What are the best food and white wine pairings? When choosing wine for your meal, you might have already asked yourself this question. After all, the age-old principle “white to fish, red to meat” doesn’t always work. Instead, white wines come in various styles, from lighter wines with a crisp structure to richer oak-aged full-bodied wines, not to mention semi-sweet and sweet versions. 

This article will look at the main styles of white wines and cover the basics of wine and food pairing. We will also share notable examples of food and white wine pairings that may just inspire your dinner tonight.

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Why does food and wine pairing matter?

Perhaps you’ve already noticed that food affects the taste of wine, and wine, in turn, influences food taste. So how do you balance them? 

Successful food and wine pairings create a balance between the dish and the wine, enhancing the flavors in each. With the right food and wine pairings, you can enjoy the combined benefits of both a dish and drink. 

Common white wine profiles

Now, let’s look through the popular white wine profiles.

Light dry whites

Light white wines are delicate and refreshing, with pleasant flavors and natural acidity. The aromas of light dry whites range from fruity to grassy. Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc are popular grape varieties producing light-bodied whites.

Sweet whites

Sweet white wines have a soft, delicate taste dominated by fruity and floral aromas. In addition, aged white sweet wines may acquire new notes: almonds, candied fruit, and walnuts.

The drink becomes sweet due to the high content of residual sugar. There are many ways to achieve the desired sweetness. The easiest way to increase the concentration of sugars is to stop the fermentation before they turn into alcohol. For this, grape varieties such as Muscat and Riesling are most suitable.

Rich whites 

Full-bodied white wines tend to have creamy notes on the palate and a bright aroma. When aged in oak barrels, these wines derive hints of vanilla, caramel, coconut, or clove. To produce such wines, winemakers often apply malolactic fermentation, when malic acid turns into soft lactic acid under the action of malolactic bacteria. This technique gives a wine a pleasant creamy  mouthfeel.

Examples of rich whites that can spend time in oak barrels are Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc.

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White wine food pairing: the basics

Before we get into specific white wine pairings, let’s look through the time-tested principles of pairing food and wine so that you can grasp the basics. Then, as you get familiar with different wines, you will become more confident experimenting and creating your pairings.


The most straightforward rule of food and wine pairing is the principle of one color palette. Following this principle, white fish, seafood, and white meat will pair well with white wine. Red wine, on the contrary, will complement red meat dishes perfectly: steaks, ribs, game, Jamon, and smoked meats.

Being between white and red, Rosé is a more versatile companion that goes well with a range of red and white dishes: red fish like tuna and salmon, white meat, poultry, or veal.


The following pairing rule matches food and wine in terms of weight. By “weight” of the wine, we mean its body — the density of the drink, which you can feel on your palate. 

How do you assess the body of wine? The main determinants of the wine’s body are its alcohol and sugar content. The higher the alcohol content, the more full-bodied the wine appears. The same thing with sugar: the higher the sugar content in the drink, the denser the wine seems. For example, light-colored white wines with an alcohol content of less than 12% are typically light-bodied, while those with a richer golden color and a higher alcohol content are full-bodied.

As for food, it can be both light and heavy; light-weight and heavy-weight dishes need different wine companions. That is why sommeliers recommend serving the most delicate wines with light dishes like white fish, chicken, or salad. On the other hand, heavy and fatty foods require rich, dense, and intense wines. If you don’t match the weight of a dish with the wine body, a heavier component can outshine a lighter one, thereby destroying the balance of aromas and tastes in a gastronomic pair.

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Complexity, similarity, and contrast

Next, you can play on complexity, similarity, and contrast when creating a white wine pairing.

Simple everyday dishes like pasta or pizza go well with wines that don’t have a complex bouquet of aromas. More complex and sophisticated cuisines go better with layered wines. However, the principle is only sometimes universal: sometimes, complex wines pair nicely with simple dishes that don’t drown out the taste and aroma of the drink.

