Food & Wine Pairings

Publish Date May 8, 2024

Have you ever found yourself standing in front of the wine section, overwhelmed with variety? And the better the selection, the more confusing it can be! Maybe you already have dinner planned and you’re trying to find the right complement, or maybe you’ve just started the food and wine pairing process but you’re not sure where to begin. Wines come in a wide range of structures and flavors, so how do you know which is the right bottle for the occasion? Or, better yet, how do you know which food and beverage choices will best complement each other’s flavor? Whether you’re wondering what wine goes with steak or you’re searching for dependable wine and cheese pairings, we’ve put together a simple guide that’ll take you from beginner to sommelier.

Your Guide to Pairing Food and Wine

Red Wine Pairings

Red wines tend to be full-bodied and dry, which may overpower delicate, lighter dishes. Check out this simple guide to find the best red wine and food pairings:

  • Merlot: Dark red in color and typically dry, merlot is popular due to its delightful flavor and versatility. Serve it with light to dark spiced meats, roasted vegetables, and cheeses like Camembert, Gouda, Gruyere and Pecorino.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Known for its dark color and full-bodied flavor, this variety is a great dinner wine. Serve it with simple red meat dishes, such as steak, and cheeses like sharp cheddar, Gouda and Danish blue.
  • Pinot Noir: This light-bodied, smooth wine is among one of the most popular varieties. Bring out its best flavors by serving it with grilled salmon, chicken, lamb, sushi, risottos, and cheeses like light cheddar, Edam, Port Salut, Gouda and Gruyere.
  • Shiraz: Shiraz, also known as Syrah, is one of the darkest wines on the market. Pair it with steak, beef, stews, and cheeses like sharp cheddar, Edam, Gouda and Saint Nectaire.
  • Malbec: Deep in color and robust in flavor, this dark wine is right behind merlot in popularity. Popular malbec wine pairings include meat-based meals and hard cheeses like manchego, Parmesan, Gouda and Asiago.
  • Zinfandel: Lighter in color but bold in flavor, Zinfandel is typically paired with tomato-based dishes, pasta, grilled or barbecued meats, stir-fries, and cheeses like Asiago, Gouda, Gruyere, pecorino, Muenster and Maytag blue.

Most red wines can be served at room temperature.

White Wine Pairings

Due to their light and crisp taste, white wines tend to pair best with light-intensity dishes. Here’s a simple white wine pairing guide to follow when picking out a bottle for your next get- together:

  • Pinot Grigio: Light and refreshing, this blend pairs well with shellfish, raw fish (tartare and ceviche), melon, calamari, salads, and cheeses like ricotta, Asiago fresco, goat and mozzarella.
  • Chardonnay: This popular white wine is crisp, clean and rich. Some good chardonnay pairings include seafood, chicken, and cheeses like Brie, fontina and provolone.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: With crisp, light and dry qualities, sauvignon blanc is often paired with seafood, poultry, salads, and cheeses like sharp cheddar, Brie, Neufchatel and a variety of goat cheeses.
  • Riesling: Aromatic and flowery, this variety pairs well with fish, chicken and pork, and cheeses like Colby, Cotija, Monterey Jack, Edam and Swiss. Chill white wines before serving.

Dessert Wine Pairings

Dessert wine is an after-dinner drink that can range in flavor from sweet red and white wine to sparkling and fortified wine. Dessert wines can be paired with sweets, fruits and cheeses to really bring out the flavors in each sip and bite. When it comes to pairing dessert wine with food, it’s best practice to choose a wine that’s sweeter than the dessert dish you’re having.

  • Fortified Wine: This dessert wine has a higher alcohol content than others. It ranges from dry-to-sweet wine and includes distilled spirits like brandy, port and sherry. A tawny port can help bring out the warm and spicy caramel notes of apple pie and goes well with the strong flavors of blue cheese, aged Gouda and cheddar. With sherry, you’ll want a salty and tangy cheese like Manchego or Cheshire. Sherry can also complement the nuttiness in a dessert like pecan pie.
  • Red Dessert Wine: The rich flavors in red dessert wine pair well with the bitterness of dark chocolate cake or a milk chocolate bar. Merlot’s chocolatey, smooth taste also goes great with Jarlsberg or gorgonzola cheese.
  • White Dessert Wine: You can’t go wrong pairing a sweet white dessert wine, like riesling or sauvignon blanc, with a white chocolate treat. If you’re leaning toward a citrusy dessert like a lemon tart, try a sweet and floral Muscat blanc.
  • Sparkling Wine: Our favorite go-to bubbly is Champagne. Its light, fresh taste is perfect for bringing out the airiness in desserts like chocolate mousse or those featuring dark berries.

Basic Wine & Cheese Serving Tips

Whether you’re putting together a crowd-pleasing charcuterie board or plating a romantic dinner appetizer, here are a few tips to keep in mind when serving wine, cheese and accompaniments:

  • Take cheeses out of the refrigerator at least an hour before serving.
  • Provide sturdy knives for hard cheeses, like Parmesan, and wire cheese cutters for soft cheeses.
  • If serving a variety of cheeses, separate aromatic versions, like Roquefort and Muenster, (and their knives) from lighter cheeses like mozzarella.
  • Be careful not to overcrowd your cheese tray.

Whether shopping for the best cheese for wine you already know and love, looking for inspiration for your next date night, or just wondering what wine goes with chicken, you can come back to this helpful guide any time. For a food and wine pairing refresher while at the store, ask an associate for help or guidance! Salespeople are a great resource for knowledgeable recommendations.

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