Food & Wine Matching

Woody’s Whine on Matching Food and Wine

Successful food and wine matching is not brain surgery, but it does require some understanding of chemistry. And while not sexy as a concept, it does pay to understand how the salt, sweet, sour, bitterness and spices (heat) of food compliment or clash with the acid, tannins, fruit flavors, sugar content (sweetness) and a myriad of the chemical components that occur naturally or are induced into the wine making process.

There are thousands of possible food and wine matches and thousands of more variables to those matches and each of you will have your own favorites. The vintage date of a red wine or white wine that is simply too cold ,can and does, make or break even the most classic match so don’t be disappointed if not everything works the first time, or the second. Sometimes mystery is name of the game but you’ll know you’ve solved it when it all comes together.

A Few Thoughts:

  • A food and wine match is best as either a complement or a contrast.
  • The main flavor of the main dish is usually matched to the main flavor in the wine. For example, simple roasted chicken or turkey and Chardonnay. The whole game changes though when you cover that chicken with a rich pan gravy or add sausage stuffing and cranberries to the turkey, you could be on your way to a Pinot Noir or even a Zin so keep all of your element flavors in mind as you comprehend the final match.
  • Beef presents that same problem whether it’s roasted as in prime rib or grilled as in steak. Roasting liquefies fat as juices that coat the tongue and carry much of the flavor of the meat calling for a red wine but one that is low in tannin such as Merlot or Pinot Noir. Grilling beef caramelizes the fat and creates a much more pungent flavor that needs the tannins of a Cabernet or Zinfandel.
  • With Asian foods, keep in mind the heat and sweetness. If the main dish is either fairly sweet or hot, choose an off-dry wine, preferably with lower alcohol, such as a German Riesling.
  • With salty foods, pick an off-dry wine with flowery character, such as a Gewürztraminer.
  • Vinegar is bad – avoid wine with salad dressings unless they are creamy style.
  • When in doubt, California sparkling wine and quality rosé wines are classic all-purpose matches for a wide variety of cuisine’s. The high acid content of the sparkling wine clears the palate and the bit of tannin from the red in the rose’ is a good match to ham and pork and a variety of appetizers.
  • Hungry? Sometimes mystery is the name of the game.


Food & Wine Matching Chart:

Food: Preparation: Wine Ideas
Chicken Grilled Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Rosé
Barbecued Zinfandel, Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone
Baked Chardonnay
Roast Merlot, Chianti, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay
Fried Rosé, Beaujolais
Stir Fried Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay
Poached Champagne, White Bordeaux
Turkey Roasted Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Chardonnay
Fish Grilled Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Sparkling Wine
Poached Dry Riesling, Champagne
Sautéed Chenin Blanc, off-dry Riesling, Sparkling Wine
Salmon Poached Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris
Grilled Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Blanc de Noirs Sparkling
Scallops Grilled Chardonnay, Sancerre
Lobster Steamed Chardonnay, Sparkling wine, Pouilly-fume, Sancerre, Chablis
Lamb Leg Roasted Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel
Steak Grilled Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel
Pork Loin Roasted Chianti, Zinfandel
Prime Rib Roasted Merlot, St. Emilion, Pinot Noir, Burgundy
Pasta Red sauce Chianti, Barolo, Barbera, Zinfandel
White sauce Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé
Game Roasted Syrah, Petite Syrah, Bordeaux
Duck Baked Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Zinfandel
Hamburger or Meat Loaf Baked Young Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Chianti
Ribs BBQ Chardonnay, Riesling
Mild Cheeses Chardonnay, Riesling
Medium Cheeses Young Pinot Noir
Hearty, Ripe Cheeses Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Port