ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Wine Pairing Methods, Charts for Matching, Pairing Wine with Food

Updated on November 15, 2016
janderson99 profile image

John applies his scientific & research skills (PhD) to develop recipes, food guides, reviews of healthy whole foods, ingredients & cooking

Wine and food pairing and matching is the method of choosing a combination of food and wine that complement each other to enhance the dining experience. In numerous cultures, wine has a long history as a staple accompaniment for evening meals. In many localities both the winemaking and food heritage have developed together so that each region has its own food and wine marriages made in heaven.

The major concept for pairing is that certain components (such as texture, aroma, strength and flavor) in both food and wine can be chosen to get the ideal blend of components, which will make the whole meal more enjoyable.

It is a two-way objective for the food to compliment and enhance the enjoyment of the wine, and the wine to enhance the enjoyment of the food. However, enjoyment and taste are very personal both for food and wine, and a textbook approach may not suit everyone. Lists and charts of foods and wines, as shown below, should be regarded as guidelines only.

One approach is to simply aim for a balance between the weight and complexity of the food and the heaviness (or body) of the wine. Heavy, strong and robust wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz can swamp lightweight dainty dishes like a quiche or an omelette, while lightweight wines like Pinot grigio could be similarly swamped by a hearty stew or curry. Beyond weight, other features like texture and tastes can either be complemented or contrasted in the wine and food. Pairings choices can also consider the acidity, alcohol content, sweetness and tannins in the wine and how they can be accentuated or minimized when paired with certain kinds of food.

The close relationship between food and wine in Europe is largely due to the parallel evolution of great regional wine making great cooking. It's no surprise that pairings for Italian, French, Greek wines reflect the marriage of regional wines and food in their provinces. New World wines from Australia New Zealand, North and South America have tended to follow these traditions. Beyond that it is important to understand the basic taste variations of wine: bitter, sweet and sour; and aromas: fruit, spice, floral and alcohol aromas. The texture of a wine - its weight and intensity is also an important consideration in food and wine pairing.

Marriages Made in Heaven and Contrasts Begging to Differ

For pairings you can choose either marriages or contrasts.

  • The marriage approach is focused on match like with like and creating harmony between the textures and flavours in the wine and food. The first step is matching by weight and complexity. One example of this approach is to match a ripe, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon with a grilled fillet of beef served with a range of vegetables and gravy.
  • The contrasts approach is about choosing food and wine that are direct opposites and using their interaction to create interest and character. An example of this is to pair a lively, light, young Riesling with pan roasted sea scallops cooked in a rich butter sauce. The wine adds a refreshing touch, when a heavy complex wine may been too much.

Red or White Wine

One tip is not to place too much emphasis on colour. The diverse range of wine on offer should tempt you to try something different, provided you know your wines. These days there is a huge range of weights for both red and white wine, and so, many other features are more important than color.

Elements of the Basic Approach

Examine the tastes and textures in the food dishes and select flavors that are alike or comparable in the wine and food. If the food contains truffles then an older style Pinot Noir can really work well, because of the matching 'gamey' aromas in the wine and the truffles. If the dish contains venison dish then this choice is better still. At other times you may be looking for opposing tastes. If you have a heavy complex dish you may be looking for a wine that will cut through the weight of the food.

At the end of the day there is no real right and wrong for the pairings which are totally your choice. Although many people regard seafood as requiring white wines, there are many fabulous lighter reds that really enhance the flavour of the seafood.

Matching wine and meals in dishes makes dining a more complete and satisfying experience. It can add layers and complexity to the meal.

Make Sure You Drink and Eat What You Like and Don't be Reliant on the Matching - Always choose a wine that you like to drink by itself. Don't choose one you don't like and hope that a food match will transform you experience. Even if the pairing doesn't work the way you expect it to, you will still enjoy the food and wine. The same holds true for the food which should also be something that you like by itself. If you hate offal and liver dishes, there is no wine that will change this. So don't depend on the pairing to make it work. A good pairing creates a fabulous talking point for dinner parties.

