Salt 101

August 17, 2023

A Basic B*tches' Guide To Ordering Wine

Like any relationship, a good wine pairing is all about balance. A tannic wine compliments a salty meal while sipping on a fruity red can feel like pouring gasoline on a fire when you’re eating something spicy. While alone, those two tips can seem simple enough to remember, finding the perfect match to sip on meal to meal isn’t always that straightforward. That said, no one is going to learn all of the rules of tasting and pairing overnight. That requires a lot of (very delicious) research, and even after months or research, I personally still often freak out in the moment and point to the first option on the menu when the waiter is hovering over our table. To help we have created a cheat sheet of 8 wine pairing tips that are easy to remember to get you started.

General tips

The wine you order should always be sweeter and more acidic or tannic than the food.

Pair wine with the sauce rather than the substance in a more complex meal.

Match intensities—bold flavors with bold wines, delicate flavors with light wines.

Dry white wine (Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc)

Dry white wines go best with light foods. Think salads, fish, green vegetables, white meat, mushrooms, and some starches and cheeses like gouda.

Pair unoaked white wines with lemon-y dishes or anything light and tangy.

Avoid pairing them with red meats and blue cheeses.

Rich white wine (Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc)

Full-bodied white wines are yellower in color and go best with fatty or creamy.

Pair them with buttery fish, pasta salads, and creamy sauces or cheeses like camembert.

Avoid pairing them with Asian dishes or anything tomato heavy.

Sweet white wine (Riesling, Moscato, Gewurtzaminer)

Sweet white wines go best with spicy or sweet foods. Think salads, fish, green vegetables, white meat, mushrooms, and some starches and cheeses like gouda.

Pair them with curries, fruity desserts, or cured meats.

Avoid pairing them with dark chocolate or desserts that are much sweeter than the wine.

Sparkling wine (Champagne, Cava, and Prosecco)

Sparkling wines are palate cleansers so they are the most versatile.

Pair them with anything light or salty. Think halibut and other white fish, eggs, hard cheeses like gruyere, or oysters.

Avoid pairing them with red meat, spicy dishes, or creamy sauces.

Light red wine (Pinot Noir and Gamay)

Light red wines pair best with earthy and woody flavors.

Pair them with truffles, white or cured meat, roasted vegetables, or shellfish.

Avoid pairing them with anything too salty or smoky like BBQ.

Medium red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, and Merlot)

As a rule of thumb, always order red wine with red meat.

Medium bodied red wines go best with anything rich, savory, or braised.

Avoid pairing them with spicy foods, raw fish, or oysters.

Bold red wine (Syrah and Malbec)

If your meal is fatty, a bitter red wine will pair best.

Pair them with stews, lamb dishes, or pâté.

Avoid pairing them with seafood, egg dishes, or light salads.

Dessert wine (Sherry and Port)

Dessert wines go best with anything rich or sweet.

Pair them with desserts, chocolate, and some nuts and cheeses.

Avoid pairing them with seafood, white meat, or anything citrus-y.

Visual learner? The heroes at Wine Folly have created some handy graphics to peek at under the table!