Pairing Food and Wine


So far, Rusty and I have offered several examples of foods that pair well with each of our “Must-Try Wine of the Week” posts. But what about the myriad other foods we eat and wines we drink?

I know what you’re thinking. There must be an all-encompassing chart or table to tell you what food works with what wine, right? Well, yes—and no. Indeed, there are plenty of primers that purport to describe the perfect wine/food combinations. But the problem is that we all have different tastes. Therefore, what’s good for the goose just might not be good for the grouse…or something like that. So, let’s take a look at the basics, something beyond the trite “white with fish, and red with meat.”

Lighter Foods:
This category might include: lighter fish dishes, most shellfish, some pastas (with lighter sauces) and many salads (with lighter dressings).

Wine pairings to consider:

  • Whites from dry (Chablis) to slightly sweet (riesling). Wines such as pinot grigio (California); pinot blanc (Alsace); Muscadet (France, and ideal with oysters), German rieslings (kabinett or spatlese); or Champagne. By the way, Champagne was a terrific choice with the tagliatelle with chanterelles photographed above.
  • Those foods are also good with reds that are lighter in weight, such as: Chianti, Beaujolais, or a lighter pinot noir.

Medium Foods
– This might include: veal, heartier fish like salmon or swordfish, duck, chicken and game fowl, slightly heavier pasta/sauce combinations, and zestier salads.

Wine pairings to consider:

  • Whites that have some weight, such as: sauvignon blanc (New Zealand, California, South Africa); chardonnay (California, white Burgundies from France), and gruner (Austria).
  • Reds, such as pinot noir (worldwide); Burgundy (France); Cotes du Rhone (France); Brunello di Montalcino (Sangiovese, Italy); and Rioja (Spain).

Heavier Foods:
– This might include:* pork, lamb, beef, heartier fish or shellfish (lobster), stews, wild game.

  • Wine pairings to consider: Barolo (Italy); cabernet sauvignon (worldwide); Bordeaux (France); merlot (worldwide); zinfandel (California); syrah (California); and northern Rhone wines (France).

Related Content

  • Rusty Gaffney


    I don’t see any of the red wines listed under heavier foods to be a suitable match for heartier fish and especially lobster. Maybe you left out some whites.

    • Eric Anderson

      Yes, for brevity’s sake I conceivably left out a bunch of logical choices for the experienced wine fan. OTOH, this leaves us the perfect opportunity to “drill down” to these kinds of wines in a follow-up article.

  • Jay Selman

    I am not a big believer in wine and food pairing. I think much of it is based on habit and simplistic assumptions. Personally, I feel that the “trite” white with fish, and red with meat example you mentioned can be said for the vast majority of common pairings.

    • Eric Anderson

      Jay, now this opens up a whole new bottle of wine. 😉 You’re certainly right that food pairings can be highly subjective, and in some cases may not even work all that well. Rusty pointed a classic instance of this with the lobster and wine example — what REALLY slakes one’s thirst and still works well here? Probably beer – and the hoppier, the better, IMHO.

      But, all of this being said, one has to start somewhere in considering what wine (or other beverage) to drink with a meal. And that somewhere ought to be beyond just the old saw, “white with fish; red with meat.” To define it more specifically, one would have to consider the spices, sauces and condiments. Phew, that would be a tome!