Matching the right food and wine can be tricky. But there are some no-brainer pairings that will make your next meal a feast for the eyes and palate.
Tangy foods such as salads brushed in vinaigrettes or delicate fish dishes won’t overwhelm zippy wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Vinho Verde, or Arneis. Dry riesling’s sweet flavor can even take the heat of spicy dishes.
1 Meats, Poultry, and Game Birds
The main meats and poultry that are generally available in restaurants and pair well with wine include chicken, beef and fish. Generally speaking, a dry white is best for these entrees. This includes Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. A medium red wine also pairs very well with these foods. This includes Merlot and Zinfandel.
For those who are looking to expand their menu options beyond the bland factory-raised chicken, there are a variety of game birds that can be found at local hunting clubs and put-and-takes. Ring-necked pheasants, for example, have mild breast meat that is very similar to chicken. This makes them ideal for introducing new hunters and non-hunters to wild game.
Foie gras is rich and salty and needs a bold wine to balance it. This is where a Rhône blend or even a cabernet sauvignon comes into play.
Also, brisket is a delicious meat. It’s a cut of beef from the breast or lower chest of the cow. It requires slow cooking. It’s also a bit tricky to pair it with wine.
Cheese is an incredible pairing partner for many wines. The key is to find the right balance between the peculiar characteristics of each. Look for complementary or contrasting pairings such as fig jam and fresh goat cheese or sharp cheddar with crisp apple slices.
It’s also important to match the intensity of wine and food. Richer dishes require fuller-bodied wines, while lighter meals are best suited for light ones.
Earthy mushroom dishes pair beautifully with Shiraz, while a simple grilled chicken and tomato salad is a great fit for Pinot Grigio.
3 Fruits and Berries
If you’re looking for a refreshing, light option try pairing sweet fruits and berries with wine. A classic combination is strawberries and Champagne; the sweetness of the berries complements the sparkling bubbles and fruity undertones of the wine.
Generally, wines pair well with foods that have one or two dominant tastes. A rich Pinot Noir pairs perfectly with earthy, savory dishes, while a buttery Chardonnay is ideal with poultry.
Similarly, salty food can enhance the bitterness in a wine while also complementing its sweetness. This makes Rieslings a great wine pairing choice for savory and salty foods.
Seafood is not as easy to pair with wine as some other foods because many seafood dishes have delicate flavors that can be overpowered by fuller wines. That said, it’s generally true that lighter white wines pair well with fish and shellfish.
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Squid and oysters pair wonderfully with Sauvignon Blanc’s citrus flavors. Tuna and salmon are meatier fish that can stand up to more full-bodied wines, such as a white Burgundy. Sea bass has a mild flavor and can be paired with almost any wine, but a crisp Pinot Grigio is a great choice.
When wine is paired with the right foods, it can elevate any meal from ordinary to extraordinary. But this requires a certain level of commitment and a deep understanding of both your wine and food.
Rich wines like Cabernet Sauvignon need a savory dish to balance their flavor profile. Lighter meats, like chorizo, work well with lambrusco and other lightly spritzed wines.
Oysters, fresh herbs, and delicate fish work best with white wines such as Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. Because of their crisp white taste, these wines offer high acidity and balance the umami-flavored seafood. The savoriness of salty dishes can also be balanced by a crisp glass of Champagne, which has an element of sweetness.
6 Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are protein rich, heart healthy snacks which contain unsaturated fat, fiber, magnesium and vitamins. They regulate body weight and help protect against heart disease and diabetes.
They add crunchy textures, unique flavors and extra nutrients to granola, salads and main dishes. They also make a nutritious addition to baking.
Keep a variety of nuts and seeds (including peanuts which are actually legumes) on hand to sprinkle on top of yogurt or fruit, make into a crunchy granola or add crunch to roasted vegetables. Or try them in a stir fry or sauce as seen in this delicious Premium Black Rice with Edamame and Peanut Sauce recipe.
Nuts and seeds can be toasted on the stovetop or in an oven. Toasting intensifies their flavor and takes 5 to 10 minutes depending on the nut or seed.
There are countless chocolate and wine pairings to explore, but some classic combinations are perfect for parties or date nights. A creamy lobster dish pairs nicely with a crisp white like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, while a light bodied Pinot Noir is great for a chocolate-dipped strawberry appetizer or a prosciutto and melon skewer.
A Pinot Noir or a Riesling with fruity undertones is also ideal for milk chocolate, and a light bodied Gewurztraminer is great for dark chocolate or a fortified dessert such as Banyuls or Malmsey Madeira.
For a more adventurous option, try a white wine with some skin-contact that has been aged in oak or a nutty Sherry such as Amontillado. With personal palate profiles being a big factor, this is an area where it’s easy to have fun experimentation with different combinations.
8 Grilled Vegetables
You can serve grilled vegetables as a stand alone side dish or add them to your favorite pasta, salad or even pizza. You can also chop the grilled vegetables and use them in sandwiches.
Foods that are rich in umami (savory flavors) pair well with wines that are high in acidity, tannic or have a fruity profile. This style of pairing is known as a contrasting wine pairing.
Dry white wines with great acidity like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris or Riesling are the perfect match for grilled veggies and oysters. They also pair beautifully with seafood, light sauces and herbs.
9 Olives and Pickles
Although a tasty treat on their own, olives only become edible after being steeped in oil or salt brine. This process removes a bitter compound called oleuropein making them perfect for wine pairings.
The acidity in white and rose wines accentuates the flavors of these snacks. This is called a congruent pairing where similar flavors amplify each other.
Other vegetables can be difficult to pair with wine, such as artichokes, asparagus and fennel. These foods contain a chemical called cynarin that can make wines taste metallic or sweet. Serving these vegetables with vinaigrettes or adding lemon juice can help soften the impact on the wine.
10 Herbs Spices and Condiments
Herbs, spices and condiments can be tricky to pair with wine as their flavor profiles can overpower a typical wine. However, with some careful thought it is possible to find a pairing that will be both palate pleasing and delicious!
Savory herbs like basil and paprika can go well with a light aromatic white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc. Its lemony citrus flavors can complement the herb’s herbal, grassy aromas.
Spicy, aromatic foods can be counterbalanced with sweet wines like German Rieslings and Muscat-based wines as their flowery and fruity flavors can balance out the heat of the food.
Similarly, salty foods like cheeses and cured meats can be balanced by pairing them with a sweet fortified wine such as port. Alternatively, rich full-bodied red wines can also be paired with salty food because the tannic acid in the wine helps to cut through the fat in the food.
There are so many different food options that can be perfectly paired with wine. From fresh and light appetizers like cheeses and charcuterie to more complex dishes like risotto or steak, there is a perfect wine that matches. Take the most tasteful adventure and experiment with food and wine. You might find the perfect combo nobody ever thought about.
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