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Food and Wine Pairing Guide

Carpe Vinum members appreciate the magic of food and wine pairing. Pairings when done well accentuate more from the wine and the food alone can do.

When wine is paired with the right food the combination can be amazing. Subtleties are reveled and the combination of senses plays off of each other.

Here we have provided a few examples of wines and food that pair well. These are just samples and by no means should they be viewed are hard and fast rules.

Leek-and-Pecorino Pizza with Pinot Noir or Dolcetto



Shrimp Scampi with Full-bodied Chardonnay


Lamb Chops with Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-style blends


Barbecue with Malbec, Shiraz and Côtes-du-Rhône


Seafood Tostada Bites pith Pinot Grigio or Arneis from Italy or Chablis from France



Zucchini Linguine Albariño from Spain and Vermentino from Italy



Thai Green Salad with Rieslings, Gewürztraminers and Vouvrays


Food and Wine Pairing Guide
The following wine pairing guide table provides some common parings for foods with red and white wines.




Wine and Cheese





Bardolino, Chianti, Zinfandel

Bel Paese





Port, Madeira, Sherry


Champagne, Sweet Sherry

Pinot Noir, Merlot, Beaujolais


Chenin Blanc

Pinot Noir, Cabernet



Cabernet, Rioja, Sauvignon Blanc





Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre, Vouvray






 Riesling, Champagne

Cabernet, Pinot Noir


Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc




Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Merlot, Malbec



Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti



Chianti, Barolo


Asti Spumante, GewŘrztraminer




Wine and Seafood




Champagne, Riesling




Pinot Noir





Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Burgundy (White)



Orvieto, Soave, Vinho Verde


Spicy seafood




Sake, Riesling, Sancerre


Wine and Meat




Riesling, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc

Pinot Noir, Barbaresco , Beaujolais and Zinfandel


Sancerre, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc

C˘tes du Rh˘ne



Cabernet, Merlot, Amarone, Meritage



Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Rioja, and Chianti



Bordeaux, Brunello di Montalcino, C˘tes du Rhone


Other Common Combinations

Simple pasta dishes will usually be a good reason to open any inexpensive Italian red, and in fact these wines, which tend to have higher acidity than many other red wines, will pair well with many foods.

Rhône wines also pair well with game, as does Burgundy. It's worth bearing in mind what else comes with the meat, however, as a sweet yet acidic fruit sauce, such as cranberry, could wreak havoc with either of these combinations. Perhaps a Cru Beaujolais would be a better consideration? Also bear in mind that some white meats, roast turkey for example, cope very well indeed with a red wine, and so this is an option worth considering.

Sauternes and blue cheese is a classic combination, specifically marrying the sweet, botrytis influenced white wine of Bordeaux, Sauternes, with blue cheese, specifically Roquefort. Many people swear by this pairing, the sweet and luscious nature of the wine working in contrast to the potent, salty nature of the cheese.
Port pairs well with Stilton, which is based on a very similar premise - savory cheese with a sweet fortified wine.

Some foods are I little harder to pair with wine. Eggs and egg dominated dishes, can work with a well balanced white wine, neither too acidic nor too rich. Acidic foods, such as tomatoes or vinaigrette dressings, are also problematic due to the acid level of the food. In this situation matching the acidity with a wine which is also acidic is the best approach. Finding wines for world cuisine can be a challenge, especially for spicy foods, although some matches - wines from Alsace with many Thai dishes, for example - work very well indeed.

Ten rules-of-thumb for food and wine pairing

1. If you are bringing wine to a dinner party, don't worry about matching the wine to the food unless you have been requested to do so and have enough information about what is being served to make an informed choice. Just bring a good wine. Match quality of food and wine.

2. If serving multiple wines with a meal, it's customary to serve lighter wines before full-bodied ones. Dry wines should be served before sweet wines unless a sweet flavored dish is served early in the meal. In that case match the sweet dish with a similarly sweet wine. Lower alcohol wines should be served before higher alcohol wines.

3. Balance flavor intensity with the wine by serving a light-bodied wines with lighter food and fuller-bodied wines with heartier, more flavorful, richer and fattier dishes such as main meat course.

4. Consider how the food is prepared and then pair a more delicate wine with light steamed, poached or raw foods. More powerful flavored foods such as braised, grilled, roasted or sautéed foods with and with sauce pair better with a full bodied as it will not dominant the flavor of the dish.

