Wine Pairing Tips For Beginners

Do you know what it really takes to pair food and wine? Wine pairing can be a daunting task for someone who is just getting started, but with the right tips, you can become an expert in no time! 

Wine Pairing Tips For Beginners

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, let’s get ready to pour!

How To Pair Food And Wine

When it comes to food and wine pairing, there are a few things you should consider. First, think about the flavors and tastes of the dish. Is it sweet? Savory? Spicy? Sour?

All of these notes can help you identify the type of wine that will pair best with it. For instance, if you’re eating a spicy dish, then you may want to opt for a bold red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel.

On the other hand, if your dish is sweet, lighter white wines such as Riesling or Moscato might be better suited.

In addition to flavor profiles, you’ll also want to take into account the structure and texture of both food and wine. Light foods tend to go best with light-bodied wines, while heavier dishes require fuller-bodied wines. 

The same goes for textures – creamy dishes complement creamy wines, while acidic foods pair nicely with crisp whites. 

Finally, don’t forget about contrasting flavors! If your dish has some sweetness to it, try pairing it with an off-dry white for a delicious balance of flavors. 

Choose A Food And Wine That You Like

The most important thing to consider when pairing food and wine is to choose something that you actually like. After all, there’s no point in trying to be fancy if you don’t enjoy the taste of it! 

When selecting your food and wine, start by thinking about the flavors and tastes you love. Do you prefer sweet or savory dishes?

Would you rather have a light-bodied white or a full-bodied red? Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, experiment with different pairings and see what works best for you.

And don’t forget to keep an open mind! You may think that a certain type of wine won’t work well with your favorite dish, but it could end up being the perfect match. 

What Are The 2 Basic Rules For Wine Pairings?

When it comes to wine pairings, there are two basic rules that you should always keep in mind.

1. Match The Weight Of The Wine With The Weight Of The Food

A light-bodied white or rosé will usually pair best with lighter dishes like salads and seafood, while full-bodied red wines are better suited for heavier dishes like steak or pasta. 

2. Think About Flavor Profiles

The second rule is to try to match bolder flavors with more intense wines, and delicate flavors with softer wines.

For example, an intensely flavored dish such as spicy Thai curry would go great with a full-bodied red like Merlot, while a milder dish like a herb-crusted fish filet would be best enjoyed with a light white like Sauvignon Blanc. 

Let’s look in more detail at flavor profiles. 

Identify The Basics Tastes

When it comes to pairing food and wine, the key is to identify the basic tastes in your dish.

There are six tastes you should look for: salt, acid, sweet, bitter, fat, and spice (piquant). Identifying these tastes can help you choose a wine that will complement your meal. 

For example, if you have a dish with salty notes like olives or cured meats, try a slightly sweet Moscato d’Asti to balance out those flavors.

If your dish is high in acidity, like citrus-based salads or grilled vegetables, a Riesling, or Sauvignon Blanc would be a great choice. 

Keep in mind that fatty dishes like fried chicken or fish and chips need fuller-bodied whites like Chardonnay or Viognier. 

And for spicy dishes, opt for lighter reds such as Pinot Noir or Beaujolais Nouveau. With a little practice, you’ll be able to hone your flavor profiles and create delicious wine pairings that will make any meal complete!

Consider The Intensity

Another important thing to consider is the intensity of each meal. Intensity refers to how powerful or prominent a flavor is in a particular dish, and different tastes can have different levels of intensity. 

For example, a dessert that has high amounts of sugar and butter will be more intense than a salad with light vinaigrette dressing.

Similarly, a full-bodied red wine will have more intense flavors than a light white wine. Understanding the intensity of both your food and your wine can help you create pairings that bring out the best in both!

Structure And Texture

Structure refers to the body, or weight, of a wine, while texture refers to the mouthfeel. 

For example, a light-bodied white wine has a light structure with a delicate texture. A full-bodied red wine will have a more robust structure and heavier texture.

Pairing these types of wines with foods that match their structures and textures can help create an enjoyable combination. 

For instance, lighter white wines pair well with light proteins like fish or chicken that won’t overpower the delicate flavor of the wine.

Similarly, full-bodied red wines go well with dishes that have bold flavors and rich ingredients that can stand up to the intensity of the wine’s body and tannins. 

Match Aromas

If the flavors of your dish are echoed in the aroma of the wine, you’ll create an even more delicious experience!

Think about the ingredients in your dish. Fruits like peaches and cherries (Also check out Cherry Wines: The Guide) can bring out notes of sweetness in wines like Rieslings and Gewürztraminers.

Herbs like rosemary or thyme can make Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah taste smoother and more balanced. And buttery flavors like those found in scallops or lobster can be complemented by Chardonnay.

It’s all about creating harmony between the food and wine, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations until you find something that works for you!

