Beginner’s Guide to Food & Wine Pairing

The world of food and wine pairing can be extremely intimidating to beginners. It is important to keep in mind that while there are guidelines and suggestions for making the best pairing choices, ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. If all resources point to a particular wine that is not a personal favorite, there is always an alternative that can be more pleasing to one person than another. The basics of wine and food pairing are quite simple; white wines for white sauces and meats and red wines for red sauces and red meats. There are exceptions to this basic rule, with pork being an example, but for beginners, this is the easiest way to begin pairing foods and wine.

Sauvignon Blanc and Roasted Turkey

Wine should generally be matched with the taste intensity of the food. For instance, a mild-flavored food requires a mild-flavored wine to make a successful pairing and keep one from over powering the other. White wines also tend to work best with white meat than dark meat. Roasted turkey and Sauvignon Blanc complement each other well because they are both of a medium flavor intensity. Sauvignon Blanc also tends to have an herbal or grassy taste, which goes well with herbs that are often added to roasted turkey. If a sauce or gravy is added to the turkey, however, it is best to re-evaluate the wine choice to match the flavor of the sauce instead of the turkey.

Merlot and Spaghetti

Merlots are generally medium-to-full-flavored wines that work well with red sauces because most red sauces also have medium-to-full flavors. In fact, merlot is often used when cooking many rich, tomato-based sauces. This flavor combination works because Merlot gives the same deep and savory taste that is given when eating a dish with red sauce, such as spaghetti, and the acidity in both the wine and food are on the same level. Because of the matching acidity and flavor intensity, the sauce brings out different flavor notes within the wine, such as the hints of red fruits.

  • Food Pairing: The Basics: This resource discusses the basics of learning to pair food with wines for optimal flavors.
  • Food Pairing Suggestions: Ultimately, choosing a perfect food pairing is a matter of preference, but this guide can point beginners in the right direction.
  • Types of Red Wines: Red wines go best with red sauces. This website offers many other red wines that compliment red sauces for those that are not big fans of Merlot.
  • Wine 101: Merlot: Merlot might get a bad rap, but it’s a great match for a wide range of foods.
  • Merlot Wine Sauce: Merlot can be used to make sauces for various types of red meats to enhance the flavor of the main course.

Pinot Noir and Pork Roast

Pinot Noir is taken to a whole new level when paired with pork roast. Pinot Noir is a light-to-medium-flavored red wine that exhibits various flavor notes, including red fruits and spices. Pork is different than most meats, as it is a white meat, although it can be paired with both white and red wines. Pinot Noir is a good option for basic pork entrees, as pairing the fruit-and-spice-flavored wine with pork brings out the lighter flavors of the wine without overpowering the flavors from the pork.

  • Creating Pairings That Work (PDF): A guide looks at creating food and wine pairings that work to enhance the flavors of the wine.
  • Pairing Pork and Beverages (PDF): This resource covers all of the possible wine combinations for different types of pork entrees.
  • Pork and Wine: Pork is unique because it can be paired with both red and white wines; this website discusses both types of wines that can be enhanced with pork.
  • Pinot Noir: More information about the flavors, aromas, and creation of Pinot Noir is provided to help understand the complexities within the taste.
  • Food Wine: Pinot Noir is considered to be one of the most versatile food wines.

Muscat and Milk Chocolate Cake

Muscat is a sweet white dessert wine that compliments milk and white chocolates well. The acidity in the wine is much lower than that of other white wines; therefore, it goes best with light desserts versus those that are very rich or include dark chocolate. A light, fluffy milk chocolate cake with a white chocolate or milk chocolate icing is an excellent match for Muscat wine that will enhance both the flavor of the wine and chocolate. The light chocolate will bring out fruity notes in the wine, while the wine will bring out more of the sweetness in the cake.

Chardonnay and Lobster

Chardonnay is known for being one of the more difficult white wines to pair with food, as it is a very full-flavored wine. Generally, Chardonnay that has aged works well with creamy sauces and white meats. Lobster in a buttery, creamy sauce is a favorite food pairing for Chardonnay with many wine enthusiasts. This combination works because during the aging process, the Chardonnay picks up oak flavors from the oak barrels that the wine is held within. Chardonnay often has a buttery, creamy flavor after aging, which complements the cream and butter used within the sauce for the lobster. Pairing the wine with food flavors that are subtle within the wine helps bring out more of these flavors when sipping the Chardonnay. If the Chardonnay were paired with a completely different food, like a citrus-based sauce, it would enhance and emphasize the citrus notes within the wine instead of the creamy/buttery ones. The acidity within the Chardonnay will vary greatly depending on the aging method that was used and the area from which the wine was derived.