Wine Pairing Tips for Dinner Parties


The world of wine can be an intimidating place. Red vs white, bold vs soft, heavy vs light, corkscrew vs screw cap. So many decisions! Don’t let nerves get in the way of a potentially wonderful dinner party with wine that compliments the food, and really makes the meal sing. While there are many (many) exceptions to the rule of white wine-white meat, red wine-red meat, here are a few of our favorite wines, and some dishes and ingredients that pair well with each.

White Wine

  • Chardonnay: while there are many different notes that come about from this wine depending on how it is aged (oak vs steel barrels), this wine is medium bodied and buttery, often times with hints of vanilla, honey, and apple. Due to it’s full flavor, it pairs well with dishes that are rich, but not overpowering. Pairing: white meats (such as chicken, turkey, pork), cream sauces, avocado, acidic foods (citrus, tomato), and rich soft cheeses (brie, camembert).
  • Riesling: this light-bodied wine tends to be on the fruiter side, with crisp hints of citrus and pear. It pairs well with similarly light and delicate dishes. Pairing: fresh seafood (especially oysters or sushi), light chicken dishes (no cream), pickled vegetables, and Asian flavors (lemongrass, ginger, cilantro).
  • Pinot Grigio: a crisp and light (and sometimes tangy) wine with lemon and citrus notes. Pairing: light pasta, grilled fish, italian antipasti, and fresh fruit.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: typically a light bodied wine with hints of citrus, minerals, herbs, and grass. This delicate wine pairs well with lighter ingredients. Pairing: Smoked cheese, goat cheese, spicy foods, light vinaigrettes, seafood, and light meats (chicken, veal).

Red Wine

  • Merlot: this light red is full of soft tannins with notes of black cherry, plum, vanilla, and oak. Because of its soft and fruity character, it works well with other grape varietals for blended wines. This red pairs well with a wide variety of flavors. Pairing: earthy mushrooms, wild rice, hamburgers, meatballs, berries, duck, and salmon.
  • Pinot Noir: typically an earthy, medium-bodied red with pronounced yet not-overpowering tannins. The earthy and berry notes in this wine pair well with roasted, grilled, and sautéed meats and vegetables. Pairing: tuna, quail, ham, basil, mustard, cabbage, hard gouda, fennel, and rosemary.
  • Malbec: featuring soft tannins, this medium-to-heavy bodied wine has notes of black pepper, leather, and wood. Due to it’s approachable drinkability yet strong flavor profile, this wine stands up to heavy meats. Pairing: sausage, lamb, barbecue, roasted peppers and onions, and bleu cheese.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: this wine carries big bold tannins with hints of currants, tobacco, and cherry. Pairing: mustard, wild game, roast chicken, steak, pork, and garlic.

But these are not steadfast rules. It’s always a good idea to try the wine you’re serving ahead of time to ensure it compliments the food served, and that you just plain old like it!


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