Wine Pairings For Beginners

by Renee Mitson
In a perfect world, I would know exactly which glass of white would perfectly complement my delicately cooked seafood dish. I would taste the oaky notes, point them out to my friends, and my laughter would resonate around the dining table like the bubbling of a spring brook. But this is the real world, and I need rules to help me get by, especially when it comes to wine pairing. Determined not to be in the dark any longer, I did some research. 

Here are some general rules for fool-proof wine pairing success when you’re beginner:


Going to be eating a bunch of different things? Try a dry rose.

Rose works because it has both the benefits of a white and a red. The acidity of the white but with the fruitiness of a red. It’s perfect if you’ll be hitting up a buffet or going to be tasting a variety of small dishes, tapas if you will. 


Seafood festival? Try a bright and citrusy white wine. 

I’ve heard this before but always wondered why this was a rule of thumb. After digging I learned that the citrus notes in the wine complement seafood because citrus itself complements seafood. Kind of like how you squeeze some lemon on your baked tilapia, but instead the pairing happens between your plate and your glass. Grab a Pinot Grigio. 

Eating spicy food? Go for something low alcohol and sweet. 

A high alcohol content will bring out the spiciness of a dish and just be a big ol’ acid party. To really taste the different flavors in both your drink AND your meal, get something tame and low alcohol if you’re digging into a spicy curry or thai dish. Try a sweet Riesling! 

Feeling carnivorous? Try a high-tannin red. 

Tannins are what give reds their structure. They also pair nicely with rich meats like roasted duck, pork loin, or braised short rib. Try a Syrah, a luscious Cab, or even a Malbec.

Eating a rustic, earthy meal? Try a rustic, earthy wine. 

But what does that mean? What it means is that sometimes the best flavor combinations echo each other. When I think earthy food I think mushroom risotto, a bison burger, or a venison stew. Pair dishes like these with a deep and sinful Pinot Noir.

Got a sweet tooth? Keep your drink light and crisp.

Forget dinner, you’re in the mood for cheesecake. The last thing a rich or heavy dessert needs is a heavy and full-bodied wine to compete for flavor. Stick with light and sweet - it will bring out the delicate flavors of your dessert and won’t make you feel too weighed down. Try a Moscato. 
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