A Guide Into The Most Effective Wine Pairings

Wine is a big business in much of the U.S. According to the Wine Institute, where in 2019 retail value hit over $75 billion. Part of those numbers are perhaps spurred on by the fact that there are dozens of varieties of wine available at shops, restaurants, cafes and wineries all across the country. That list includes Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Moscato, Sauvignon Blanc, White Zinfandel and other varieties. As a chef, it’s your responsibility to know what wines taste best with your dishes, and perhaps there is no better time to figure it all then when you’re still enrolled in culinary school. Take a deep whiff of the following guide to the most effective wine pairings:

Pinot Noir
Pairing well with a number of dishes, Pinot Noir is lauded for being a popular dinner option. With a rich mix of cherries and violets and decidedly delicate aromas, Pinot Noir doesn’t do well with dishes like BBQ or others that are heavy with sauce. Even still, Pinot Noir is known for having an especially full body, which makes it a great pallet cleanser for dishes like seared ahi tuna, grilled lamb, filet mignon and those with creamy cheeses like camembert or brie.

Sauvignon Blanc
This white wine is often replaced by various kinds of Chardonnay, no doubt because of its light, refreshing taste and overall crispness. As a rule, Sauvingon Blanc is fairly diverse when it comes to food, though its generally not quite as flexible as a Pinot Noir. Still, by playing to the flavors of the Sauvingon Blanc – the lush medley of melon, lemon and passionfruit – you can make a good meal truly great. Consider this wine if you’re preparing dishes with goat cheese, oysters, pesto, anything with briny-heavy sauces fish like sole or halibut and green vegetables, namely asparagus and artichokes.

White Zinfandel
Popular in the U.S. since the late 1980s, white zinfandels are made with a specific variety of grape. Because the skins are removed early in processing, Zinfandels have a decidedly pale color and sweet, slightly dry taste. In recent years, Zinfandels have often had fruit juices added to them, resulting in flavors like orange, cherry, citrus and even vanilla. Because of that subtle fruitiness, Zinfandels are great with most pasha dishes, plus mild cheeses, light desserts, anything with tandoori spice, couscous and most kinds of fish.

In recent years, Merlot has fallen out of favor for many wine aficionados. Yet many of the grapes still planted in France’s illustrious Bordeaux region are still reserved for the Merlot, and with good reason. Generally, this wine is both extra fruitful and light in aroma – making it easier to drink – which makes it a great accompaniment for several dishes. You’ll most commonly use Merlot if you’re serving up pates, veal and pork roasts, grilled beef – including hamburgers – cheesy gratins, Caesar salads, meatloaf and roast turkey.

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