Look for Balance, and Features that Complement Each Other - Consider the weight (body), or richness and complexity of both the wine and food which should be chosen to be equal partners, with neither dominating the other. Hearty food generally needs a hearty type of wine. Cabernet Sauvignon goes well with grilled lamb chops because they are both strongly flavored and heavy. Likewise delicate poached fish goes well with a light white wine.

When considering weight it is the fat content and the sauces used which are major factors affecting the choice of wine. In terms of the wine, look at the color, grape variety, age, and alcohol content.

Match the Wine to the Most Distinctive Feature of the Dish - Identify the dominant feature of the food such as the seasoning, the sauce, or cooking method, rather than simply being swayed by the main ingredient. Consider the differences between a Chicken Marsala dish and a poached Chicken breast dish. They have the same basic ingredient, but the cooking method and sauce dictate the type of wine that complements them.

Understanding the components of the Grapes and Wine - For a wine the features to consider are the grape variety, the fruit flavors, sweetness, acidity and levels of alcohol, and tannins. Red wines differ from whites mostly because of tannins and flavors imparted by the barrels in which they are matured. Both White and Red wines share many similar flavors and aromas. White wine can be spicy, leathery, earthy and buttery - flavors which may be commonly associated with red wines. However the pear,apple and citrus flavors shown by many white wines seldom show up in reds. Similarly, the dark currant, tannin taste, cherry and plum flavors of red grapes usually rarely appear in white wine.

Consider Structure and Texture of the Combination - Look at the way certain ingredients in a dish can accentuate or reduce the acidity or sweetness of a wine, or the bitterness of its tannins. The paired wine and food should round out the tastes. But beware of the negative effects. Sweet food may make dry wine taste sour. Acidic ingredients in the food such as lemon or lime, may make acid tasting wines feel softer and more rounded in comparison. Sweetness on the plate pairs well with a sweet wine. Tannins interact with salt, fats and spicy flavors making a strong robust wine such as a Shiraz seem smoother. However, very salty foods accentuate the taste of the tannins and can make a red wine seem rough and bitter. Salt tends to accentuates the strength of a high-alcohol wine.

Look for Flavor Links - The aromatics and taste of a wine often resembles herbs, fruits, spices and butter. By choosing the ingredients in the food that match these tastes you can accentuate the match and linkages. Various Cabernet wines have flavors resembling currants. Add real currants to the food can expand the links and round out the food and wine.

Consider Age and Complexity - As wine ages it develops a unique set of textures and flavors. For example, fresh fruity flavors of a young wine may give way to earthy and raisin flavors in the complex older wine. This can expand the range of uses for a given wine variety.

© janderson99-HubPages


Below are a set of Charts and Guidelines that provide some suggestions for matching food and wine.

Chart of Foods that Match Wine Varieties

Red Wine
Main Course
Cabernet Sauvignon
Carpacio, pungent (stinky) cheeses
Beef, duck, lamb, lentils
Dark and bittersweet chocolate
Antipasto, aged cheeses
Veal, sausage, salmon, tuna, eggplant
Raspberry, cherry or other dark berry desserts
Seared Ahi tuna, spicy chicken or beef satay
Barbecue, tomato sauce, spicy sausage, duck and beef
Dark berry desserts, carrot cake
Pinot Noir
Creamy cheeses, pate's, roasted vegetables
Veal, chicken, turkey, lean cuts of beef, lamb
Berry tart, flourless chocolate cake, crème brulee
Bruschetta, stuffed mushrooms, tampenade
Ham, lamb, pasta with tomato sauce, pizza, barbecues
Cherry pie, chocolate mousse
White Wine
Main Course
Scallops, crudite, hummus, mild cheeses
Chicken, cream based sauces, pork and seafood
Cheesecake, poached light fruit
Sauvignon Blanc
Oysters, crab cakes, wild mushroom and goat cheese bruschetta
Sea bass, lobster, langoustines, chicken, shrimp
Sorbet, key lime pie, lemon meringue pie
Pinot Grigio
Ceviche, ahi tuna tartare, antipasto
Risotto, grilled chicken, lobster, white sauces, crab
Petit fours, apple tart
Calamari, steamed clams, creamy chesses
Roasted chicken, grilled pork, baked ham
Light cakes, cream based pie, baked apples