Following the similarity principle (also called congruent pairing) assumes looking for the common compounds or flavors in wine and food. This way, you may want to pair a dessert with a sweet wine and creamy pasta with a buttery-tasting wine like oaked Chardonnay.

The contrasting pairing principle (also known as complementary pairing) assumes balancing the richness of specific components and flavors by the contrasting elements of the other participant of the gastronomic pair. For example, a sweet white wine like Riesling would go well with spicy dishes like Asian-style pork, cooling their flavors a bit. Pinot Grigio can be a good companion for mac and cheese, balancing the dish’s creamy texture with the wine’s natural acidity.

Acidity and tannins

Acidity and tannins are other aspects to pay attention to when pairing wine and food — wines with pronounced acidity pair well with sour-tasting foods and fatty or salty dishes. In the first case, the harmonious pairing principle applies. In the second and third cases, it’s a complementary pairing principle or playing on contrasts since high-acid wines partially neutralize fatty or salty sensations.

Here is a fun exercise for you. Try to imagine whether a particular dish would go well with lemon juice. If yes, high-acid white wines like Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc would pair well with that dish.

Now, what about tannins? These compounds are found in higher concentrations in red wines and are responsible for the wine’s astringency. Therefore, more tannic wines like Cabernet Sauvignon typically require more protein in your meal.

Pairing wine and sauce

Sometimes, it is better to focus not on the main product but on the sauce with which the dish comes. Try matching the wine with the sauce so that their density and aromatic notes are in harmony.

For example, rich white wines like aged Viognier and Chardonnay go well with creamy sauces such as béchamel. Light dry white wines pair well with pesto or tomato sauces.


When wines go well with the cuisine of the region of their production, a so-called terroir principle applies. To try this principle, consider pairing California Chardonnay with cheese made from California milk. Another pairing worth trying is Meyer lemon loaf cake plus California Chardonnay.

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Foods that pair well with white wines

While it’s hard to generalize, since white wines come in various styles, we can still outline the foods that would best accompany this category of wines.

Here are the common dishes to pair with white wines:

  • Light seafood dishes — fish, shrimp, crab, and lobster
  • Poultry like chicken and turkey
  • Salads and appetizers 
  • Gouda, Havarti, Brie, and goat cheeses

Still, there might be exceptions based on the style of the wine you will serve. For example, as mentioned before, delicate whites pair well with lighter foods, while rich whites with a creamy, buttery texture require heavier dishes as companions.

10 white wine food pairings to inspire you

Now, it’s time to get into the Mill Keeper’s list of ten best white wine food pairings.

#1 Lobster plus Chardonnay

Choosing a wine to complement lobster greatly depends on how it is cooked. The good news is that there is an ideal companion for most lobster recipes among Chardonnay wines. With citrus notes being the primary flavors of most Chardonnays, adding natural lime or lemon notes to the seafood is always a win-win, whether it is a steamed or boiled lobster. 

Are you planning to serve lobster in a creamy sauce or buttered lobster cooked in the shell to your dinner table? With its rich and creamy texture, Oaked California Chardonnay will perfectly match your dish.

#2 Grilled veggies plus Sauvignon Blanc

Grilled vegetables can be either a side dish or a standalone dish that deserves careful wine selection. Whether you grill bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, or summer squash, Sauvignon Blanc’s bright acidity is perfect for these vegetarian dishes.

The aroma of Sauvignon Blanc harmoniously intertwines citrus and vegetable notes. Wine tastes are fresh and refined, with balanced acidity and a pleasant aftertaste. Therefore, it perfectly complements grilled vegetables without overpowering their taste.

#3 Chicken Curry plus Riesling 

Chicken curry is a dish with a dominant spicy or spicy-sweet taste, and Riesling wines are among the best companions for Pan-Asian recipes. The hint of sweetness from residual sugar and the high acidity of this wine can balance out almost any spice.

