Best wine to go with your menu

"A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine!"

This article by gastronome Elaine M. Koontz describes basic tips for planning a menu with complementary food and wine pairings.

Basic Guidelines

In general, dry wines are served prior to sweet wines.

White wines are served before red wines.

Red Bordeaux is served before red burgundies, but white burgundies are served before white Bordeaux.

Young red wines are served before older red wines.

Lower alcohol wines are served before higher alcohol wines.

Consider the food and the wine to be one dish. Rich foods are best served with full-bodied wines, while light or tangy dishes are best served with a wine of similar characteristics.


Generally speaking, light-bodied wines go best with steamed or poached foods and full-bodied wines with roasted or baked dishes.

The wine served with dessert should be as sweet as the dish, or sweeter.

Acidic wines go best with salty or fatty foods. Salty foods obscure the sweetness and emphasize the fruitiness of sweet wine.

Do not serve only white wines with fish and chicken, or only red wines with beef. This is an outdated rule. You cannot judge how a wine will taste with a meal by tasting it alone. Try to choose foods and wines from the same geographical region.

It’s easier to plan a menu once you’ve chosen the wine than it is to try to find a suitable wine for an existing menu.

Sometimes it’s best to just forget all of the rules and choose your favorite wine.


Pairing Food and Wine

Salads go best with dry rosé or riesling.

Shellfish and rich fish dishes are good alongside chardonnay or sauvignon blanc.

White meats and chicken are complimented by light red or dry white wine. Good choices include Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Burgandy, Pinot Blanc, Merlot, Chardonnay, Vin Gris or Riesling.

Chicken dishes are versatile, and wine pairing should take other ingredients present in the dish into account.

Italian food should, obviously, be paired with an Italian wine. Most Italian dishes go well with Chianti or Pinot Grigio. Dishes that include cream sauce as a main ingredient pair nicely with an Italian Chardonnay. Pizza goes well with Barbera or Sangiovese.


Red meat is best served with a full red wine, such as Bordeaux, Merlot, Cabernet or Burgandy wines. Pinot Noir or Zinfandel also go well with roast beef.

Duck and goose are accompanied well by Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Rioja or Merlot. Some professionals feel that duck goes excellently with rosé sparkling wine.

Ham pairs well with Asti Spumanti, Vin Gris or Beaujolais. Most other pork dishes should be served with Chardonnay, Chianti or Merlot.

Spicy food is good when coupled with Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Vin Gris, Chenin Blanc, Merlot or Gruner Veltliner.

Sweet desserts are complemented by a semi-sweet or sweet white wine. Chocolate goes well with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel.

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