Chart of Food and Wine Pairs (Foods listed Alphabetically)

Chianti Classico
Ancho Chile
Tempranillo, Northern Rhone Syrah Shiraz
Pinot Grigio, Sancerre
Asiago Cheese
Red Wine: Shiraz/syrah, zinfandel, Merlot, port, Madeira, Bardolino White: Champagne/sparkling, rosé
Asian Food
Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Sparkling Wine
Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio
Baked, roasted or sautéed meats and vegetables
Red Wine: Pinot noir, Chianti, merlot; White Wine: Chardonnay, viognier, rosé, champagne/sparkling
Zinfandel, Shiraz
Zinfandel, Cabernet, Pinot Noir
Blue Cheese
Red Wine: Cabernet, zinfandel, shiraz/syrah, port; White Wine: Sauternes, sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc
Brie Cheese
Red Wine: Merlot, pinot noir; White Wine: Champagne/sparkling, sweet sherry, chardonnay, rosé
Cascabel Chile
Pinot Noir
Gewürztraminer, Champagne
Cheddar Cheese (sharp)
Red Wine: Cabernet, rioja, merlot; White Wine: Sauvignon blanc, gewurztraminer
Cheddar Cheese (mild)
White Wine: Champagne/sparkling, chardonnay
Cheesecake, fruit, and most pies and pastries
Red Wine: Port, madeira; White Wine: Riesling, late-harvest sauvignon blanc, demi-sec or doux champagne/sparkling, sauternes, tokaji
Red Wine: Sangiovese, Chianti, Beaujolais, Merlot, Burgandy, pinot noir. White: Chardonnay, viognier, sauvignon blanc, trebbiano, rousanne, semillon
Chicken enchiladas with red sauce
Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Cabernet, Merlot
Chipotle Chile
Argentine Malbec , Spanish Tempranillo
Red Wine: Port, Madeira, Recioto della Valpolicella; White Wine:  
Cream Cheese
White Wine: White zinfandel
Cream Soups
Cream-based dishes
Red Wine: Pinot noir, Chianti, merlot; White Wine: Chardonnay, viognier
Pinot Noir, Bordeaux, Cabernet Savignon
Duck, goose, pheasant
Red Wine: Pinot noir, merlot, sangiovese, Chianti, barbaresco, red bordeaux, cabernet, Grenache, nebbiolo, syrah/shiraz, zinfandel; White Wine: Chardonnay
Edam Cheese
Red Wine: Pinot Noir; White Wine: Riesling
Egg dishes
Red Wine: Rose White Wine: Chardonnay, pinot grigio, Champagne
Argentine Torrontes New Zealand Pinot Noir
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Feta Cheese
Red Wine: Beaujolais; White Wine: Chenin blanc, champagne/sparkling, sauvignon blanc
Fish dishes, rich
Champagne, Merlot, Pinot Noir
Foie Gras
Barolo, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir
Fontina Cheese
Red Wine: Chianti, nebbiolo, barbaresco; White Wine: Chenin blanc, riesling, rosé
Pinot Noir, Barolo, Barbaresco
General Cheese
Red Wine: Red wines low in tannins (esp. Chianti or pinot noir) and red dessert wines; White Wine: Sweet whites and white dessert wines (esp. champagne, sauvignon blanc, rosé, chenin blanc or Riesling)
General Desserts
Red Wine: Port, madeira; White Wine: Sweet/late-harvest wines
General Vegetarian Dishes
Red Wine: Low-tannin and light-bodied red wines (esp. dolcetto or Grenache); White Wine: Well-balanced white wines (esp. chardonnay)
Goat cheese (aged)
Red Wine: Pinot noir, shiraz/syrah; White Wine: Chardonnay, rosé
Goat cheese (soft)
Red Wine: Pinot noir, Beaujolais; White Wine: Champagne/sparkling, gewürztraminer, sauvignon blanc
Cabernet, Rioja, Sauvignon Blanc
Gorgonzola Cheese
Red Wine: Port, Madeira; White Wine: Bourdeaux , sauternes
Gouda Cheese
Red Wine: Zinfandel; White Wine: Champagne/sparkling, Riesling, chenin blanc
Grilled meats and vegetables
Red Wine: Cabernet, syrah/shiraz, zinfandel, pinot noir; White Wine:  
Gruyere Cheese
Red Wine: Merlot, Pinot Noir,; White Wine: Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, champagne/sparkling
Guajillo Chile
Habanero Chile
Chardonnay or Viognier
Red Wine: Chenin blanc, rosé; White Wine:  
Havarti Cheese
