15 Rules for Great Wine and Food Pairings

By Food & Wine

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Here, the cardinal rules for matching up wines and food, from dry rosé and cheesy dishes to malbec and sweet-spicy barbecue sauces.

Pinot Noir: Is great for dishes with earthy flavors

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Recipes made with ingredients like mushrooms and truffles taste great with reds like Pinot Noir and Dolcetto, which are light-bodied but full of savory depth.

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Chardonnay: For fatty fish or fish in a rich sauce

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Silky whites—for instance, Chardonnays from California, Chile or Australia—are delicious with fish like salmon or any kind of seafood in a lush sauce.

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Champagne: Is perfect with anything salty

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Most dry sparkling wines, such as brut Champagne and Spanish cava, actually have a faint touch of sweetness. That makes them extra-refreshing when served with salty foods, like crispy udon noodles with nori salt.

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Cabernet Sauvignon: Is fabulous with juicy red meat

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California Cabernet, Bordeaux and Bordeaux-style blends are terrific with steaks or chops—like lamb chops with frizzled herbs. The firm tannins in these wines refresh the palate after each bite of meat.

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Sauvignon Blanc: Goes with tart dressings and sauces

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Tangy foods—like scallops with grapefruit-onion salad—won't overwhelm zippy wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Vinho Verde from Portugal and Verdejo from Spain.

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Dry Rosé: For rich, cheesy dishes

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Some cheeses go better with white wine, some with red; yet almost all pair well with dry rosé, which has the acidity of white wine and the fruit character of red. For an indulgent cheese dish, try these Triple-Decker Baked Italian Cheese Sandwiches.

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Pinot Grigio: Pairs with light fish dishes

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Light seafood dishes, like seafood tostada bites, seem to take on more flavor when matched with equally delicate white wines, such as Pinot Grigio or Arneis from Italy or Chablis from France.

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Malbec: Won't be overshadowed by sweet-spicy barbecue sauces

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Malbec, Shiraz and Côtes-du-Rhône are big and bold enough to drink with foods brushed with heavily spiced barbecue sauces, like these chicken drumsticks with Asian barbecue sauce.

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Moscato d'Asti: Loves fruit desserts



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Moderately sweet sparkling wines such as Moscato d'Asti, demi-sec Champagne and Asti Spumante help emphasize the fruit in the dessert, rather than the sugar. Try it with these honeyed fig crostatas.

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Syrah: Matches with highly spiced dishes



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When a meat is heavily seasoned—like cumin-spiced burgers with harissa mayo—look for a red wine with lots of spicy notes. Syrah from Washington, Cabernet Franc from France and Xinomavro from Greece are all good choices.

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Grüner Veltliner: Pairs with dishes that have lots of fresh



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Austrian Grüner Veltliner's citrus-and-clover scent is lovely when there are lots of fresh herbs in a dish, like zucchini linguine with herbs. Other go-to grapes in a similar style include Albariño from Spain and Vermentino from Italy.

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Zinfandel: For pâtés, mousses and terrines

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If you can use the same adjectives to describe a wine and a dish, the pairing will often work. For instance, the words rustic and rich describe Zinfandel, Italy's Nero d'Avola and Spain's Monastrell as well as creamy chicken-liver mousse.

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Off-Dry Riesling: Pairs with sweet & spicy dishes

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The slight sweetness of many Rieslings, Gewürztraminers and Vouvrays helps tame the heat of spicy Asian and Indian dishes, like this Thai green salad with duck cracklings.

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Rosé Champagne: Great with dinner, not just hors d'oeuvres

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Rosé sparkling wines, such as rosé Champagne, cava and sparkling wine from California, have the depth of flavor and richness to go with a wide range of main courses, like beet risotto.

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Old World Wines: Are intrinsically good with Old World dishes

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The flavors of foods and wines that have grown up together over the centuries —Tuscan recipes and Tuscan wines, for instance — are almost always a natural fit. This pappardelle with veal ragù pairs well with a medium-bodied Chianti, for example.

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Originally Published: https://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/15-rules-for-great-wine-and-food-pairings