Welcome to the Holiday mindset! Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner. If you are hosting this year you will want to know what wines to buy or ask your friends to bring to compliment your meal! There is nothing worse than opening a nice bottle of wine and serving it with the wrong food. It can take away from the entire experience.
Two Basic Rules When Pairing Food & Wine
- A wine that enhances the flavor of the food.
- You can buy a wine that compliments the food.
Think of it kinda like food. When you’re eating a big juicy steak that can be a little fatty, adding a lemon juice will cut through the fat and balance the dish. It’s the same with wine. If you have a creamy buttery gouda cheese, pairing it with an acid Sauvignon Blanc would cut through the buttery taste and balance the flavors! Easy peasy!
How Do I Pick What Wines Go With What Foods?
Here are few “best rules” to go by when you are choosing a wine to go with your dinner.
Red Wines typically go better with full flavored meats. (steak, lamb, etc.)
White Wines will pair better with lighter dishes. (fish, seafood, chicken, etc.)
For example: a white fish served with a lemon sauce will pair well with a more acidic Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc. The same goes for dinner with a juice steak with a peppercorn sauce will pair best with a Syrah or bold Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Holiday List for Food and Wine Pairings:
I thought it was best if things were listed off by the wines that go with the food rather than the food with the wine route. I know that we all have our favorites wines to drink so when you know what you like to drink you know what to make to go with it! Hopefully this will prepare you to be confident in your wine pairings this holiday season.
I lined these up as I would taste during a wine tasting, with the exception that I put Champagne in the front rather than at the end:
When you think of Champagne you probably don’t think of pairing it with food because it’s more of a celebratory wine. However, this dry bubbly wine pairs well with a few items that you’d be surprised by.
- brie, parmesan, gouda cheese, almonds, popcorn, potato chips
- shrimp, shellfish, smoked salmon, lobster, egg dishes (eggs Benedict – You’re welcome)
- stuffed mushrooms (especially with Crab), or risotto,
- cream sauces, mushrooms sauces
- berries, pound cake, lemon tart or pie
Riesling is generally known as a sweeter white wine most people lean towards. You tend to not taste a lot of acid from this wine and it will have a smoother finish than a Sauvignon Blanc. You might be surprised to hear that Riesling pairs well with spicier foods, like BBQ or Thai food (I love some Pad Thai with some Riesling).
- Oysters, scallops, duck
- Stuffed chili peppers, pears, Thai or Indian foods.
- pumpkin pie, caramel sauce, apple pie
Sauvignon Blanc is wonderfully light, crisp and acidic wine that pairs well with lighter foods – yet also still has a lot of flavor. This flavorful wine will pair well with things like:
- smoked gouda, brie, feta cheese (like with salads)
- chicken, turkey, sushi, lobster, white fish, or light pasta dishes
Chardonnay is a full bodied white wine that has a lot of oak and buttery notes. This wine can usually stand up against bolder flavors in food when other white wines might not meet the mark. Some of my favorite things to pair with Chardonnay are:
- almonds, creamy cheeses (havarti, fontina or blue cheese)
- chicken, pork, halibut, shrimp or lobster
- cooked potato, herbs, cream sauces
- creme brûlée, cheesecake
Pinot Noir is on the lighter spectrum of the red wine scale that is more fruit forward in flavor than other red wines. It’s a light bodied red but depending on where the grapes are from it can have some weight behind it. I am constantly surprised on how it can stand up to some meat dishes. So don’t be afraid to pair it with meats and even some fishes. This is one wine that can swing both ways!
- brie, havarti,
- duck, lamb, sea bass, salmon
- mushrooms, strawberries, truffle, cinnamon, orange dishes
- cream sauce or lighter red sauce
- chocolate dishes, creme brûlée, white chocolate
Shiraz/Syrah (tip: the spelling only signifies where the grapes are grown, same wine) is one of my favorites single varietals to drink!, my Dad’s too funny enough. This wine has notes of fruit but also a lingering pepper taste. It pairs well with spicy foods or international foods.
- cheddar, hazelnuts, walnuts, pepper jack cheese
- spicy sausage, chorizo, gamey meats, salmon
- stewed tomatoes
- chocolate cake, espresso based desserts, nutella
Merlot is a wine that not many people drink these days, but did you know that it is in almost 80% of red bled wines around the world. It is a stable to create a smooth red blend with fruit flavors. It has hints of fruit, a bit herbaceous in flavor and not as much tannin as a Cabernet Sauvignon. Here are a few foods that would pair well with this wine:
- Parmesan cheese
- roasted turkey, steak, venison, fish like salmon or halibut
- caramelized onions, tomatoes, plums, roasted vegetables, stuffed mushrooms
- berries, dark chocolate
A red wine everyone knows, even if you don’t drink wine! Bold with tannins and lightly accented notes of fruit. It pairs great with beef dishes and the perfect wine to serve at a nice dinner. Foods that Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with are:
- cheddar cheese, pecans, gorgonzola cheese
- lamb, beef, venison, elk, ahi tuna
- potatoes, cherries, tomatoes (think pasta sauce or pizza), broccoli
- rosemary, brown sauces, red demi-glaze
- chocolate cake, bittersweet chocolate
And CUT! That’s all folks! I hope that this guide to wine pairings helps you out this holiday season! I am still mastering the wine and foods pairings but with the help of those more experienced and smarter than I, I was able to create this!
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