Red Wine: Rioja; White Wine: Bourdeaux
Herb and pesto dishes
Red Wine: Merlot, sangiovese, Chianti; White Wine: Pinot grigio
Hoja Santa
Riesling or Vouvray (Chenin Blanc)
Red Wine: Pinot noir, cabernet, merlot, red Rhone, syrah/shiraz, zinfandel, Barolo, malbec; White Wine:  Riesling
Lemon-based dishes
White Wine: Riesling, sauvignon blanc, champagne/sparkling
Light fish (catfish, sea bass, cod, snapper, etc.)
White Wine: Bordeaux, chardonnay, pinot grigio, white Rhone, sauvignon blanc, viognier, trebbiano
Meaty fish (salmon, sturgeon, tuna, shark, etc.)
Red Wine: Pinot noir, Chianti, Beaujolais, merlot, sangiovese; White Wine: Chardonnay, Bordeaux, rosé
Mexican Food
White Zinfandel
Monterey jack Cheese
White Wine: Riesling
Mozzerella Cheese
Red Wine: Chianti; White Wine: Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc
Muenster Cheese
Red Wine: Beaujolais, zinfandel; White Wine:  
Burgandy, Barolo
Red Wine: Red Bourdeaux; White Wine:  
Non-vinaigrette salads
Red Wine: Chianti, shiraz, beaujolais; White Wine: Chardonnay, pinot grigio
Parmesan Cheese
Red Wine: Chianti, port, Madeira; White Wine: Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauternes, sauvignon blanc, gewurztraminer, rosé
Pasilla Chile
Zinfandel (rich spicy-fruit), Chilean Cabernet blends (dark fruit, soft tannins).
Chianti, Pinot Grigio, Chardonny
Pecorino Cheese
Red Wine: Chianti, tempranillo; White Wine:  
Red Wine: Grenache, nebbiolo, dolcetto/bourdon noir; White Wine: Chardonnay
Poached or steamed meats and vegetables
White Wine: Riesling, trebbiano, sauvignon blanc, demi-sec or doux champagne/sparkling
Poblano Chile
Austrian Grüner Veltliner, Moscatel or dry Riesling (focus on citrus flavors)
Chardonnay, Sparkling wine
Red Wine: Cabernet, red Bourdeaux, Grenache, merlot, nebbilo, pinot noir, Chianti, tempranillo; White Wine: Chardonnay, gewürztraminer, sauvignon blanc, trebbiano
Provolone Cheese
Red Wine: Chianti; White Wine: Chardonnay
Red sauce pastas
Red Wine: Malbec, Chianti, merlot, sangiovese; White Wine:  
Roast Beef
Cabernet, Chenin Blanc
Roasted red meats
Red Wine: Cabernet, tempranillo, merlot, Rhone, syrah/shiraz, zinfandel; White Wine:  
Sauvignon Blanc; Pinot Gris, Rhrone
Sausages, spicy
Serrano or Jalapeño Chile
Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc (grassy freshness) or Oregon Pinot Gris (fruity)
White Wine: Chardonnay, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, Gewurztraminer
Smoked Salmon
Riesling, Champagne
Spicy seafood dishes
White Wine: Champagne/sparkling wine, white zinfandel, trebbiano
Spicy vegetarian food
Red Wine: Dolcetto/bourdon noir; White Wine: Champagne/sparkling, gewürztraminer, Riesling, chenin blanc
St. Andre Cheese
Red Wine: Rose; White Wine:  
Red Wine: Malbec, syrah/shiraz, Beaujolais, zinfandel;
Chardonnay, Riesling,
Swiss Cheese
Red Wine: Pinot Noir, Barbera, Beaujolais; White Wine: Gewurztraminer
Côtes du Rhône, lighter California Syrah, (soft, youthful fruit) or Alsatian Riesling (fruity with good minerality).
Red Wine: Sangiovese, Chianti, Beaujolais, Pinot Noir; White Wine: Chardonnay, viognier, sauvignon blanc, trebbiano, Dry Riesling, Gewurztraminer, rousanne, semillon
Red Wine: Cabernet, grenache, Bordeaux,pinot noir, merlot, sangiovese, syrah/shiraz, zinfandel; White Wine:  Chardonnay, Chianti, White Burgandy
Vegetable Side Dishes
Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
Red Wine: Barolo, pinot noir, red Rhone, cabernet, merlot, syrah/shiraz, zinfandel, valpolicella; White Wine:  
Very spicy dishes
White Wine: Blush, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc, Riesling
Vinaigrette salads
White Wine: Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, Riesling
White sauce pastas
White Wine: Chardonnay

