Wine & Food Pairing 101

Hi friends! I’m coming at ya today with something a little different than my typical Friday cocktail posts. Welcome to your last class for the week:

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

 

With Halloween behind us, it’s time to start thinking about our menus (and beverages!) for the incredibly food-centric holidays that are upon us. I know many of you (like me) have already been mulling ideas over in your head thinking about (a) which dishes would be a huge hit with your family and friends and (b) how MANY delicious dishes you can feasibly pull off.

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

Because you’ve already got enough to worry about with making the food, cleaning the house, decorating, and dealing with all the family drama, etc., I thought I’d help out by taking away some of the uncertainty you might have when deciding which wines you want to crack open with all of your special holiday meals.  That’s right folks, this here post is the answer to all of your most daunting questions about which wines to pair with which foods.

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

 

I’ve kept it short and sweet here, since this “cork dork” can go on about wine and food pairings for dayzzzzzz, but you know I’m always here to help if you have other questions or are perhaps serving something that I haven’t touched upon here. And don’t forget, I can now come to YOU to do a personal Wine Education Class (which, really, should be called a party) for you and your friends. Be sure to check out my Services page to see what’s available.

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

WHITE WINES

Chardonnay

The Scoop: There are two main camps of Chardonnay, oaked and unoaked. Often you’ll discover that you’re a fan of one or the other, but I personally enjoy both. The oaked Chardonnays are the ones you’ll have heard described as “buttery,” while the unoaked Chardonnays are aged in stainless steel and therefore have a crisper, more acidic taste to them. You may also see Chardonnays that have been aged in a combination of oak and stainless steel. These are frequently my favorites!

What to Eat with Oaked Chardonnays?

  • Butter and cream sauces (on pasta or light meats/seafoods)
  • Citrus-based dishes
  • Flaky white fish
  • Chicken
  • Shellfish
  • Butternut squash and pumpkin
  • Cream-based soups
  • Pungent, creamy Brie-like cheese (such as La Tur or camembert)

From the CaliGirl Cooking Archives:

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

What to Eat with Unoaked Chardonnays?

  • Grilled seafood
  • Chicken
  • Non-cream based citrusy dishes (especially if they involved seafood)
  • Oysters
  • Vegetable-heavy dishes and soups

From the CaliGirl Cooking Archives:

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

Sauvignon Blanc

The Scoop: Sauvignon Blanc tends to be herbaceous and full of tropical citrus notes, making it a great pairing for fresh vegetable dishes. It’s a lighter white, perfect for serving at a brunch or as guests arrive for Thanksgiving dinner. It tends to be on the lighter side, which means it can easily be enjoyed alone. New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs tend to have a grassier, more herbaceous flavor, while Sauvignon Blancs from the United States tend to be fruitier and more citrusy.

What to Eat with Sauvignon Blanc?

  • Crudites
  • Raw vegetable dishes (salads, etc.)
  • Chimichurri or other mild vinaigrettes
  • Goat cheese
  • Feta

From the CaliGirl Cooking Archives:

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris

The Scoop: Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris has gotten somewhat of a bad rap due to being historically “bland” or “uninteresting.” That being said, many wineries are stepping up to the plate and making delicious and intriguing versions of the varietals. They’re popular in France and Italy, light wines that are quite refreshing. Although they may not stand up well against some of the heavier, more intense dishes you’ll be making during the holidays, they’re another great wine to greet your guests with or serve while everyone is lounging around during the long weekend.

What to Eat with Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris?

  • Primavera
  • Fresh citrus/cucumber based dishes
  • White fish served with remoulade or fresh fruit salsa
  • Raw seafood dishes
  • Fruit-forward salads
  • Dishes with a lot of fresh herbs
  • Hard, salty cheese such as Parmesan or Asiago

From the CaliGirl Cooking Archives:

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

Riesling/Gewurtztraminer/Viognier

The Scoop: I like to lump these all together in a group I call the “aromatic varietals.” They are incredibly floral on the nose, with hints of honeysuckle, jasmine and lychee. They are also made in a range from very sweet to almost bone dry, making them great companions for exotic, spicy food. If you taste one of these varietals and don’t enjoy it, don’t be discouraged! Simply be sure to try a different one the next time around. They come in so many different styles that eventually you’re sure to come across one you enjoy when paired with the right food.

What to Eat with Aromatic Varietals?

  • Indian food
  • Thai food
  • Sushi
  • Chinese food
  • Any chicken or seafood dish with a spicy sauce/preparation
  • Creamy blue cheese

From the CaliGirl Cooking Archives:

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

Champagne & Other Sparkling Wines

The Scoop: My favorite, and incredibly food-friendly! I know we all favorably refer to all sparkling wines as “Champagne,” but in reality, only wines hailing from the Champagne region of France can be heralded with that name. All other sparkling wine must be called something different. We have Cava, from Spain, Prosecco, from Italy, and Sekt from Germany and Austria. We’ve failed to come up with something creative here in the U.S., so our domestic sparkling wines are called just that: sparkling wine. No matter what type of “sparkling wine” you’re consuming, there’s always an excuse to pop a bottle.

What to Eat with Sparkling Wines?

  • Just about any type of cheese
  • Just about any type of charcuterie
  • Caviar
  • Oysters
  • Seafood – especially smoked salmon
  • Potato chips
  • Popcorn
  • Deep-fried foods
  • Sausages
  • Chicken

From the CaliGirl Cooking Archives:

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

ROSE

The Scoop: Our favorite happy medium between red and white wine. There are many different types of rose, but they always fall in the middle of the color spectrum. They can be sweet or dry, dark or light, made from any number of different grape varietals. This is another type of wine where you may need to try a few different incarnations before you find the perfect one for you.

