Pairing Food & Wine


Written by:

Joe Becerra

Last updated:

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 improve their ability to pair a wine with a meal appropriately. Here we have 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 meals go with light wines. Heavy foods go with big red wines. 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 a perfect match with a bottle of 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 prepare 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 follows 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 process is enjoyable to do with friends and discuss what each like.

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 an excellent 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
Many wineries in Napa Valley, Sonoma, and Paso Robles will have a tasting choice of wines and foods. Daou in Paso Robles, Robert Sinskey in Napa, and Michel-Schlumberger in Sonoma are some examples of wineries that do education wine and food pairings.

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.


  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.

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