Wine Pairs for Japanese Food

Mixed sashimi platter
Champagne/sparkling wine (Blanc de Noirs, rosé), light rosé (Marsannay), fruity white (Albariño, Cassis, Mâcon), dry Riesling
Maguro (tuna)
elegant Pinot Noir (Volnay, Santeney), light red (Crozes-Hermitage), full-bodied rosé (Bandol), Champagne (Blanc de Noirs or rosé), mature red
Toro (fatty tuna)
elegant Pinot Noir (Chambolle-Musigny), Champagne (Blanc de Noirs), light rosé (Marsannay)
Shake/Sake (salmon)
Champagne/sparkling rosé, light rosé, dry Riesling (off-dry for nigiri)
Ebi (shrimp)
mineral white (Chablis 1er cru), Champagne (Blanc de Blancs), dry Riesling (Alsace GC)
Amaebi (sweet shrimp)
sweet sparkler (Prosecco, Asti), Champagne/sparkling rosé, off-dry rosé, off-dry white (Vouvray demi-sec, Riesling Kabinett)
Hotate (scallops)
dry Riesling (Alsace GC), fruity white (Mâcon, Albariño
Awabi (abalone)
mineral white (Chablis)
Ika (squid)
fruity white (Cassis, Vermentino)
Gyuu no Tataki (raw beef)
elegant Pinot Noir (Chambolle-Musigny), Bordeaux red (Margaux), light red (Chinon, Fleurie), full-bodied rosé (Tavel), Champagne/sparkling rosé
Basashi (raw horse)
Morgon, elegant Pinot Noir, Champagne/sparkling rosé
Tori no sashimi (raw chicken)
Pinot Blanc/Weissburgunder,
Mixed tempura
Champagne/sparkling wine, Chablis, Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, dry Chenin Blanc (Vouvray), Albariño, Sherry (Manzanilla or Fino), light rosé (Provence
Mixed Yakitori
salt: light red (Chinon, Beaujolais), light white (Sauvignon Blanc), full-bodied rosé (Tavel); sauce: rich oaked red (Rioja Crianza, Merlot, ripe Pinot Noir)
Beef Teriyaki
rich oaked red, sweet/fortified red (Vintage Porto, Banyuls)
Chicken Teriyaki
Beaujolais cru (Morgon), semi-sweet white, late harvest Riesling
Salmon Teriyaki
late harvest Riesling (Alsace VT, German Spätlese), sweet sparkler, oaked white (California, Australia)
Sukiyaki (sweet soy soup)
ripe Pinot Noir (Oregon, Sonoma, 2003 or 2009 Burgundy), Côtes du Rhône (’07 Châteauneuf du Pape or Gigondas), Chile Carmanère

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson


Submit a Comment

  • foodandculture profile image

    foodandculture 4 years ago

    Great guide for both wine enthusiasts and newbies alike. This is really handy, especially if you're planning a dinner with family and friends. Thanks for this!

  • fordie profile image

    fordie 5 years ago from China

    I'm also bookmarking this one. An interesting and comprehensive guide. Thank you

  • ElizaDoole profile image

    Lisa McKnight 5 years ago from London

    Being a bit of a foodie I am bookmarking this hub for reference. Thanks for this and congrats on your 500 hubs. Voted up and useful.