Wine and Food Pairing Basics

Wine and food pairing basics

When you go to a high-end steakhouse or an elegant Italian restaurant, you are often asked what wine you would like with your meal. Oftentimes, we stay in our comfort zone, ordering our typical Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, or we ask the server for their opinion. Wouldn’t it be nice though, if you already knew what paired well with that New York strip or baked ziti? 

When you give your dish the proper wine pairing, you’ll find a combination that takes your dinner from wonderful to extraordinary. Vino Coterie is here to help you find your perfect pair.

Wine Pairing Basics

There are two theories you want to keep in mind when pairing your wine. You can either: 

  1. Choose a wine that complements the food.
  2. Choose a wine that contrasts the food.

When do you know how to choose between the two? This is a skill that may take your whole life to master, but don’t let that turn you off. Think of it as a fun adventure for your taste buds. After you start testing different wine pairings and giving conscious thought to what you’re tasting, you’ll start to catch on. For instance, when you have a spicy Indian dish, you’ll find that pairing it with a contrasting sweet wine, like a Riesling, adds a layer of flavor that you didn’t know you wanted. While a sweet chocolate cake can be complemented with a great fruity, sweet wine like a Port.

Classic Wine Pairings

White Wine Pairings:

  • Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with shellfish
  • Pinot Grigio pairs well with grilled fish
  • Pinot Gris pairs well with roasted chicken

Red Wine Pairings:

  • Rioja pairs with spicy foods
  • Pinot Noir pairs with duck
  • Malbec pairs with red meat

Sparkling Wine Pairings:

  • Champagne pairs with soft cheeses
  • Grande Cuvée pairs with fried chicken
  • Prosecco pairs with sushi

Rosè Wine Pairings:

  • Dry Rosè pairs well with salmon
  • Sweet Rosè with duck
  • Any Rosè with a charcuterie board

How to Up Your Pairing Game

After you have mastered your classics, you’ll most likely want to move on to trying new, bolder wine pairings. How do you know what goes well with which dish? Here are a few pointers to help.


The sweetness in food creates a bitter and sour taste to your wine. To combat this, always choose a wine that is sweeter than the sweet dish. 


Acid in food makes wine taste rich and fully alive. Acidic dressings and fruits make a more acidic wine taste full-bodied and a little sweeter than you remember.


Always be cautious when pairing wine with salty dishes. Salt can make wine taste less bitter. Salt is also shown to amplify sweetness, so opt for a sweet wine with your salty dish. 


This one is a bit tricky. There are different spices and what pairs well with spicy barbeque doesn’t necessarily pair well with a spicy mole. If a dish has a red meat aspect to it, stick to red wines such as Grenache. With a more salty spice, acidic wines work better.

Go Forth!

Now you have the tools to pair your wine like a pro! Experiment with your wines and food and see what you discover. And when you find a beautiful pair, tag us on social media to let us know! Need help figuring out the right wines for you? Try a Vino Coterie Membership today and receive different monthly wines at your doorstep! Sign-up today.

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