Wine Pairing: A Guide for Beginners

Why is Wine Pairing Important

An art form that takes not place in the eye of the beholder, but amongst the palette of discernment. Despite its scientific connotations, wine pairing is great to be revered as an art form that transforms across palettes. A sip of wine traverses across the taste buds, highlighting various tasting parts. Wine is a great tool used for talking with friends, tasting, and information for future use. An experience that truly lights all parts of the mind, body, and soul. Yes, wine pairing is an art form. But, luckily, there’s always room for a splash, one that even Jackson Polluck himself couldn’t compare to. Read on my dear friends to find out more about this luxurious drink of the gods.

Bottles of white and red wine on a wooden shelf in a private winery cabinet room interior

Wine Types

To begin our journey, one must first familiarize themselves with the basic wine types and flavors. There are your classic red and white wines, your fun rosés and sparklings, delightful dessert wines, and, last, but not least, the robust fortified wines. Let’s break down the difference between them all, shall we?

Red Wines

  • Red wines are prepared from black grapes that have been fermented with skins, seeds, and stems. Tannins are abundant in red wine, giving it a bitter, dry aftertaste. 

White Wines

  • White wines are made from both white grapes and black grapes. But while red wines are fermented with grape skins, white wines are not. Instead, the skins are separated so only clear grape juice is used. White wine has few tannins; its acidic nature is what outlines its fresh, crisp, and tart flavors.

Rosé Wines

  • Rosé is a wine that is distinguished by its blush or pink color. This lovely shade is achieved by fermenting black grape juice with the skins for a short time, anywhere from a few hours to a few days, until the liquid becomes colorful. Similar to white wine, it has mild tannins, while some rosés are dry. Because of its light, sweet flavor, rosé is a favorite crowd-pleaser, especially for summertime celebrations, and a perfect option for a starter wine.

Sparkling Wines

  • You may have also heard sparkling wine is referred to as “bubbly” – a characteristic due to it being carbonated. Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring by-product of fermentation in sparkling wines created from black and white grapes. Champagne is the most well-known sparkling wine, and it is frequently served for celebrations. 

Dessert Wines

  • Dessert wines, as the name implies, are particularly sweet wines that are served with (or as) dessert after a meal. A popular dessert wine is an iced wine and Moscato. Moscato boasts the sweet taste of orange blossoms and peaches as if they had just been plucked, ripe, from a tree. Ice wine is made by using grapes that have been left to freeze on the vine. The wine’s pleasant sweetness is balanced by high acidity as a result of this practice. 

Fortified Wines

  • Wines that have had spirits like brandy added to them during the fermenting process are known as fortified wines. This leads to them having the highest alcohol content out of all other types of wine. Because the alcohol sweetens these wines, those with lower alcohol concentrations are referred to as dessert wines and are also served with desserts. 
Friends toasting with glasses of dark red wine

Specific Dish Pairings

Now that we’ve enlightened ourselves with the inner workings of wine and its impeccable properties, let’s continue our journey. Every glass of wine needs a dish to complement it and vice-versa. But where to start? So, how do you avoid looking like a fool on the first date by ordering the wrong wine with your spaghetti? Not that it has happened to me before, totally not. Anyways, sit back, relax, and let me be your guide to a truly wonderful and comprehensive guide to pairing wine with your meal.

Red Meat

  • Red meats are livestock animals which include beef, pork, goat, and lamb. Tannines work well to tenderize fat molecules that are present in red meats. Beef is quite a bold flavor that really dominates the palette when eaten. In this case, it is best to pair it with a glass of red wine. Red wine is high in tannins which is what breaks through the fattiness found in meat with ease. A Cabernet Sauvignon is a dry red wine that boasts notes such as aged oak, tobacco, and vanilla. Because of its medium-level acidity and tasting notes, it complements red meat dishes tremendously. 


  • When it comes to poultry dishes, we need to break down the bird into two sections: light and dark meat. Both of which pair beautifully with two very different types of wine. For dark meat; if you’re still a bit lost, a good rule of thumb is to choose a wine that matches the intensity of your dish. Medium to full-bodied red wines for dishes featuring cuts of dark meat and birds such as duck, turkey, goose, and partridge. Light, crisp white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier bring out the delicate flavors in cuts of white meat. A bit of a curveball but for duck, try a Reisling, a sweet white wine that does wonders when paired with this dish. 


  • Seafood dishes tend to be very rich and buttery to balance out the leanness of the protein. The typical wine to reach for is a light white wine with a very delicate texture and taste. Red wine can be used but keep it light and it is best served chilled. However, seafood dishes are vast and can vary greatly based on the star of the dish, how it is prepared, and so much more. Red wines like Merlot and Pinot Noir go beautifully with tuna and salmon as they complement each other’s textures well. 

Vegetable Dishes

  • Just like the poultry dish, vegetable dishes can be broken down into sections, depending on what your dish features. Does it feature light, crispy greens or hearty root vegetables? For a plate full of root vegetables, light red wine with fruit notes is ideal, or a bolder honey-like white wine. For delicate greens, a dry and aromatic white wine such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc will accentuate those wonderful summer flavors. One could even opt for a dry sparkling wine like Champagne which will offer another element to the mix of flavors and textures.
Two glasses of red wine on a wood tray with rose petals around

Dessert Dishes

  • Just because you have a dessert dish, doesn’t mean you need to stick to Moscato and Ice Wine. Of course, when in doubt these will complement just about any sweet dish you indulge in. However, don’t be afraid to experiment a bit with textures, flavors, and aromas. Fruity dishes like cobblers and pies go great with a bottle of Merlot, red wine with light tannins, and a delicate finish. Red wines also go great with deep chocolate flavors, both so bold they melt together in your mouth for an orgasmic experience. Fruity desserts are the perfect playground for aromatic white wines. Sweet Reisling with a tart lemon dessert works together to balance the sour and incorporate a bit more sweetness. If you’re feeling lost on what to choose, take a look at the tasting notes on your wine to see if they match your dessert. This is a foolproof way to make sure you enjoy your dessert to the fullest. 

No matter what you’re eating there is a common pattern that repeats. Light wines with light dishes and bolder wines for bolder, richer dishes. It’s like fighting fire with fire, except this dance is one that you can experience through food and drink and be truly swept away by the flavors! 

You’ve learned a ton about Wine Pairing! Now what?

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