Your dinner is only as good as the wine pairing that goes with it. We all know that finding the perfect wine to pair with your dinner can be hard, so we're here to help that. Whether you're looking for an exceptional red wine to go with your spicy dishes or grilled steak, we have the ultimate guide to get you started.
Let's learn how pairing food with a specific wine can change your dinner experience.
All About Red Wine
Before we get into the ultimate food and red wine pairings, it's important to know what to look for when you're looking for pairing red wine.
First, the tannins. You want to pay attention to the tannins and whether they're low or high. For example, a red wine with a high-tannin will pair well with a proteins with high fat content, whereas a red wine with a low-tannin will pair better with a leaner protein. Paying attention to the tannins will ensure a balanced dinner experience.
Next, the acidity. The higher the acidity of a wine, the more likely your wine will pair well with a dish with higher salt content and density. A wine with high acidity cuts through the better when your dish is high flavor, saltiness, and density.
Finally, the flavors. When pairing your wine with your dinner, pay attention to your wine's sweetness and flavor palate. The wrong flavors can turn your dinner experience sour.
The Wine Pairings You Didn't Know You Needed
Let's dive right in to the ideal food pairings to your favorite red wines. We'll save the white wine and Sauvignon Blanc for another day. Today, we'll be pairing the following wines:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Noir
- Light Bodied Red Wine
- Full Bodied Red Wines
Cabernet Sauvignon & Grilled Steak - The Ultimate Food and Wine Pairing
Let's start with a classic that we all know and love. We all know that Cabernet Sauvignon goes best with a nice grilled steak. Combining a steak's protein with the Cab's tannins creates a soft experience that blends flawlessly.
A Cabernet is also the perfect wine to cleanse your palate of the fattiness that a nice grilled steak leaves behind. Of all pairings, a Cab and steak are the elite combination or dinner.
Merlot & Roasted Chicken
Whereas Cabernet pairs exquisitely with heavier meat, Merlot is the perfect pairing for the nights you favor leaner meats.
If you're enjoying roasted or braised chicken, you'll want to open up a bottle of Merlot. The ripe flavor notes of Merlot goes tremendously well with chicken marinated with fresh herbs. Throw on a side of sautéed or grilled mushrooms. Merlot and mushrooms are great pals.
Syrah & Intense Flavors
Syrah is the perfect wine to pair with foods of intense flavor, making it very versatile.
Syrah will pair well with anything from a sharp aged cheese to a spicy sausage. From deliciously marinated grilled meats to a loaded hamburger with all your favorite fixings, Syrah is the perfect wine for your meal.
The flavorful notes in Syrah know how to complement the intense flavors of your meal. So the next time you find yourself enjoying a meal that's full of flavor, pop open a bottle of Syrah.
Zinfandel & An Assortment of Dishes
Zinfandel is versatile when it comes to food pairings. Whether you're eating BBQ pork chops, a rack of lamb, or a vegetarian dish, a glass of Zinfandel will pair well.
For vegetarians, Zinfandel is the perfect pairing for vegetarian stews, lasagna, ratatouille, or anything vegetarian based.
If it's a hearty vegetarian dish, bust out the Zin!
Pinot Noir & Seafood Dishes
Seafood isn't just for the wine wines.
Pinot Noir and salmon make an exceptional pair. Many people typically lean towards having white wines with any seafood dishes for dinner; however, Pinot Noir does a great job of complementing salmon dishes instead of overwhelming them.
Swap the white for a red the next time you have salmon for dinner!
Malbec & Meat Based Dishes
Traditionally, Malbec goes well with meat, and I mean, any kind of meat. From prime rib to a beef empanada to a good burger, Malbec is the ideal pairing for your meal. Argentine Asado is also an impeccable pairing that's flavor enhances with a good Malbec.
But if you're not a big meat-eater, don't fret. Malbec also pairs extremely well with a good pasta or roasted vegetables.
Tempranillo & Pasta
Tempranillo and pasta make an excellent pair. Tempranillo will be your ultimate wine pairing if you're making pasta, pizza, or anything tomato-based.
The acidity in tomato-based dishes complement the acidity in Tempranillo flawlessly.
Tempranillo also pairs well with dishes that have earthy flavors.
Light-Bodied & Full-Bodied Wines & Their Ideal Cheese Pairings
Sometimes it's not necessarily about the type of red wine. Sometimes it's about the body.
Here's a quick breakdown of light vs. full-bodied red wines and their ideal cheese pairings.
Soft Cheese & Light-Bodied Red Wine
If you're having a light-bodied red wine, you will want to lean towards the soft cheeses.
Soft cheeses include anything from a brie to a camembert. These cheeses are typically rich, creamy, and delicious. They're not very sharp, which makes them blend with light-bodied wines flawlessly. The flavors will mingle together with a delicate balance.
Pinot Noir and Grenache are great examples of light-bodied red wines that pair well with a charcuterie board full of soft cheeses.
Sharp, Aged Cheese & Full-Bodied Red Wine
For the aged cheeses that are little more nutty and sharp, you're going to want to open up a full-bodied wine.
Full-bodied red wine if for the aged sharp cheddars and goudas of the bunch. The bold flavors of a full body red complement the sharpness of aged cheese very well.
An exception to the rule would be goat cheese. Although goat cheese tends to be soft, it does pair well with full-bodied wines because of it's sharper taste.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Syrah are perfect examples of full-bodied red wines that go well with sharp, aged cheeses.
Red Wines & Dessert
We can't forget about desert, can we?
The best sweet treat to pair with your red wine is chocolate. If you're like me, it'll be a nice slice of dark chocolate, but anything works.
A glass of red will be the perfect pairing, whether you're having a chocolate truffle, a piece of chocolate cake, or even some chocolate pudding.
Specifically, I would lean towards a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Zinfandel.
Or enjoy a sweet fortified wine as dessert itself!
We've learned how the tannins, acidity, and flavors of a wine influence how they'll pair with your meal. Pairing wine can feel daunting but this guideline will help you prepare the perfect wine and food pairings. Food and wine pairing is an art. Whether you're having a Cab or Merlot or a full-bodied or light-bodied red wine, there's a perfect pairing for you!
Wine Pairing FAQs
Here are some commonly asked questions about pairing food with wine.
What does red wine typically pair well with?
Most often, red wine pairs best with grilled meats of all kinds. Grilled steak is an ideal pairing, but different red wines will pair well with anything from a rack of ribs to a mean burger.
What cheeses pair well with red wine?
In terms of cheeses, the red wine pairing depends not the body. If you're enjoying a glass of full-bodied red wine, you will want to go with a sharp, aged cheese. Bring out the soft cheeses if you're enjoying a glass of light-bodied red wine.
What should I consider when pairing my wine?
When pairing wine, you want to pay attention to the tannins, flavors, and acidity.
For example, a wine with a high-tannin will pair well with a fatty meat. When it comes to flavor, the idea is similar. A bold red wine also works well with fatty meat. In terms of acidity, a wine with a higher acidity will cut through the saltiness of a meal and enhance the flavors.
It all depends on the characteristics of your specific wine.
What wine goes with red meat?
Although it depends on what kind of red meat you're eating, Cabernet Sauvignon is the most classic red meat wine pairing. You can't go wrong with a bold red wine and a grilled steak.