Daou food and wine pairing

Bacon wrapped dates stuffed with manchego cheese, date & berry jam, balsamic reduction

How to choose wine for dinner and other meals – match food with wine

Matching food and wine is something of an art. However, even the novice can follow a few guidelines that will definitely improve their ability to appropriately pair a wine with a meal. This is the best guide to matching food and wine for the beginning wine lover.

Wine Pairing Rule One

One guideline to live by in pairing food and wine: Light foods go with light wines. Heavy foods go with heavy wines. Delicate meals need a light wine. Heavier meals need a bigger wine.

Example: Filet of Sole goes nicely with a Sauvignon Blanc, not a Zinfandel.
Example: A pesto pizza with prosciutto and cheese goes nicely with a Zinfandel, not a Sauvignon Blanc.

Wine Pairing Rule Two

If you like your everyday red or white wine, don’t worry about trying to match the food you are eating with that particular wine. What matters most is that you like how your wine tastes. Not every meal requires the perfect match with a wine.

Wine Pairing Rule Three

For that special bottle of wine, whether it be a gift, an expensive wine, a highly-rated wine, or sentimental wine, plan the meal around that bottle of wine. Let’s say it is a California Cabernet Sauvignon. Check out our pairing list for Cabernet and then plan your meal. The pairing list is below.

Wine Pairing Rule Four – Practice, practice, practice!  Here is how!

Experiment with two or more wines
Cook up a great entrée and open a couple of bottles or more of wine that follow the rules above. Taste each wine without the food. Taste the food without the wine. Taste one wine and then the food. Taste the other wine, then the food. Does one wine match better with the food? This is really fun to do with friends and discuss what each likes.

Go to a Restaurant that has a food and wine pairing menu
Many restaurants now offer food and wine pairing meals. They are a delight and a good way to start to learn about pairing food with wine. You pay a set price and receive three or four different servings, each paired with a different wine. We have done this several times and we find it is fun and very educational.

Visit a winery that has an educational wine pairing
Two examples are: The Mayo Family Winery Reserve Room in Sonoma and the Robert Sinskey Winery in the Napa Valley.

Open a bottle of Chardonnay, for example. Taste it after biting into a slice of apple. Taste it after a piece of soft cheese, then a hard cheese. Squeeze a bit of juice from a lemon on a cracker. Just look around your kitchen and try different foods. You will discover right and wrong combinations.

Last and Final Rule
Don’t worry too much about all the fuss, just enjoy a beautiful glass of wine.

Food and Wine Matches – Examples

  • Sauvignon Blanc – white or light fish, mild cheese, fruit
  • Chardonnay – grilled chicken, salmon, shellfish, and grilled fish, anything with a cream sauce.
  • Pinot Noir – light meats, chicken, grilled anything, salmon.
  • Merlot – pasta, red meat, duck, smoked or grilled foods
  • Zinfandel – tomato pasta dishes, pizza, pesto, red meats, chicken with heavy sauces
  • Cabernet Sauvignon – red meats, especially a juicy barbequed steak, grilled and smoked foods.
  • Syrah – red meats, spicy pizzas, herbed sauces on red meat, turkey, smoked meats
  • Dry Rosé – salads, pasta salads, BBQ chicken or fish, light spicy foods
  • See the Varietal Chart for information on the weight of the various varietals.

Important Tip: Always use a good wine glass. It’s a common practice to bring out your finest crystal for a delicious dinner on a special occasion. These may or may not be the correct glasses for bringing out the best in wine.  A good wine glass is an essential part of matching food and wine. Choose the right wine glass.


best guide to wine and food pairing
Pan-Seared Day Boat Scallop paired with Sauvignon Blanc