Today’s variety of red wines allows you to choose the perfect wine pairing for almost any dish. When paired with your favorite food, food-friendly red wine can transform any meal into one to remember. First, though, the question is: what type of wine goes well with which dish?

This article will reveal the critical principles of pairing food and wine and share the best red wine pairs worth trying.

Red wine cheese pairing

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Taste components to look for in food and wine

Before we move on to the basic principles of pairing wine and food, let’s define the primary taste characteristics. 

The key taste components in food are fatness, saltiness, sweetness, bitterness, spiciness, and acidity. 

When it comes to wines, their taste spectrum is somewhat narrower and comes down to acidity, bitterness, and sweetness of varying degrees. For example, rosé, sparkling, and white wine have more acidity, while red wine has more bitterness. As for sweet wines, the name of their category speaks for itself.

Food and wine pairing: the basics 

Now that you know the key taste characteristics of wine and food, let’s proceed with the pairing basics. Food and wine pairing principles go far beyond the general rule of thumb about serving white wine with fish and most red wine — with meat. Instead, sommeliers use widely accepted practices to identify food that goes with wine and vice versa. These rules are easy to understand, so you can apply them daily to produce great wine and food pairings at home. So let’s look through them. 

Make sure the wine is more acidic than the dish

Wines characterized by high acidity levels are ideal companions for sour, fatty, and salty dishes.

But how do you understand whether certain acidic wines suit a dish? Just imagine adding lemon juice to the dish you are pairing with wine. If you find this combination good, wines with high acidity levels, like Sauvignon Blanc, will suit your dish.

Make sure the wine is sweeter than the dish

The following principle is to combine wine and food so that the wine is slightly sweeter than your dish. Otherwise, you risk losing the value of the drink. If you are trying to pair wine with dessert, avoid dry wines when enjoying overly sweet desserts.

In addition, sweet wines like Sauternes can balance the dish’s saltiness.

Balance the bitterness of tannins with heavier food

If you’ve ever taken a sip of wine and felt dryness in the middle of your tongue, then that wine is tannic or “full-bodied.”. Red wines contain much more tannins than whites. 

Foods high in fat and rich in flavors, such as beef, duck, avocado, and cheese, are perfect accompaniments to high-tannin or full-bodied wines. Mixing and matching dryness and buttery texture will create a complex experience — wines like California Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz balance the fat content and softness of more decadent foods. Rich and fatty meals soften the dryness of the wine.

Match the wine with the sauce

Sometimes, it is worth focusing not on the dish itself but on the sauce served. So, ensure that the wine matches the sauce in density and aromatic notes.

For example, rich white wines like aged Chardonnay go well with creamy and mushroom sauces, while lighter red wine styles like Pinot Noir go well with berry sauces.

Pair spicy dishes with a sweeter wine

Why do sweet wines complement spicy dishes well? Both drink and food reveal each other without overshadowing each other’s qualities. You won’t recognize its taste if you choose a soft wine for a spicy dish. If you select a wine with a high alcohol level, you won’t feel the taste of food, and the burning sensation in your mouth will increase. 

With spicy foods, it’s better to take untanned wine or with a low content of it. If you settle on red wine, opt for light-bodied wines and wines with neutral barrel regiments.

How to pair red wine

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Ensure the wine and dish have a similar “weight” and flavor intensity.

By “weight,” we don’t mean kilos or pounds but the density of the drink itself. Light-bodied wine like Pinot Grigio with subtle aromas of fruit and flowers will complement fresh salads and seafood well. Medium-bodied wines like an unaged Chardonnay from France will go great with white meats like chicken, rabbit, or white fish. Rich New World wines like Chardonnay varieties will make a great pairing with creamy pasta, smoked eel, or truffle risotto.

When having similar flavor intensity, the wine and dish also complement each other. Why does salmon with lemon sauce go well with Pinot Grigio? Spicy foods like pepper steak, in turn, go with spicy Shiraz wine. Chocolate for dessert with 3-year-aged Port expresses aromas of chocolate, coffee, and vanilla.