#4 Tart desserts plus Sauvignon Blanc

Dessert is an excellent final part of a gastronomic journey, so it’s important to pair it with the right drink, and it can be something other than tea. If you love tart desserts, try pairing them with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and see how harmoniously they complement each other. For example, not too sweet and not too heavy, apple tart goes well with the citrus notes in a light and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc.

If you prefer passion fruit pavlova, lemon pie, or sweet potato pie, Sauvignon Blanc will pair well with them, too.

#5 Creamy pasta dishes plus oaked Chardonnay

According to the basic rules for food and wine pairing, creamy and cheese sauces with a dense texture need wines with the same density level. Most often, these are oak-aged white wines. However, an oaked California Chardonnay with a creamy taste will create a harmonious pair with delicate cream cheese without overwhelming other flavors in this dynamic duo.

#6 Macaroni cheese plus dry Riesling 

If you find many Rieslings too sweet, try the following pairing: mac and cheese plus dry riesling. Other foods that make nice pairings with dry Riesling are turkey, oysters, mussels, scallops, and smoked salmon.

Thinking about pairing mac and cheese with semi-sweet Riesling? Don’t deny yourself in this experience! In this combination, the complementary pairing principle comes into play: salty cheese in this creamy dish balances out the sweeter wine while the acidity of the wine refreshes the palate. In addition, the cheese sauce is mild enough so it doesn’t overpower Riesling’s soft stone fruit and floral flavors.

#7 Lemon bars plus oaked Chardonnay

California Chardonnay wines are known for their versatility. A shortbread crust and the tangible smell of a lemon bar with oaked Chardonnay is worth trying. Why is that? The wine’s fruit and citrus flavors intensify the taste of the dessert’s lemony top while the rich, flaky crust underneath.

#8 Avocado plus Sauvignon Blanc

Due to its herbal and fruity notes and natural acidity, Sauvignon Blanc perfectly accompanies avocado’s green flavors. A ripe avocado may remind you of the taste of butter mixed with fresh herbs and walnuts. But, in general, avocadois neutral in its taste, which allows you to combine it with different ingredients: seafood, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, herbs, spices, and seasonings. A glass of Sauvignon Blanc will be a great addition if you have an avocado citrus salad on your dinner table. While avocados are inherently oily, the acidity of Sauvignon Blanc will balance out the fats, washing them off your taste buds.

#9 Brie, gouda, or goat cheese plus unoaked Chardonnay 

Choosing the perfect cheese plate to pair with wine is always a search for a balance between the tastes of a drink and an appetizer. Being lean and crisp, unoaked Chardonnays pair well with cheeses like Gouda, Brie, and goat cheese.

Since Brie is a rich cheese, it goes well with high-acid wines like Chardonnay. Chardonnay’s natural acidity balances out the fat content of the Brie perfectly. Another reason for the success of the Chardonnay and Brie pairing is that neither of them outshines the other.

Light notes of pear, yellow apple, and pineapple in unoaked Chardonnay are also good for pairing with Gouda. And if you want to emphasize the mineral and citrus flavors of the drink, try pairing unoaked Chardonnay with fresh goat cheese.

#10 Chicken and Turkey plus Pinot Grigio 

If you are looking for the perfect wine accompaniment to a chicken or turkey dinner, consider Pinot Grigio. Being a light-bodied wine, Pinot Grigio doesn’t overpower poultry taste.

This wine is notable for its aromatic, fruity notes ranging from apple and peach to guava and its natural acidity that refreshes the palate. Pinot Grigio pairs well with poultry dishes marinated in white wine or lemon. It also makes a great pair with chicken and turkey salad sandwiches.

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Final notes

To elevate your wine and dining experience, it is important to approach the future gastronomic combination with interest and inspiration and be open to experiments. Now that you know the basics of pairing white wine and food and have some inspiring examples, you can continue your gastronomic research! Get familiar with new types of wine, and don’t hesitate to create new food and wine pairings.