Wine-food pairing

Pairing wine with food is wonderful element of wine. It also is not rocket science.

Some members of wine cognoscenti parse pairing principles down to vineyard rows to divine what is perfect with a chic chef’s cabalistic concoction. Well, whatever.

No doubt some dishes go better with some wines, but the truth is good wines go well with almost any remotely plausible pairing.

If you have a wine you really enjoy, you must work hard to find a food that does not work with your palate. Who cares if the haute cuisine crowd is not brave enough to dare the pair?

Even in situations where wine and food really do clash, there is a simple solution. Enjoy the food. Pause. Enjoy the wine.

That said, simple guidelines:

  • Pair ethnic cuisine with that country’s wine. Italian food goes well with Italian wines; French wines go well with Julia Child’s creations. Duh, go figure.
  • Match food weight and wine weight. Salmon with a Washington State pinot noir, not a muscular California zin or ostentatious Aussie shiraz. You do not have to be a Master of Wine to figure this out.
  • Beef with tannins. Heartier the beef, more the fat and flavor: bolder the wine. If there is pepper involved, zin and shiraz are clear candidates. Otherwise, count on cab.
  • Delicate, lemony fish with sauvignon blanc. Close second: chenin blanc/Vouvray. If the flesh is delicate and the lemon sauce pronounced, this is a no-brainer. Do not, under any circumstances, go with a buttery, over-oaked chardonnay. Unless that pairing pleases you.
  • Default: sauvignon blanc/Sancerre. It goes with everything, even asparagus.


  • Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc 2010. Organic; light body, tart, lively acidity; grapefruit, citrus; melon on finish; summer friendly, very food friendly. $12
  • Robert Hall Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. Ripe candy fruit, oak galore; plum, black currant, cocoa, chocolate; smooth tannin. $21
  • Selvapiana Chianti Rufina Riserva Bucerchiale 2006. Earthy nose; intense black cherry, dark chocolate, spice; silk tannin; decant. $33