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Basic Wine Pairings

There’s only one real rule of thumb for pairing food and wine: you should always have wine with your food! Wine enhances a meal like no other beverage, and the taste of wine is often changed by what you eat.

Although you should not be afraid to try any wine you like with your favorite dish, there are some combinations that work better than others. The main idea to keep in mind is that the weight of the wine should match the weight of the meal. Light dishes go better with light wines, and heavy foods are better paired with heavier wines. Also, consider the sauce and accompaniments when choosing your wines.

Listed below are a few starting points for pairing food and wine. As always, do not be afraid to try something different.


Light wines with mild cheeses and heavier wines with stronger cheeses.

  • Soft Cheeses – These include cream cheese style spreads, Brie, Gouda, Havarti or Swiss – try champagne or an aromatic white such as gewürztraminer or Riesling. Crispness in the white wine will play well off the butterfat.
  • Hard cheeses – Asiago, Parmesan, Cheddars and Manchego are a few examples. If you prefer white, go with a heavier wine such as chardonnay, but these wines are great with more complex reds including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti and Rioja.
  • Blue Cheeses – The classic accompaniment is a dessert wine such as sauternes or a port.

Picnic Foods

Lighter reds such as Beaujolais, a young pinot noir, or a young Spanish red (noted by the term “Crianza”) are the perfect partners to picnic fare. For whites, look to Riesling, Gewürztraminer or any of the Italian whites (pinot grigio, soave and orvietto).


Crisp whites and light reds are the call here. For matches made in heaven, try a Spanish Albarino with scallops, Chardonnay with lobster, or pinot noir with salmon.


The key to pairing wine with chicken is to match the sauce or spice to the wine. Lighter preparations favor lighter whites and reds such as pinot grigio, sauvignon Blanc, Beaujolais or pinot noir; heavier dishes, on the other hand, match better with Chardonnay, Rhone reds and Spanish reds


Best bets are Gewürztraminer and zinfandel.