Red wine goes with meat, white wine goes with fish – A myth or reality?
Our lives are all about important choices and decisions that we make on a daily basis. Some of them are easy to make, others take more time to consider. To pick a good bottle of wine to match your dinner is certainly one of them. And I bet that at some point we all have relied on the advice that red wines go with meat and white wines go with fish. So is it a myth or reality? It is one of the most popular questions I’ve been asked through my wine career and tasting experience.
When it comes to wine one can never give a definite answer. Many world famous sommeliers would even say that it’s a complete nonsense. At the same time such a notion does exist and can be fairly useful. For example rich red wines are able to make fish have metal taste. And delicate white wines can lose their charms at the presence of a good steak.
What are the basic rules of pairing?
Let’s try to look more closely on the menu and the wine list to see how they can work together. Albeit the best pairings are those selected during your own tasting experience, there are certain rules that I will recommend to follow.
– Don’t try to make wine taste the same as your food. Take into consideration how heavy and acid to your palate the wine is, or if it’s oaky or crispy. If you are about to enjoy a delicate food, don’t pair it with oaky and powerful Shiraz as it’s going to kill the food taste. Pinot Noir would be a better choice in this case. Fatty meal will go very charmingly with crispy white wines like good Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.
– Always consider sauce as an important part of your dish. When you pick a wine think of what kind of sauce it goes with. For example, grilled or oven baked duck/goose will go fine with rich whites from Alsace region, mature Bordeaux and Burgundy reds. Fatty marinated duck pairs with young tannin Bordeaux, Californian Cabernet and Merlot, as well as some white wines like Alsace Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris. Duck with apples and oranges with sweet sauce will go interestingly well with some sweeter whites like Riesling Auslese and Sautern.
More pairing examples
– Best wines to pair with chicken
Grilled or baked chicken has a great variety of both red and white matches: white Burgundy wines, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, light red wine from the North of Italy, Bordeaux, Spanish sparkling wine and easy going Champaign.
– Best wines to pair with red meat
Full bodied, tannin red wines are perfect with rare beef, lamb, and steak with fruit or sweet & sour sauces. Grilled lamb is great with red Bordeaux, New world Cabernet Sauvignon, Spanish Rioja and Ribero del Duero wines, if lamb has herbal or spicy sauce it makes a wonderful match with Pinot Noir.
Kebab goes well with Zinfandel, Shiraz, Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. But if it has intense garlic sauce try Sauvignon Blanc.
If you choose to enjoy a burger with a glass of red wine, it will match with young Beaujolais, Chianti, Zinfandel, or light Cabernet.
– Best wines to pair with fish
This may come as a surprise to you, but salmon makes a perfect match with elegant red wines like Pinot Noir, Merlot, light Bordeaux. If you look for more conservative marriage on your palate then treat it with white Burgundy: Mersault and Chablis, Rieslings, Chardonnay, especially from New Zealand.
Red mullet is a Pinot Noir delight as well as most good full bodied whites. Sardines go well with white Greek wines, Soave, Verdicchio.
Somber (mackerel) pairs wonderfully with Sauvignon Blanc, English whites, white Rioja.
Remember that delicate fish demands delicate whites like those from Burgundy, Rieslings from Alsace and Mosel areas.
Fish and chips find its fans as well. As a matter of fact it’s quite liberal in terms of wine matching. You can start from simple whites to more interesting ones like Sauvignon Blanc, Gavi or Pinot Blanc. Or simply go for sherry or beer if we are in an English mood indeed!
It is all about following your own palate
As you can see when it comes to wine there is always a choice that is unlikely to be limited. Red or white the choice is yours. Follow your own palate. We gave you a range of recommendations and food pairing examples that you can fire away with.
The food is able to influence and even alter the taste of wine, it can make it taste better and worse that’s why a thoughtful concept of food and wine relationship can promise a pleasant marriage with a good aftertaste. We’ll continue speaking about it next time.
Disclaimer: Remember that wine contains alcohol that is bad for your health
This article was written by Svetlana Kasparova, a wine expert who has been working with wine estates across Europe for over eight years. She is a graduate of the famous wine school “Entoria” and a Wine Games medalist.
Svetlana runs an online course “Become a wine expert in 3 days”, you can learn more about it here:
Thank you for this post! I prefer lighter wines like Riesling or Rose, but I don’t know much about the best ways to pair them. My inner fat kid is happy to see you recommend crisp Riesling with fattier foods!
Dear Beth, thank you for your feeback! We are so happy that our tips come in handy! Riesling is indeed an incredible unique variety that gives us a long range of enjoyable wines starting from crispy dry to very sweet dessert ones. It can be very light and charming and also respectable and sophisticated. You may want to pair some of them just with aged or fatty cheese. Look to your own pairings and follow us! We wish you and your inner fat kid Bon appetite!
Thanks for these tips! I have to admit, I’m primarily a red wine girl and that’s what I have in my house 99% of the time. I’ve found that pinot noir tends to work well with a variety of foods, so that’s usually what I will drink with dinner. But this is a wonderful reference list. Thank you for sharing
Dear Karyl, glad to hear you enjoyed our list! Pinot Noir is one of my favorite wines. And it will always stay pure classic! Nice acidity, usually round tannins, pleasant fruit and herbal aromas make it very friendly with various dishes. If we take more sophisticated versions of Pinot from Burgundy they are so good to be enjoyed with good aged cheese or even with nothing but a company of a close person. Have a pleasant dinner! More wine tips are coming soon.