What to Eat with Rose?

  • Ham or other pork
  • Poke (raw ahi tuna)
  • Heavier seafood (such as swordfish)
  • Cheese
  • Charcuterie
  • Dishes with any sort of berry topping or sauce
  • Roast chicken or other game

From the CaliGirl Cooking Archives:

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

RED WINES

Cabernet Sauvignon

The Scoop: The king of….wines? Probably the most recognized (and consumed) red wine out there, or at least in California. Thanks to the Napa Valley and its esteemed success, Cabernet Sauvignon is stranger to no one. It’s a bigger red wine, dare I say #basic? That’s unfair, because there are plenty of over-the-top delicious Cabs and Cab blends out there and I’m the first to jump at the chance to buy them. What I mean when I say “basic,” is this varietal goes with just about any food you’d think would “pair well with red wine.” If you’re a novice wine consumer, be sure to get yourself acquainted with these quickly!

What to Eat with Cabernet Sauvignon?

  • Steak (or any beef for that matter)
  • Pasta with red sauce
  • Mushrooms
  • Lasagna
  • Venison
  • Duck
  • Creamy blue cheese
  • Stew
  • Sausage

From the CaliGirl Cooking Archives:

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

Pinot Noir

The Scoop: The lightest of all red wines, Pinot Noir is a perfect “bridge” varietal. It’s great for those “in between” dishes, like seafood with a red sauce, turkey with stuffing, etc. In fact, a Pinot Noir is one of the most perfect wines you could pair with your Thanksgiving dinner (besides sparkling wine, of course.) It also pairs wonderfully with slightly heavier seafood, such as salmon or seared tuna. Nowadays, you can find Pinot Noir in all shapes and flavors. Some like it more on the minerally side (not my favorite) but there are also plenty of fabulous representations that are more jammy, rounded and fruit-forward (my personal preference.) Either way, you definitely need to stock up on this varietal for the holidays!

What to Eat with Pinot Noir?

  • Bouillabaisse
  • Seafood dishes with red sauce
  • Dishes involving bacon
  • Roast turkey (esp. with stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce)
  • Salmon
  • Seared tuna
  • Duck
  • Pork

From the CaliGirl Cooking  Archives:

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

Merlot

The Scoop: The other “basic” red wine. I have to admit, I had all but given up on Merlots until our trip to Napa the other weekend, where we tasted not one, not two, but at least THREE absolutely fantastic Merlots.  Folks, I think we’re seeing a resurgence. Gone are the Sideways days of bashing this classic red varietal. What we’re seeing now is pretty exciting. What used to be a one-dimensional wine is taking on multiple dimensions and, dare I say it? There’s actually some complexity to these wines! So go get yourself a Merlot from a top producer stat. You won’t be sorry.

What to Eat with Merlot?

  • Cheese and charcuterie
  • Everything else that you can pair with Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Any dish you’re having on a night that you want some wine but you don’t want to open your nice bottle of Cab 😉

From the CaliGirl Cooking Archives:

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

Syrah/Petite Sirah

The Scoop: THESE ARE NOT THE SAME GRAPE. No, they are not, but they’re fairly similar which is why I’m lumping them together and hoping you’ll forgive me. The main difference is that Syrah is smoother and more refined, with a hint of smokiness. Petite Sirah is bigger, more of a heavy hitter, tannic and bold. They are both mysterious and intriguing, and only  get better when paired with food.

What to Eat with Syrah/Petite Sirah?

  • Anything grilled or smoked
  • Red meat (especially if it’s grilled or smoked)
  • Heavier seafood (such as ahi, trout or swordfish, especially if smoked)
  • Lamb
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Wild boar
  • Olives
  • Hard blue or sharp cheeses
  • Bacon

From the  CaliGirl Cooking Archives:

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

Zinfandel

The Scoop: If I’m going to drink Zinfandel, I’m going to drink a really. good. Zinfandel. There are plenty of Zins that are way too fruity, with an old, musty quality. To me, a newly opened bottle of these types of wine taste as if they’ve been opened for a few days. Not my jam. But occasionally I come across a perfectly balanced Zinfandel that has me running for the barbecue. The type of Zinfandel that has just the right amount of fruit, with a dusty or smoky quality (and plenty of alcohol) to finish off the palate well-balanced, leaving you wanting more. My best advice? Keep your eyes out for the diamonds in the rough. They’re well worth it!

What to Eat with Zinfandel?

  • Everything BARBECUE
  • Chocolate (for the fruitier Zins)
  • Chili
  • Rich cheeses
  • Raspberries

From the CaliGirl Cooking Archives:

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

Sangiovese (and other Italian Reds)

The Scoop: Again, I’m lumping way too much together, but we’ll save the extreme breakdown for some other posts. Sangiovese is one of the (if not, THE) most popular varietals in Italy, and deservedly so. It’s BIG, and you’ll need some big food to go with it. It’s no lie when they say that the best food to pair with a wine is the food that’s made in the same area the wine is made in, and Sangiovese is no exception.

What to Eat with Sangiovese?

  • Any Italian food, especially that involving red sauce, red meat, or rich cheeses
  • Eggplant parmesan
  • Lasagna
  • Bruschetta
  • Pate

From the CaliGirl Cooking Archives:

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

So what do you think? Are you ready to conquer all of your holiday entertaining? Don’t forget, if there’s anything I left out that you’re super curious about, shoot me an email! Have a special dish you’re serving that I didn’t cover? Let me know in the comments below! I want you to have all the tools you need to take this holiday season by storm! XO

Wine & Food Pairing 101 | CaliGirlCooking.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *