Most people know the old adage about choosing a wine to
pair with food: red with red meat; white with chicken
and fish. But where does pork fit? What about vegetarian
food? Suppose you are having a dark-fleshed fish, such
as tuna or salmon. Does it matter what kind of cuisine
you’re eating—Italian, French, Greek, Indian,
or Japanese? And if you’ve decided on red, what
then? Will it be a sweet Chenin Blanc, a dry Beaujolais,
or a fruity Zinfandel? Wouldn’t it be nice if there
were some online sources for guidance? Well, there are.
Wine for Food
If you’ve worked really hard preparing your food
and are looking for a wine to highlight it, I suggest
turning to these helpful sites.
Aside from wine pairing basics, this site will help
you find the best wines to serve based on a specific
ingredient you’d like to complement or the sauce
you are using. There are some curious concepts here,
such as pairing wines with frozen entrees, burgers with
different toppings, pizzas, snack foods, and other items.
For example, a burger topped with grilled white onions,
sautéed mushrooms, and Swiss cheese goes well
with an Italian Chianti or a California Sangiovese,
whereas a burger dressed with all-American pickle relish
and yellow mustard does better with a White Zinfandel.
Want to have an Australian Shiraz with your pizza? Top
it with sausage, mushrooms, and onions.
West Coast Wine Network (http://www.westcoastwine.net)
Scroll down to “Miscellaneous” and click
on “Pairing Food & Wine.” This page
has a comprehensive analysis of wine pairing, complete
with interesting historical and academic information.
It also offers solid advice, including how to cook with
wine in sauces and reductions as well as an explanation
of the “bridge ingredient” concept (i.e.,
every dish has an ingredient that connects it to the
wine). What is also useful is the discussion of pairing
wines according to cooking methods as well as to international
Beekman Wines & Liquors (http://www.beekmanwine.com/winefood.htm)
This site has general guidelines, helpful cooking pairing
categories (such as light and heavy appetizers, cold
fowl and meats, etc.), and specific pairing combinations
(such as wine for couscous, jambalaya, duck á
l’orange, quiche, and soufflé).
Best of Taste (http://www.bestoftaste.com/special/FoodandWinePairing)
This site has a simple grid: foods on one side; wines
on top. Run your fingers across and you have your pairing.
The categories are broad (“lamb,” for example)
and don’t take possible preparations into account.
Under “appetizers,” you’ll find several
wines checked off (because there are millions of appetizers),
so it doesn’t help much. But it is a quick and
dirty reference point.
Hormel Foods (http://www.hormelfoods.com)
has a more simplified chart. To locate it, click the
“Knowledge” tab on the home page, then scroll
down the list to “Beverages” and click on
Sutter Home Winery (http://www.sutterhome.com/html/guide)
This site has a cool and fun gimmick—a food pairing
wheel. You “spin” the wheel to the category
you desire and it gives you a brief guideline to follow
(e.g., “Light, fruity desserts pair beautifully
with Moscato, but richer, sweeter desserts … demand
a sweet wine like Port.”), recipes to choose from,
and suggested wines.
Turning Leaf Vineyards (http://www.turningleaf.com/home.asp)
has four interactive wheels to help you pair wines with
food, cheese, and herbs as well as food with wines.
It also has an interactive scale that determines the
best wine according to the heaviness of the food. (Check
out the cool Aroma Wheel too!)
Berry Bros. & Rudd “Food and Wine
Matching Page” (http://www.bbr.com)
This page has unusual entries for pairings, including
Hare Casserole and Wild Boar. (Some entries, such as
Haggis, Steak and Kidney Pie, and Neeps & Tatties,
are indicative that this is a British site.) To get
to it, click on “Wine Knowledge” on the
home page. Then click “Wine FAQs” and “Food
Williams Sonoma “Pairing Food & Wine
This page is elusive, but it contains a lengthy list
of foods and complementary wines. To get to it, click
on “Recipes,” type “wine” in
the recipe search bar, scroll down the results page
to “Related Results,” click on “Pairing
Wine & Vegetables,” and finally scroll down
that page and click on “Pairing Food and Wine.”
Food for Wine
Now let’s suppose that food is irrelevant. You
have a great bottle of wine that you want to share with
your friends. The wine is the center of attention and,
therefore, your goal is to find a recipe that best complements
it. These sites offer recipes and suggest the wines
that go with them:
Some sites discuss the pairing of ethnic wines, such
as Italian, Spanish, French, or German, but most of
the sites I described incorporate worldwide wines in
their lists or general descriptions.
Some sites are in straight text format; others have
tables, grids, and charts, making it easier for you
to choose a wine without having to read the whys and
wherefores. While this is great when you’re pressed
for time and need a quick answer before rushing out
to the liquor store, reading the information is a good
idea. It will help you understand why particular wines
go with particular foods.
Each site offers you a nugget of information to add
to your wine pairing arsenal. For example, Beekman Wines
& Liquors offers this tidbit about champagne: “Champagne
is not the best choice with caviar and smoked salmon!
The sugar dosage in most champagne is amplified by the
pungent fish oils, turning the wine sweet and fishy.”
Rule one of IneTour’s (http://www.inetours.com/PagesWT/Food_and_wine.html)
10 rules of thumb says, “If you are taking wine
as a gift to a dinner party, don’t worry about
matching the wine to the food unless you have been requested
to do so …. Just bring a good wine. … A
grand dinner party with multiple courses of elaborately
prepared dishes deserves a better wine than hamburgers
on the grill with chips in a bag.” Makes sense.
Wine for Cheese
Pairing wine with cheese can be a tricky business.
Despite their classic association, some cheeses override
the flavors of wine. According to Epicurious.com, certain
cheeses “coat the palate with a layer of fat that
works against dry red wine. The wine’s flavors
become dull and lifeless.” Don’t worry,
however. It can be done.
has one of the lengthiest cheese and wine pairing lists
I’ve seen (don’t even bother with its food
and wine pairing page). ILoveCheese.com
has a rather short list of cheeses to pair, but it does
include the most common varieties. And Epicurious.com
offers some explanation behind wine and cheese pairing
as well as a list of suggestions at http://www.epicurious.com/drinking/wine/ewg/cheese.
Although their list revolves around specific brands
and vintage years, you can still use it as a basis for
your decisions. OregonWines.com also has a decent cheese/wine
list. You can find it by clicking on the “Entertaining”
The one thing that all these sites stress is that you
should drink the wine you like. While these guidelines
are based on scientific principles, they are not written
in stone. It all comes down to what you enjoy.
Roberta Roberti is
a food expert and freelance writer.