Wine & Food Pairing Basics

Wine & Food Pairing Basics

Posted by on Jun 30th 2021

Wine & food paring can be a tricky and overwhelming task when you really dive into that rabbit hole. In this article and chart from Wine Folly we will get into some of the basics. We think these pairing charts are a very useful tool to get you started.

Learn food and wine pairing basics so you can create your own pairings. This guide will show you the steps on how to pair. You’ll also learn what to look for in a recipe in order to make great wine matches. A great food and wine pairing creates a balance between the components of a dish and the characteristics of a wine. As much as pairing food and wine is complex, the basics are simple to grasp.

Trust Your Taste Above All Else.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you should always drink and eat what you like, so throw out everything you’ve been told about wine and food pairings. When in doubt, pick a wine you love. That way, even if the pairing isn’t perfect, you’ll still enjoy what you’re drinking.

It’s All About Balance.

Wine and food should be partners, both helping each other, and neither should overwhelm the other. Rich foods need a rich wine that won’t fade in comparison to bold flavors, while light foods need a delicate wine so the flavors aren’t overwhelmed. When trying to determine the weight of your food, assess its fat content. For instance, a blue cheese salad, despite the fact that it is a salad, is a heavier dish. When assessing wine, take clues from its color, grape variety, and color. Wines that are less alcoholic tend to be lighter bodied.

Pair Wine With the Most Prominent Feature Of A Dish.

The most prominent feature of a dish—usually the sauce rather than the main ingredient is critical in determining the best wine for said dish. Baked salmon with a cream sauce, for instance, will work with a different wine than a salmon with a light dill sauce. “Malbec can stand up to spicier dishes, because flavors of the rub bring out the spicier elements of the wine

Wine pairing basics

Thanks to this guide, you can discover many classic wine-and-food pairings at a glance. Read on to learn more about each of the wine categories covered in the our wine pairing cheat sheet.

Sweet White

Gewurztraminer, Malvasia, Moscato

Food pairings: soft cheese, hard cheese, cured meat, sweets

Sweeter whites get along famously with salty appetizers and rich desserts, but also (surprise!) with spicy Asian dishes. Why? The sweet can help tame the heat.

Rich White

Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne

Food pairings: soft cheese, starches, fish, rich fish, white meat

Bigger, creamier whites have the body to stand up to bigger, creamier flavors. That’s why Chardonnay and salmon are such a classic pairing.

Generally speaking, rich whites are less acidic and play well with a variety of leaner meats such as pork loin or chicken.


Champagne, Prosecco, Sparkling Wine, Cava

Food pairings: vegetables, soft cheese, hard cheese, starches, fish

Sparkling whites are fun and festive, but they pair well with the most basic snack foods. Why? Salt. Champagne and french fries, anyone?

Light Red

St. Laurent, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Zweigelt

Food pairings: roasted vegetables, starches, rich fish, white meat, cured meat

Lighter reds are shape-shifters, depending on the dish and the varietal. They tend to interact well with leaner red meats, fattier fish or white meats, and earthier vegetable flavors like mushrooms.

Medium Red

Red Table Wine, Zinfandel, Merlot

Food pairings: roasted vegetables, hard cheese, starches, white meat, red meat, cured meat

Medium-bodied reds are pretty versatile, though there are many differences from bottle to bottle. They’re a flexible choice if your meal takes you from cheese plate through salad and a tomato-based Italian pasta to dessert.

Bold Red

Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Anglianico

Food pairings: hard cheese, starches, red meat, cured meat

Big bold reds are the classic steak wine — rich and tannic enough to cut through the fat. But they don’t stop there. Think BBQ chicken or any other seriously spiced entrée.


Late Harvest, Port, Ice Wine, Sherry

Food pairings: soft cheese, starches, cured meat, sweets

Dessert wines go with — you guessed it — dessert, which includes sweets, chocolate, cheeses, and salty nuts, the small bites that help you round out a meal.


White Zinfandel, Garnacha Rosado, Provence Rosé

Food pairings: vegetables, roasted vegetables, starches, soft cheese, hard cheese, fish, rich fish, white meat, cured meat

When in doubt, rosé. Rosé wines have the crisp acidity of a white with the fruitiness of a red, which gives them footing with a variety of dishes and cuisines. 

9 More Tips For Pairing Wine & Food

If you’re just getting started, you’ll find these tried-and-true methodologies to produce consistently great pairings. That said, as you get more familiar with different wines, you’ll become confident and can experiment breaking the rules! 

  1. The wine should be more acidic than the food.
  2. The wine should be sweeter than the food.
  3. The wine should have the same flavor intensity as the food.
  4. Red wines pair best with bold flavored meats (e.g. red meat).
  5. White wines pair best with light-intensity meats (e.g. fish or chicken).
  6. Bitter wines (e.g. red wines) are best balanced with fat.
  7. It is better to match the wine with the sauce than with the meat.
  8. More often than not, White, Sparkling and Rosé wines create contrasting pairings.
  9. More often than not, Red wines will create congruent pairings.

We hope this basic guide helps you with your Wine and Food Pairings!