Combine food and wine based on the regional origin

It’s probably not a secret that most red wines pair well with cuisine from their production region. As a rule, dishes and wines united by the same terroir have similar shades and make a great pair.

For example, California Chardonnay pairs perfectly with meyer lemon loaf cake. Another great pairing is a grilled cheese sandwich layered with Monterey Jack cheese and a glass of Chardonnay.

Food and wine pairings to avoid

Although most wines are food-friendly, certain products are incompatible with wine and noticeably worsen the drink’s taste when consumed together. Let’s look through them:

  • Artichokes contain cynarin — an amino acid that, when combined with wine, will give it an unnatural sugary taste
  • Brussels sprouts, garlic, asparagus, and broccoli negatively affect the taste of the wine due to organosulfur compounds in their composition
  • Chili and mint neutralize the taste buds so that you won’t taste the wine
  • Eggs, since not ultimately curtailed protein and yolk (for example, in a poached egg), may envelop the tongue and prevent the receptors from fully perceiving the taste of wine
Red wine food pairing

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15 excellent red wine food pairings

You can make countless pairings based on the principles of combining wine and dishes listed above. If you are still unsure where to start, no worries! First, check these 15 proven food and wine pairing examples.

1. Pinot Noir plus earthy ingredients

Pinot Noir is an excellent choice for vegetarians — it pairs perfectly with grilled vegetables, dishes with mushrooms, and aromatic herbs. The earthy flavors of this wine are great for mushroom risotto or beef with mushroom sauce. Among the herbs, thyme compliments the taste of wine particularly well, especially when paired with risotto and pasta.

2. Pinot Noir plus lean meats

Being a type of wine with a medium-bodied texture and soft tannins, Pinot Noir is one of the best matches for foods with less fat in them.

Duck is a classic pair of Pinot Noir. The high acidity of this wine balances the fat content and brings out the flavor of the duck. Beef also works well with Pinot Noir. Choose lean cuts of meat so that you don’t lose the flavor.

Pinot Noir can also be an excellent match for roast chicken.  

3. Sangiovese plus Italian dishes

Sangiovese is a savoy medium-bodied wine with expressive cherry flavors and more subtle notes of fruit and tomato. Exposure in oak barrels adds notes of vanilla, fried bread, and coffee. 

Like most Italian grape varieties, Sangiovese produces very food-friendly wines. The high acidity of Sangiovese is the perfect match for tomatoes and therefore goes well with pasta, lasagna, pizza, meatballs, and ravioli with red sauce.

Sangiovese is a wine that pairs well with savory dishes such as smoked meats and hard cheeses such as Parmesan or Provolone. Among herbs that go well with this wine are oregano, thyme, basil, and sage.

4. Cabernet Sauvignon plus quality steaks

Cabernet Sauvignon is an unsuitable match for light and delicate dishes — it overwhelms their taste. More decadent dishes full of protein, in turn, can balance the tannins and release the rich flavors of this wine. 

The most popular food with a wine like Cabernet Sauvignon is steak. Keep in mind that the meat should be of low or medium roast; otherwise, the level of fats and proteins will be insufficient to taste the wines. This full-bodied wine loves thick, hearty dishes like roast beef or braised ribs.

5. Cabernet Sauvignon plus snacks

In addition to meat steaks, well-chosen appetizers will emphasize Cabernet Sauvignon’s taste advantages. Hard and soft varieties of cheeses like asiago, cheddar, and gouda are perfect for this sort of wine. Mini meatballs and prosciutto ham are also suitable matches.

Since Cabernet Sauvignon is a kind of “heavy” wine, it is more likely to overpower lighter appetizers such as salads.

6. Malbec plus barbecue

Malbec’s intense dark fruit aromas and smoky flavors make this type of wine the perfect match for beef or pork barbeque and a grilled steak. In addition, due to its structure, Malbec pairs well with meats, incredibly smoky or spiced red meats. Malbec’s companions are dark-meat poultry and lean meats such as duck, chicken legs, lamb, beef, ostrich, pork shoulder, and buffalo. 