And remember: when in doubt, ask your local sommelier for advice—they’re experts at finding just the right combination of flavors for any dish.

Acid Cancels Out Acid

Wine Pairing Tips For Beginners

If a dish is particularly acidic, you’ll want to look for a wine with high levels of acidity as well. This will help balance the flavors of the dish and ensure that the wine doesn’t taste flat or dull.

Tomato sauces are a great example of this principle in action—the intense acidity in the sauce needs an equally acidic red wine like Sangiovese or Barbera to bring out its best flavors. 

The same goes for dishes with vinaigrette or lemon sauces. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are both good options here, as they have plenty of zesty acidity that can stand up to the sharp flavors in these dishes.

It may take some trial and error to get the right combination, but once you do, you’re sure to be amazed at how perfectly balanced your meal tastes!

Starchy Meals

Starchy dishes like mashed potatoes, pasta and rice can be tricky when it comes to wine pairing. These dishes tend to be quite neutral in flavor, so you want to choose a wine that can stand up to their subtle taste.

For example, a full-bodied Chardonnay is a great match for creamy mashed potatoes, as its bold flavors will help bring out the flavors of the dish.

If you’re serving pasta or rice with tomato sauce, look for high acid wines like Sangiovese or Barbera. Their bright acidity will cut through the acidity of the tomato sauce and bring out the best in both the food and wine.

Finally, if you’re serving starchy dishes with buttery sauces or heavy cream sauces, opt for a richer white wine such as Viognier or an oaky Chardonnay.

These wines are full-bodied enough to stand up to these heavier sauces without overpowering them.

Aged Wines

Aged wines are a great way to explore the complexity and flavors that can be found in different varieties. These wines have been allowed to age, either in a cellar or barrel, and as they do, their flavors are transformed.

When pairing food with aged wines, keep two things in mind: first, the wine should be of a higher quality than the dish; secondly, its flavor profile should complement the food.

For example, an aged Cabernet Sauvignon is perfect for pairing with steak or other red meats because its tannins will bring out the flavor of the meat.

On the other hand, a mature Chardonnay pairs well with seafood dishes because its softer notes will enhance rather than overpower delicate fish flavors.

It’s also important to remember that aged wines tend to be more expensive than their younger counterparts. So if you’re just starting out on your journey through aged wines, consider trying them by the glass before investing in an entire bottle. 


When it comes to wine pairing, quality is key. If you’re serving a simple pasta dish, it’s best to choose a good quality wine that will bring out the flavors of both the food and the wine.

As with all wines, price doesn’t always indicate quality, so don’t be afraid to look for great deals on lesser-known labels.

If you are feeling adventurous and want to try something special, as mentioned earlier, you may want to invest in a bottle of high-end wine that has been aged longer than usual.

This type of wine will have developed unique characteristics over time, and its complexity can add an extra layer of flavor to your meal.

It’s also important to match the region and grape varieties used in the wine with what you’re serving.

For example, if you’re making a classic Italian dish such as spaghetti Bolognese, then an Italian red such as Sangiovese or Barbera would pair perfectly with it.

What Makes A Good Wine Pairing: 10 Pairings You’ll Love

As we’ve learned so far, wine pairing is an art that takes practice, but even beginners can find great pairings with the right guidance. Here are 10 classic pairings that you’ll love:

1. Pinot Noir And Earthy Flavors

Pinot Noir is a great choice for earthy flavors like mushroom dishes or hearty pizzas. This deep red wine has a complex flavor profile that includes hints of cherry, raspberry, and berry fruitiness, along with earthy notes of mushroom and truffle.

When paired with these dishes, the wine’s acidity helps to cut through their richness while the fruitiness adds complexity to them. 

The earthy notes in the wine also bring out the natural umami flavors found in mushrooms and other vegetables.

Try pairing Pinot Noir with roasted mushrooms, portabello fries, or even a classic Margherita pizza for an unforgettable experience for your taste buds. 

2. Chardonnay And Salmon

Chardonnay is a great choice for pairing with salmon. This white wine has a light-bodied flavor profile that contains fruity notes of apple, pear, and citrus.

It’s also dry enough to stand up to the fish’s natural oils, but still smooth enough to make an enjoyable accompaniment. Chardonnay brings out the subtle sweetness of salmon while balancing its richness with its acidity. 

For a classic pairing, try serving grilled or pan-seared salmon with a medium-bodied Chardonnay.

The subtle fruitiness of the wine will bring out the flavor of the fish while its structure will stand up against any flavorful sauces you may be serving alongside it.

Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or just having dinner at home, these two make for an unbeatable combination!

3. Cabernet And Red Meat

Cabernet is a perfect choice for pairing with red meat dishes. This full-bodied red wine has an intense flavor profile that includes notes of dark fruits, herbs, and spices.

