A Food-and-Wine-Pairing Guide (Infographic)
Use this simple illustration to find out which wine to pair with your favorite foods.
So, you've got a great Chardonnay just waiting for the right occasion, but you're not sure what dish to pair it with? Or maybe the reverse: You're grilling up some gorgeous steaks and want to know which wine will do them justice? Or what to crack open for Thai takeout, spicy tacos, or a good old-fashioned slice of pizza? What's the best wine for burgers? Or sushi?
If you’re just discovering wine-pairing and are ready to venture beyond red wine with red meat and white wine with fish, we’ve got your back. The Yummly food-and-wine-pairing cheat sheet is here to guide you. Some of the more delicious and surprising pairings can taste complex (and even fluid), but they aren’t all that complicated.
The wine-and-food-pairing guide we’ve whipped up gives you options — whether you're looking for the perfect wine to complement your dish or vice versa. For example, a grilled chicken dish goes nicely with many great wines — not just Chardonnay. A light red like a Pinot Noir or a medium red such as Zinfandel or Merlot might be worthy companions. For a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, fresh and roasted veggies may do the trick, as may lighter fish dishes. Sparkling wine makes a great match to soft and hard cheeses like brie and gouda as well as starches (in other words, it’s perfect for a cheese board).
Wine-and-food pairings can feel high stakes. But Eric Asimov, the wine writer for The New York Times, urges you to relax. “Pairing food and wine can be the simplest thing in the world,” he writes. “But it can also be arcane and complicated, enough so that some people find it discouraging.”
Let’s not be discouraged, then. Start with these general guidelines and follow your nose and palate from there.
Wine pairing basics
Thanks to this guide, you can discover many classic wine-and-food pairings at a glance. Read on to learn more about each of the wine categories covered in the our wine pairing cheat sheet.
Click to enlarge
Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Albariño
Food pairings: vegetables, roasted vegetables, starches, and fish
The world of dry whites is vast and varied, but generally speaking, they’re light, bright, and acidic and pair well with similarly oriented foods. Think: spring vegetables, lighter fish, grilled chicken, and citrusy, herby dishes.
Gewurztraminer, Malvasia, Moscato
Food pairings: soft cheese, hard cheese, cured meat, sweets
Sweeter whites get along famously with salty appetizers and rich desserts, but also (surprise!) with spicy Asian dishes. Why? The sweet can help tame the heat.
Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne
Food pairings: soft cheese, starches, fish, rich fish, white meat
Bigger, creamier whites have the body to stand up to bigger, creamier flavors. That’s why Chardonnay and salmon are such a classic pairing.
Generally speaking, rich whites are less acidic and play well with a variety of leaner meats such as pork loin or chicken.
Champagne, Prosecco, Sparkling Wine, Cava
Food pairings: vegetables, soft cheese, hard cheese, starches, fish
Sparkling whites are fun and festive, but they pair well with the most basic snack foods. Why? Salt. Champagne and french fries, anyone?
St. Laurent, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Zweigelt
Food pairings: roasted vegetables, starches, rich fish, white meat, cured meat
Lighter reds are shape-shifters, depending on the dish and the varietal. They tend to interact well with leaner red meats, fattier fish or white meats, and earthier vegetable flavors like mushrooms.
Red Table Wine, Zinfandel, Merlot
Food pairings: roasted vegetables, hard cheese, starches, white meat, red meat, cured meat
Medium-bodied reds are pretty versatile, though there are many differences from bottle to bottle. They’re a flexible choice if your meal takes you from cheese plate through salad and a tomato-based Italian pasta to dessert.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Anglianico
Food pairings: hard cheese, starches, red meat, cured meat
Big bold reds are the classic steak wine — rich and tannic enough to cut through the fat. But they don’t stop there. Think BBQ chicken or any other seriously spiced entrée.
Late Harvest, Port, Ice Wine, Sherry
Food pairings: soft cheese, starches, cured meat, sweets
Dessert wines go with — you guessed it — dessert, which includes sweets, chocolate, cheeses, and salty nuts, the small bites that help you round out a meal.
White Zinfandel, Garnacha Rosado, Provence Rosé
Food pairings: vegetables, roasted vegetables, starches, soft cheese, hard cheese, fish, rich fish, white meat, cured meat
When in doubt, rosé. Rosé wines have the crisp acidity of a white with the fruitiness of a red, which gives them footing with a variety of dishes and cuisines.
As always, it’s probably a good idea to follow the rules — until you know when and how to break them. Plenty of great pairings can’t be captured in one food-and-wine-pairing chart. In fact, some of the best and most interesting defy logic. Fried chicken and champagne? Yum, actually. Sushi and Muscadet. Really? Yes! Moo Shoo Pork and Riesling. Okay! Red chile enchiladas and Merlot. Sure, let’s give it a whirl.
Once you have some of the basics down — how to pair the body of a wine to a dish, how to temper spice, balance fat, or match acidity — you’ll have plenty of room to riff and explore. Then, when you’re facing a meal without an obvious wine pairing — say, Korean BBQ with lots of kimchi and spicy sides — you can experiment. A Sangiovese with its tannins? A spicy Shiraz? A tart Chianti? Any could work. Be sure to take notes about why it does — or doesn’t.
Pairing wine and food is an art, not a science. “Just as I don’t cook like a restaurant chef at home, I don’t want to decide like a sommelier. So I act on instinct and learn something each time,” says Asimov.
Words to live — and eat and drink — by.