Using fresh herbs and spices will enhance and emphasize the fruity taste of Malbec wine.

Red wine pairing with pasta

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7. Malbec plus burgers

Being bold red wine, Malbec pairs well with spicier and richer foods, and burgers are no exception. With light-bodied wines like Pinot Noir, the dish may dominate the subtle charms of the wine, while full-bodied wines like Cabernet Sauvignon may overpower the taste of the food. In that regard, Malbec strikes a balance perfectly.

The secret of delicious Malbec is combined with pepper, sage, creamy mushroom sauces, and melted cheese (in particular, blue cheese). As a result, Malbec has a lot of fruity red notes and light saturation, and blue cheese will only enhance the flavor intensity of the pair.

8. Shiraz plus Spiced Dishes

Shiraz is a full-bodied wine with a high content of tannins that you can easily recognize when making a sip. Shiraz is not as acidic as Sauvignon or Cabernet and leaves a subtle sweet aftertaste.

Shiraz is ideal for very spicy dishes with lots of spices. For example, if the meat marinade consists of pepper and cumin, the sauce contains crushed chili, garlic, coriander, cumin, salt, and olive oil. In that case, Shiraz will work perfectly for the dish.

9. Shiraz plus cheeses

Shiraz pairs perfectly with smoked gouda as a type of wine with very expressive black fruit aromas and notes of tobacco bitterness. Opt for lighter cheeses like feta or white cheddar if you want a milder flavor and less astringency.

10. Beaujolais plus vegetarian dishes

Beaujolais is a versatile wine that goes well with any meal. In particular, this light-bodied wine complements vegetarian dishes perfectly. Consider pairing Beaujolais with baked potatoes, baked pumpkin, or butternut squash.

11. Beaujolais plus lean meat dishes

You may want to try Beaujolais with lean meat dishes if you are not a vegetarian. Nearly all feathered game dishes go well with this type of wine, including dark-meat chicken (duck with blood is an exception, though). White meat perfectly emphasizes the taste of young red wine.

Beaujolais and pork are also a great combination. Being fresh and moderately acidic, Beaujolais wine balances pork fat content in both hot dishes and cold appetizers.

12. Merlot plus lean meat dishes

Merlot has a deep and rich taste reminiscent of blackberries and sweet plums. Merlot varieties with medium tannins and restrained acidity make harmonious pairs with roasted chicken and other light meats. You can serve Merlot with dishes such as lamb stew with truffles, pork tenderloin baked in miso sauce, Brazilian pork, or stewed veal cheeks.

13. Tempranillo plus red meat

Tempranillo is one red wine variety that easily pairs with various foods and dishes. Wine from Tempranillo has a rich color but moderate tannins.

Tempranillo is famous for pairing red meats such as lamb (Borge roasted and stewed) and pork. It also goes well with chorizo, other sausages, and jamon.

14. Ruby port plus cheeses

Ruby Port wine is wine that ages not in a barrel but a bottle. As a result, it retains a ruby-red wine color and berry aroma, while chocolate notes appear on the palate.

Excellent pairings for Ruby Port wine are blue cheeses like Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Dorblu, soft brie, and Camembert are ideal pairings for Ruby Port wine. The secret of these successful pairings lies in the game of contrasts: the sweet taste of the drink and the salty taste of the cheese create a perfect balance.

15. Ruby Port plus desserts

Ruby Port makes an excellent pairing for desserts thanks to its fruity aroma and taste with hints of raspberries and cherries. Chocolate truffles, fruit pastries, chocolate cakes and mousses, rhubarb pies, and vanilla ice cream accompanied by sweet fortified wine will be a fantastic way to finish a great dinner.


In this article, we’ve shared some proven ways to build a menu around your vino. However, remember that the principles and examples we’ve provided are only guidelines for you not to get lost in all the variety of gastronomic variations. There are no best food and wine pairings; everything depends on your taste preferences.

As you taste more different wines and dishes, you will come up with your combinations, making both the dish and wine more incredible than the sum of their parts. So, don’t be afraid to try and make your perfect match, whether you follow the rules or break them!