tough to remember what goes with what—especially because there are dozens of wine types out there—so here are some tried and true wine pairings:

1. Chardonnay and Salmon

Chardonnay is a  great wine pairing with Salmon. A dry, medium-bodied Chardonnay pair great with light meats like fish and other seafood in flavorful sauces. 

2. Cabernet and Red Meat

As mentioned before, a rich wine needs a rich dish. That’s why Cabernet and red meat pair so well together.

3. Pinot Noir and Earthy Flavors

Pair a deep Pinot Noir with earthy, savory flavors like mushroom dishes or hearty pizzas.

4. Pinot Grigio and Seafood

Pinot Grigio and light seafood dishes work perfectly together because of their light, delicate flavors. 

5. Sauvignon Blanc and Tart Flavors

Sip a piquant Sauvignon Blanc and pair it with a tart dressing or sauce for a flavorful zing.

6. Rosé and Cheesy Dishes

When it comes to cheese, Rosé is your go-to because it has the acidity of white wine while still maintaining the fruity notes of red.  

7. Sparkling and Salty Flavors

Sparkling wines usually have notes of sweetness in them, perfect for complementing salty foods. 

8. Riesling and Sweet, Spicy Flavors

Lightly sweet, many Rieslings help balance spicy dishes while complementing sweetness as well. 

9. Syrah and Spiced Dishes

For heavily spiced dishes, choose Syrah to help finish out the flavor of your dish. 

10. Zinfandel and Rich Plates

The richness of Zinfandel complements the richness of foods like pâtés, mousses, and terrines. 

A good rule of thumb is to pair red wines with red meats and fatty, hearty dishes. White wines are best with lighter flavors, perfect for fish and poultry. But no matter the wine your dish needs, make sure you check out The Wine Cellar Group’s large selection of premium wines. 

Wine and Chocolate

Wine and chocolate are some of the greatest pleasures in life. However, not all wine and chocolate pairings are created equal. For the best pairing, try to match the flavor intensity of the chocolate with your wine selection. To help you get started, we’ve put together a simple chocolate and wine pairing chart to help you choose the perfect match!

glass of red wine with chocolate on table

Chocolate and Wine Pairing Chart

When pairing wine and chocolate, remember the following rule. Match the intensity of the chocolate with the sweetness of the wine for best results. Like all rules, this one is okay to break. Get creative with your wine and chocolate pairings to find what you enjoy the most!

chocolate and wine pairing chart

Pizza And Wine

Pizza is a great food for any occasion. It is easy to make, and it tastes great. What’s not to love?

If you are looking for a wine that will go well with your pizza, there are many different types of wines that you can choose from. Red wine works well with pizza because it has the same tomato sauce base as pizza, and the red color compliments the tomato sauce and cheese on top of the pizza. White wine also goes well with pizza because it is light in flavor and pairs well with the doughy crust of a pizza.

bottle and glass of red wine paired with a pizza

Best Wine With Pizza

Cheese Pizza and Red Zinfandel or Sauvignon Blanc

Sometimes a classic cheese pizza is best. No frills, nothing fancy, and always hits the spot! We suggest paring it with a bold Red Zinfandel. Red Zin (especially ones out of California) are highly acidic and will balance out the buttery mozzarella cheese. Feeling a white wine instead? A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is perfect. Similar to a Red Zinfandel, the acid levels are high and pair perfectly with creamy cheese, especially a Quattro Formaggio pizza.

Meat Lovers and Cabernet or Sparkling Wine

Big, bold flavors require big, bold red wines. If you’re craving a pizza loaded with a mix of spicy sausage, bacon, pepperoni, or Canadian bacon, grab a hearty Cabernet. The spicy, peppery notes of a bold Cabernet will complement the meat(s) perfectly. Similarly, Sparkling wine creates the same sensation. The crispness of the bubbles mellow out the heaviness of the pizza toppings. We recommend trying a drier wine for the best results!

Veggie Pizza and Chardonnay or Rosé

Veggie pizza has so many options; light, crisp veggies such as artichokes, zucchini and squash, or heftier veggies like mushrooms, onions, and olives. No matter which toppings you enjoy on your veggie pizza, a good Chardonnay or Rosé will always do the trick. Unoaked Chardonnay has more of a fruit forward flavor profile with hints of earthiness to balance out the vegetables. Fruity, floral Rosé has higher notes of acidity and lends a nice refreshing layer that won’t overpower tomato sauce and roasted tomatoes.

Pepperoni Pizza and Pinot Noir

Pepperoni is another classic pizza topping, and a fan favorite. We suggest avoiding white wine this time around- the spice and fattiness of pepperoni will overpower a delicate white. Instead, opt for a light bodied red such as Pinot Noir with a little bit of fruitiness, which will have a low tannin level. Pinot Noir is typically lower in acid, which will really highlight the sugar and acid from the tomato sauce. South American Pinots bring a whole new level or flavor to the traditional Italian herbs that are used on pizza.

Find Your Wine at a Wine Cellar Outlet Near You!

From deep, earthy Pinot Noir to light, fragrant Sparklings, The Wine Cellar Group has the perfect wine for your food. Whether you shop online or in-store at a Wine Cellar location near you, you’ll be pleased to find a wide selection of wines ready for purchase or to gift! When you’re looking for a specific wine, or need recommendations on wine pairings, our knowledgeable staff is ready to help you make the perfect decision. Contact your nearest Wine Cellar Outlet by phone with any questions, visit us in-store, or shop online today!

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6 Comments

  1. Rebekah-Reply
    December 4, 2021 at 10:39 pm

    My sister has asked me to make a dish for her this Christmas: red wine cranberry pork short ribs. The recipe calls for a Cabernet Sauvignon, which I plan on using and drinking with my dinner, but my sister doesn’t drink red wine. She mostly drinks sweeter Pinot Gris, Riesling, and gewurztraminer. What do I pair with the ribs for her? Is there a sweeter rosé that would work?

    • Wine Cellar Group-Reply
      December 20, 2021 at 6:09 pm

      Hi Rebekah! A Riesling or a Gewürztraminer would pair very well with a braised pork dish like this. If a Shiraz isn’t too dry for her, that would be a great pairing as well! Cheers!

  2. Rani@LoneStarGatherings-Reply
    March 8, 2022 at 3:19 pm

    I wonder if she would try a Grenache based rosé? It would have structure to stand with the dish and complement the fruit flavors as well. Just an idea.

  3. Ron Wisniewski-Reply
    April 8, 2022 at 3:58 am

    You are missing one of the very best pairings: Sangiovese and red sauce-based dishes. Pizza, lasagne, veal parmigiana or spaghetti and meatballs with a 2015 or ‘16 reserve Chianti Classico or Brunello. Can’t be beat.

  4. David McGraw-Reply
    May 22, 2022 at 7:26 pm

    What is best wine to pair with sea bass filets on tomatillo/avocado smear.
    Side fennel/avocado/tomatillo salad

    1. Chardonnay
    2. Pinot Grigio
    3. Champagne
    4. Rose’ of Pinot

  5. Wine Cellar Group-Reply
    May 26, 2022 at 8:17 pm

    Hi David,

    We would suggest a crisp Pinot Grigio such as Il Casato Pinot Grigio from Italy or Ocellus Pinot Grigio from California! We also suggest a Vinho Verde such as the Seaside Cellars Vinho Verde from Portugal.

    Cheers,
    Gina from The Wine Cellar

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