5. Match flavors of food with the type of wine such as an earthy Pinot Noir with mushroom soup and the grapefruit/citrus taste of Sauvignon Blancs goes with fish for the same reasons that lemon does.

6. Sweetness of the of deserts pair well with sweeter wines such as Sauternes, late harvest, Tokay and ports.

7. Very hot or spicy foods need a sweeter wine to balance the heat.

8. Match by geographic location. Regional foods and wines, having developed together over time, often have a natural affinity for each other.

9. Pair wine with cheese (see above wine and chees pairing guide). In some European countries the best wine is reserved for the cheese course. Red wines go well with mild to sharp cheese. Pungent and intensely flavored cheese is better with a sweeter wine. Goat Cheeses pair well with dry white wine, while milder cheeses pair best with fruiter red wine.

10. Adjust food flavor to better pair with the wine. Sweetness in a dish will increase the awareness of bitterness and astringency in wine, making it appear drier, stronger and less fruity. High amounts of acidity in food will decrease awareness of sourness in wine and making it taste richer and mellower — sweet wine will taste sweeter.

Matching Wine with Food

A simple system for devising great matches

Getting Started by Keeping Things Simple
Good news: when learning to match food and wine, you don't have to learn complicated systems for selecting the right wine to enhance the food on the table. This is not rocket science. There is a simple way to make successful wine and food pairings, requiring only that you consider the weight of both the wine and the food when making a decision about what to pour with what you'll be serving and eating.

Of course, it’s fun to experiment and fine-tune, and with experience you may be able to create spectacular matches that dramatically improve both the dish and the wine. But save those efforts for special occasions, and special wines. Because most of the time, you will spend more time talking with your guests than you will analyzing the pairings. So the first rule of thumb is to make sure the food is good and the wine is, too. Even if the match is not perfect, you will still enjoy what you're drinking.

When it comes to selecting a wine to match with your food, don't try to get too fancy. First, choose a wine that you would want to drink by itself. Then consider the weight of the dish and the wine, respectively. This is where common sense comes in. The old rule about white wine with fish and red wine with meat made perfect sense in the days when white wines were mostly light and fruity and red wines were mostly tannic and weighty. But today, when many California Chardonnays are heavier and fuller-bodied than most California Pinot Noirs and even some Cabernets, color coding does not always work.

How Do Reds Differ from Whites?

Red wines are distinct from whites in two main ways: tannins—many red wines have them, few white wines do—and flavors. White and red wines share many common flavors; both can be spicy, buttery, leathery, earthy or floral. But the apple, pear and citrus flavors in many white wines seldom show up in reds, and the currant, cherry and stone fruit flavors of red grapes usually do not appear in whites.

In the wine-and-food matching game, these flavor differences become mere subtleties. You can make better wine choices by focusing on a wine's weight. Like human beings, wines come in all dimensions. To match them with food, it's useful to know where they fit in a spectrum, with the lightest wines at one end and fuller-bodied wines toward the other end.
To help put the world of wines into perspective, we offer the following lists, which arrange many of the most commonly encountered wines into a hierarchy based on size, from lightest to weightiest. If you balance the wine with the food by choosing one that will seem about the same weight as the food, you raise the odds dramatically that the match will succeed.

OK, purists, you're right: some Champagnes are more delicate than some Rieslings, and some Sauvignon Blancs are bigger than some Chardonnays— but we're trying to paint with broad strokes here. When you're searching for a light wine to go with dinner, pick one from the top end of the list. When you want a bigger wine, look toward the end.

Selected dry and off-dry white wines, lightest to weightiest:

• Soave, Orvieto, Pinot Grigio
• Off-dry Riesling
• Dry Riesling
• Muscadet
• Champagne, Prosecco, Cava and other dry sparkling wines
• Chenin Blanc
• Arneis
• French Chablis and other unoaked Chardonnays
• Rioja (white)
• Pinot Blanc
• Albariño
• Vermentino
• Verdejo
• Sauvignon Blanc
• Greco di Tufo
• Grüner Veltliner
• White Bordeaux
• White Burgundy
• Pinot Gris (Alsace, Tokay)
• Viognier
• Gewürztraminer
• Barrel-fermented or barrel-aged Chardonnay (United States, Australia)
Selected red wines, lightest to weightiest:
• Valpolicella
• Beaujolais Cru
• Dolcetto
• New Zealand Pinot Noir
• Burgundy
• Oregon Pinot Noir
• California Pinot Noir
• Cabernet Franc
• Barbera
• Chianti Classico
• Rioja
• Brunello di Montalcino
• Ribera del Duero
• Barbaresco
• Grenache/Garnacha
• Pinotage
• Merlot (United States)
• Malbec
• Barolo
• Bordeaux
• Petite Sirah
• Zinfandel
• Cabernet Sauvignon (United States, Australia)
• Rhône Syrah and Australian Shiraz

