Updated date:

Food and Wine Pairing Chart: Find the Perfect Wine for Your Meal

Author:

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

Consult this handy chart for perfect wine pairings at home!

Consult this handy chart for perfect wine pairings at home!

What grows together goes together.

— Joyce Goldstein, American restaurant consultant, food scholar, author, and true culinary icon

The Science of Food and Wine Pairing

Great restaurants know that much of their success is not just the skill of the chef or the expertise of the sommelier; rather, it is the combination of the two, working together to create a harmony of flavors that complement one another. Now, the question—is it an art form, or is it science?

The perception of flavor is more than simply the taste of your food. Taste is an experience of the five flavor cues (bitter, salty, tart, sweet, umami), but that's just a small part of the process. Our perception of flavor is mostly an olfactory experience, the aroma of what we eat and drink.

The aroma of wine begins as a reflection of the type of grape from which it came. But in the fermentation and aging process, wines pick of secondary characteristics which are called the "bouquet." A wine's bouquet can be described in almost a countless number of ways. "Fruity" can be further defined as hints of "apple, pear, citrus, or blackberry" for example. Some wine-tasters remark on the herbal quality of some wines, noting that they taste of "tobacco, grass, or coffee." And others detect subtle notes of black pepper and cinnamon, or vegetal notes of beet, rhubarb, or mushroom.

I will admit that my palate is not nearly that well-refined, so I have relied on numerous sources to compile the information in this article.

How to Use This Chart

You will notice two markings in the chart:

  • X = This wine is the best choice for the food item in question.
  • Dot ("•") = This is an acceptable choice (but it won't blow your socks off).

Which ingredients should I consider first?

  1. Begin with the primary ingredient in your dish—this will most likely be the protein (beef, chicken, fish, etc.). If cheese is an integral part of the meal (not just a garnish dusting on top) take that into consideration too.
  2. Next, note which herbs or seasonings might play a prominent role.
  3. The sauce is next, but not near the end of the list in importance. In fact, the sauce is often the hidden star of the show. The meal might be "chicken," but it's the type of sauce that creates all of the flair and flavor. A meal that features chicken with pesto will taste decidedly different from chicken with peanut sauce.
  4. Finally, consider the vegetables that will be a part of the meal.

Now that you've made all of those selections, which type of wine has the most "ticks?" That's the one you want to have with your meal.

Example

Let's say that you are planning a comforting meal of chicken Parmesan. Obviously, you'll first look for the best wine to pair with chicken breast. According to the chart, you could choose:

  • Medium reds (Chianti, Merlot, or Zinfandel)
  • Light reds (Chianti, Pinot noir, Gamay, or Grenache)
  • Rich whites (Chardonnay, Semillon, Viogner)

That's quite a few to consider. Maybe you can narrow down your choices with the next obvious ingredient, that Parmesan topping. Parm is a hard aged cheese. It gets high marks under

  • Bold reds (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Shiraz)
  • Medium reds (Chianti, Merlot, or Zinfandel)

And then, there's the marinara sauce. Again, we find that the best choice for that rich tomato sauce is:

  • Medium reds (Chianti, Merlot, or Zinfandel)

We have a winner—in all three categories (chicken, cheese, and sauce) it's the medium red wines that are your best match.

food-and-wine-pairing-chart
food-and-wine-pairing-chart
food-and-wine-pairing-chart
food-and-wine-pairing-chart
food-and-wine-pairing-chart
food-and-wine-pairing-chart
food-and-wine-pairing-chart
food-and-wine-pairing-chart
food-and-wine-pairing-chart
food-and-wine-pairing-chart
food-and-wine-pairing-chart
food-and-wine-pairing-chart
food-and-wine-pairing-chart
food-and-wine-pairing-chart
food-and-wine-pairing-chart

Sources

© 2020 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 09, 2020:

Shauna, thank you so much for your kind words. Actually it was kinda fun. I had many resources and it was something I could work on (paper and pencil) while sitting on the front porch in the shade.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 09, 2020:

This is quite a comprehensive chart, Linda. I can only imagine how much time it took you to compile the information and place it so neatly in the tables.

I've never been one to drink wine with my meals (I prefer iced tea or milk), but I know this will be helpful to the many who do.

Great job!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 09, 2020:

Calories. Flourish, you're missing calories. In the next few weeks I'll try to come up with an article just for you, OK?

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 08, 2020:

What a cultured article that should be helpful to those who imbibe of the drink. Unfortunately I cannot drink alcohol at all. Makes me wonder what I’m missing with all the wine craze.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 08, 2020:

Rachel, I had fun putting this one together. I hope you find it useful. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Blessings on your day.

Rachel L Alba from Every Day Cooking and Baking on September 08, 2020:

Hi Linda. This chart will come in handy, I know about red meats with red wines and fish and chicken with white or rose but the other categories I was never sure about. Thank you for sharing your information.

Blessings to you.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 08, 2020:

Thank you, Pamela. There are two fires raging in our area--not close enough to endanger us, but close enough that smoke fills the air we breathe. It will be quite hot as well--the forecast is for 90s the rest of this week. (That's probably not horrific where you live, but is totally not normal for Bill and me).

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 08, 2020:

This is amazing. I never thought about pairings like this. I can't drink wine so I never purchase it, but i think is fascinating as there is so much to learn. This is a great article, Linda. I hope you have a wonderful week.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 08, 2020:

Bill, I do wish you could attain the flavor without the alcohol. I have a friend who is highly allergic to the sulfites and can't have even the thimbleful of sacramental wine.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 08, 2020:

Eric, it all depends I guess on how much you want to really appreciate the interplay of tastes.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 08, 2020:

Ann, I'm so happy to hear from you. I do hope that this helps.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 08, 2020:

It's hard to believe that in another life I actually went to classes to learn this stuff. Now I have the knowledge but can't think of a practical application which won't hurt me. :) Happy Tuesday my friend!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 08, 2020:

Wow this is really cool. I never.... I thought it was simpler like white with white meat and red with red meat. But, of course the sauce makes all the difference, what was I not thinking? Hmmm, I just may be a Ham and my wife a Rose.

Thank you for this.

Ann Carr from SW England on September 08, 2020:

Brilliant! Great research so that we can do it all at a glance! I'm impressed. When we had a house in France, we had lots of lessons on wines and pairings from our neighbours. The French are passionate about their wines, cuisine and culture, quite rightly so.

Ann