Its bold structure and tannins stand up to the robust flavors of beef, lamb, or game meat (Also check out Cottage Pie Food Pairings That Will Excite Your Day). For an ideal match, try serving a Cabernet Sauvignon with a steak or roast. 

The juicy flavors of the wine will bring out the savory richness of the dish while its tannins will cut through any accompanying fat or sauces.

Whether you’re serving a classic grilled steak or something more creative like braised short ribs, this classic pairing never fails to please!

4. Sparkling And Salty Flavors

Sparkling wines are a great choice for pairing with salty flavors. The sweetness of the bubbles pairs perfectly with the savory notes of salty food, while its effervescence helps to cleanse your palate between bites. 

A good rule of thumb when selecting a sparkling wine is to go with one that’s slightly sweeter than the dish you’re serving.

For instance, if you’re having a charcuterie board full of salami, cheese, and olives, opt for an off-dry or semi-sweet sparkling wine like Prosecco.

Or, if you’re making a dish full of salty umami flavors like miso glazed salmon or crispy fried chicken wings, try a dry sparkling rosé instead.

Whatever salty treat you choose, you can be sure that it will be perfectly complemented by the bright flavor and refreshing bubbles of your chosen sparkling wine!

5. Pinot Grigio And Seafood

When you’re looking for a light and refreshing pairing for seafood dishes, it’s hard to beat Pinot Grigio.

This delicate white wine has a crisp acidity that perfectly complements the subtle flavors of fish and shellfish. Its vibrant fruit and floral notes also provide a great counterpoint to the brininess of the sea. 

Plus, its light body makes it an ideal choice for pairing with lighter seafood dishes like grilled shrimp or lemon-butter seared scallops.

No matter what type of seafood you’re serving, adding a glass (or two!) of Pinot Grigio to your meal is sure to take it up a notch!

6. Sauvignon Blanc And Tart Flavors

Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine that’s known for its bright, vibrant acidity and zippy flavors. It can range from light and citrusy to bold and herbal, depending on where it’s grown and how it’s made.

This makes it an excellent choice for pairing with tart flavors like dressings or sauces. Its acidity helps to cut through the richness of these ingredients, creating a light and flavorful balance. 

For a truly unique experience, try sipping a piquant Sauvignon Blanc while savoring your meal – the combination of tart flavors with this crisp white wine is sure to be a hit!

7. Rosé And Cheesy Dishes

Rosé is often overlooked when it comes to wine pairing, but it’s actually an ideal choice for cheesy dishes.

This style of wine offers the best of both worlds – its light body and subtle fruit flavors complement the richness of cheese while still maintaining just enough acidity to cut through any heaviness. 

Better yet, Rosé comes in a wide variety of styles, so you can choose one that fits your taste buds as well as your meal.

Whether you’re enjoying a creamy Brie or a sharp cheddar, there’s sure to be a Rosé out there that will bring out the best in both flavors. So next time you’re having a cheese-focused dish, don’t forget to give Rosé a try!

8. Syrah And Spiced Dishes

Syrah is the perfect choice for spiced dishes. Its dark and spicy notes pair perfectly with heavily spiced foods, helping to bring out the flavors of the dish and create a balanced finish.

Syrah also has a bold body that stands up to the intensity of spices, allowing you to fully enjoy both the wine and your meal. 

To make sure your Syrah is not overwhelmed by your spice-filled dish, try choosing an earthier style of Syrah with more subtle fruit flavors.

This will help keep the wine from overpowering your food while still adding complexity to its flavor profile. 

9. Riesling And Sweet, Spicy Flavors

Riesling is an ideal choice for dishes with sweet and spicy flavors. Its light sweetness helps to balance out the heat of spicy dishes while also complementing the sweetness of the dish.

Riesling has a bright acidity that helps to cleanse your palate between bites, making it a great pairing option for those who enjoy bold flavors. 

To get the most out of your pairing, choose a Riesling with slightly higher residual sugar levels; this will help to enhance the sweetness in your dish and balance out any spiciness. 

10. Zinfandel And Rich Plates

Zinfandel is a bold, full-bodied red wine that pairs perfectly with rich, hearty dishes like patés, mousses, and terrines.

Its robust flavor and tannic structure stand up to the richness of these dishes while providing great complexity on the palate. 

Zinfandel’s fruitiness and subtle notes of spice also make it an ideal pairing for dishes with a hint of sweetness or smokiness. Plus, its bright acidity helps to cut through any heaviness in your dish so you can enjoy every bite.


Wine pairing is a fun and creative way to enhance the flavor and experience of any meal. With these tips, beginners can easily find their perfect pair and make the most of their dining experience.

As with any skill, practice makes perfect, so be sure to experiment with different pairings and find the flavors that work best for you. Good luck!

Sarah Perez
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