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5 Keys to Pairing Food and Wine

Smart ways to think about choosing a wine for your meal.

A glass of wine with dinner Anna Williams

The old rules for matching food and wine―white with seafood and poultry; red with red meats―no longer apply. But that doesn’t mean anything goes. Leslie Sbrocco, author of The Simple & Savvy Wine Guide ($15,, shares her wine-pairing strategies. 

  • Match the texture of the food with the texture of the wine. A light wine, whether white or red, will be overpowered by a rich dish like steak. A rich wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, will balance it perfectly.
  • Match aromas and flavors. “If you have a highly spiced dish, you need a wine that’s not going to get trampled by that,” says Sbrocco. Riesling is a complex, spicy wine, so it works well with cuisines like Chinese and Thai. An earthy pinot noir with cherry notes pairs beautifully with a duck dish containing mushrooms and dried cherries. (Though pairings certainly don’t have to be that literal.)
  • Use acidity in the wine to balance the dish. With a high-acid dish―say, a salad with vinaigrette or something tomato based―you want to complement that acidity with a high-acid wine, like a Sauvignon Blanc. In the same way that a spritz of lemon balances and brightens fried seafood, so too does a Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Pair with the sauce, not the meat. As Sbrocco explains, chicken in cream sauce demands the same wine as pork in cream sauce.
  • Follow your personal preferences. For most rules there’s always an exception, so experiment with different food and wine combinations to see what your particular taste buds respond to.
Read More About:Beverages

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