More common sense: Hearty food needs a hearty wine. A dish like braised pork belly, for example, or a lasagna Bolognese, will run roughshod over Pinot Noir or Valpolicella, making them taste insipid. Better to uncork a Malbec, Merlot or a Cabernet Sauvignon.

With lighter food, you have more leeway. Lighter wines will balance nicely against your chicken Caesar salad, sashimi platter or chilled pea soup, of course, but heartier wines will still show you all they have. Purists may complain that full-bodied wines "overwhelm" lighter foods, but the truth is that anything with a modicum of seasoning still tastes fine after a sip of a heavyweight wine.

These are the secrets behind some of the classic wine-and-food matches. Muscadet washes down a plate of oysters or crudo seasoned with sea salt because it's just weighty enough to match the delicacy of a raw bivalve or slab of pristinely fresh fish. Cabernet complements short ribs or grilled lamb chops because they're equally vigorous. Pinot Noir or Burgundy makes a better match with prime rib or pasta with sautéed porcini mushrooms because the richness of texture is the same in both the wine and the food.

To make your own classic matches, start off on the traditional paths and then deviate a little. Try a dry Champagne or a dry Riesling, which are on either side of Muscadet on our weight list, with raw or lightly cooked shellfish for a similar effect. Don't get stuck on Cabernet with red meats—look up and down the list and try Zinfandel or Côtes-du-Rhône. Instead of Burgundy or Pinot Noir with beef or mushrooms, try a little St.-Emilion or Barbera. That's the way to put a little variety into your wine life without straying too far from the original purpose.

But What About Sweet Wines?
Some wine drinkers recoil at the thought of drinking an off-dry (sweet) wine with dinner, insisting that any hint of sweetness in a wine destroys its ability to complement food. In practice, nothing can be further from the truth. Think about how many Americans (and not just children) drink sweet tea, lemonade or soda with dinner. Why should wine be different? The secret to matching wine and food is balance.

So long as a wine balances its sugar with enough natural acidity, a match can work. This opens plenty of avenues for fans of German Rieslings, Vouvrays and demi-sec Champagnes. One of the classic wine-and-food matches is Sauternes, a sweet dessert wine, with foie gras—which blows the sugarphobes' theory completely. The match works because the wine builds the richness of the wine upon the richness of the fatty liver.

The moral of the story is not to let some arbitrary rules spoil your fun. If you like a wine, drink it with food you enjoy and you're bound to be satisfied.


How to Pair Wine and Chocolate

Chocolate and wine by themselves are delicious. The notion of pairing wine with chocolate can be a daunting task, but if you have the right wine to complement the right chocolate it can be a match made in heaven! Some rules apply regardless of the attempt to pair wine with a delicate white chocolate or a bold dark chocolate. There are tasting tips to keep in mind.

Keep in mind the following “rules” for successfully pairings wines with chocolate:

1. The wine should be at least as sweet, or sweeter, than the chocolate you are serving it with. If you do not keep to this tip, the taste may quickly turn sour.
2. Match lighter, more elegant flavored chocolates with lighter-bodied wines; specifically, the stronger the chocolate, the more full-bodied the wine should be. For example, a bittersweet chocolate tends to pair well with an intense Zinfandel.

White Chocolate Wine Suggestions

• Sherry
• Moscato d’Asti – the hint of carbonation blends well with the mellow and buttery flavor of white chocolate.
• Orange Muscat – will pick up any fruit tones present.

Milk Chocolate Wine Suggestions

• Pinot Noir
• Merlot
• Riesling
• Muscat

Dark Chocolate Wine Suggestions

Dark or bittersweet chocolates deserve a wine that has a roasted, slightly bitter flavor itself, with perhaps a hint of chocolate. Some good suggestions include:

• Cabernet Sauvignon
• Zinfandels


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