Wine and Walnuts

A blog about eating, drinking, cooking and reading in the not so Deep South

Simple Food and Wine Pairing: Excellent Food Wines


[picappgallerysingle id="5228961"]Since it’s the time of celebrations and get-togethers and Holiday parties and so on, there’s likely going to be a bit of drinking going on over the next few weeks. So I’m thinking this would be a good time to talk about a few really good all-around food wines.

We all probably know that wine should complement the food rather than dominate it, so one simple thing to keep in mind is light food with light wine, and heavier food with heavier wine. Salads, veggies, soups, light fish and other light dishes are best when accompanied by light, usually white, wines. Robust, heartier foods with fuller flavors are typically better with bigger, heartier and more full-bodied wines.

Of course there will be exceptions, and the only real rule is – c’mon everybody, say it with me – that’s RIGHT, drink what you like!!

That said, let’s talk about three wines I’m a big fan of always having around the house because of how well they match with so many foods:

Sauvignon Blanc

Pinot Noir

Champagne or Sparkling Wine


Sauvignon Blanc

From the rounder styles of California Sauvignon Blanc, to citrusy, minerally Sancerre (French SB) to New Zealand versions with their passion fruit and apricot aromas and zingy citrus flavors, Sauvignon Blanc is fantastic with food.  Its crispness and acidity makes an all-around excellent wine that pairs well with many, many dishes. It’s also good by itself when there is no food involved, or as an aperitif, when you want to stoke your appetite pre-meal. 

Here’s just a small sample of foods that pair well with Sauvignon Blanc:  fish and other white meat; dishes with herbs and herbed sauces that contain dill, cilantro, chives, thyme or rosemary; tomato-based dishes such as tomato and mozzarella salad, tomato sauces, and gazpacho; fried calamari, goat and other tangy cheeses, soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert; “problem” veggies such as artichokes and asparagus (these two veggies can make a wine taste very “tinny” and metallic, but SB works well here); Nicoise salad, garlic-based dishes.  And so on.

Pinot Noir

Here again we have a wine with tangy acidity, and as we know by now, that is very good for food pairing. Pinot Noir typically has a fruity – think strawberries and cherries – aroma and a nice silky texture.  This delicate fruit-and-flowers aroma is one of my favorite things about Pinot Noir. It will usually be light to medium bodied with low tannin.

(Some Pinot Noirs, mind you, will have a very earthy aroma – like a barnyard.  I am not making that up.  But don’t be put off by it – there might be some great wine on the other side of that manure-like aroma, as I have found out many times when enjoying a Pinot Noir from Oregon or France.)

Pinot Noir is an incredibly versatile food wine, pairing up nicely with such foods as: goat and other tangy cheeses, and soft cheeses like Brie; heavier fish like grilled salmon, swordfish or tuna; pork, roast chicken or duck, turkey; lamb, veal, bacon; dishes with mushrooms; tomato-based sauces; and grilled and smoky foods, to name just a few.

Champagne or Sparkling Wine

Now here’s something you could drink pre-meal as your aperitif, and all the way through the meal, if you’re really feeling festive.  (In fact, at the dinner party I went to Sunday night, our hostess did just that – served bubbly throughout the meal, and it was fantastic.  I highly recommend this practice!)

Bubbly is downright excellent for turbo-charging your appetite before a meal, and as an added bonus, it’s just so darn fun to drink.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like a glass or few of bubbly.  At.all.  And because of its bubbles, Champagne and sparkling wine are excellent palate cleansers, so if you’re having heavy or greasy fare, this is the perfect choice. Plus, the alcohol content is usually modest, so you won’t feel weighed down, knocked out and boozy. You know, unless you overindulge.  ; )

Like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, Champagne and Sparkling Wine pair very nicely with a wide array of foods, including:  pasta with cream sauces; fried foods; all types of cheeses; caviar, oysters, and all kinds of seafood; butter sauces; sushi, and popcorn (yes!). And that’s just the short list.

Just don’t pair dry Champagne with sweet foods.  You know how you often see the bride and groom at a wedding eating cake and drinking Champagne?  Just say no to that combination. (Really sweet food gives dry, crisp wine a sharp, nasty taste. Take my word for it.)

So there you go.  If you keep a couple bottles of each of these wines around the house, you’ll always have a nice aperitif and a good bottle of wine to pair with just about any meal.


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About The Author

Kimberly Houston


6 Responses to “Simple Food and Wine Pairing: Excellent Food Wines”

  1. Michael says:

    I totally agree with you on all accounts. However, for me New Zealand SB can be overwhelming with it’s pink grapefruit pungency. Loire Valley SB is my favorite. Gruner veltliner would be quite nice in that category as well. As far as pinot noir is concerned, a lot of CA pn can be too rich & sweet. My heart belongs to Oregon in that regard. Their pn is so sensual, earthy, full of bright acidity & gorgeously textured.

    Bubbles make everything better!! Have you had Argyle Brut?

  2. I agree Michael — New Zealand SB can be a little ovewhelming, but I learned to appreciate it more this past summer when I drank alot more of it than I ever had in the past. Still, I have to be in the right frame of mind for it and have the right food to pair with it.
    I haven’t had near enough Sancerre — I have got to get on that! : )

    Ditto on Cali Pinot Noir — some are too cloying, but I discovered a couple of good value Pinots over the last few months that I love. One I always recommend to folks at the store is the Alfredo Roca Pinot Noir from Argentina — LOVE. And as an added bonus, it’s a steal at around $12 a bottle.

    Bubbles DO make everything better!! I’ve never had Argyle Brut? Is it fabulous?

  3. Great post, especially on the Sauv blanc, which I’ve seen few articles on…I’ve also found that sauv goes quite well with mollusks – steamed clams and mussels, where the metallic flavor can sometimes overpower sweeter whites.

    I’m curious what you think about Cabernet Sauvignon pairings…I’m currently discussing these while I promote Hall Wines’ 2006 Napa Valley Cab (a highly rated vintage that’s selling out of our online store quite quickly). Napa Cabs go quite well with, as far as holiday eats go, honeybaked ham, as well as prime rib – the fruit-forward nature complements sweeter red meats and non-poultry white meats. I think it also goes great with fig, personally, which I’m really hooked on – been making salads with a fig-infused balsamic vinegar.

  4. Thanks for the comment, Jon. I love a Cabernet with steak — not too innovative, I know. And lately I’m loving Cabernet-driven Meritage (I’m thinking ones with at least 70% Cab) with dark chocolate or blue cheese. I also love to pair Cabernet with peppercorn and other rich sauces, dry, firm cheeses, and dishes with sausage.
    I like your idea of a salad with fig-infused balsamic vinegar and a fruit-forward Cab.
    I’m crazy for balsamic vinegar and make this great steak recipe with parmesan butter balsamic glaze and arugula that is to die for! Maybe I’ll pair a Cali Cab with that next time I make it. : )

  5. Yes the Argyle Brut is fabulous!

  6. Good to know. I’m going to a “Champagne Jam” at one of my fave wine stores in the next few days, I’ll look for it there!

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