Food & Wine Pairings

Barolo – A big, powerful tannic wine, Barolo needs to be matched with foods of similar weight. Paired with light dishes low in protein, such as steamed vegetables, a Barolo will overwhelm the food. Its tannins will react with the proteins on the tongue and sides of the mouth—accentuating the bitterness and drying the palate. In Piedmont, the wines are often paired with meat dishes, heavy pastas and rich risottos — the tannins bind to the food proteins and come across as softer.

Cabernet Sauvignon – Cabernet Sauvignons with high alcohol levels do not pair well with spicy foods due to hotness levels of the capsaicins present in spices like chili peppers being enhanced by the alcohol with the heat accentuating the bitterness of the tannins. Milder spices, such as black pepper, pair better due to their ability to minimize the perception of tannins—such as in the classic pairings of Cabernet Sauvignon with steak au poivre and pepper-crusted ahi tuna. When Cabernet Sauvignon is paired with steak or dishes with a heavy butter cream sauce, the tannins are neutralized, allowing the fruits of the wine to be more noticeable. In contrast, starches such as pastas and rice will have little effect on tannins. The bitterness of the tannins can also be counterbalanced by the use of bitter foods, such as radicchio and endive, or with cooking methods that involve charring like grilling. As the wine ages and the tannins lessen, more subtle and less bitter dishes will pair better with Cabernet Sauvignon. The oak influences of the wine can be matched with cooking methods that have similar influences on the food-such as grilling, smoking and plank roasting. Dishes that include oak-influenced flavors and aromas normally found in Cabernet Sauvignon—such as dill weed, brown sugar, nutmeg and vanilla—can also pair well. Old World wines, such as Bordeaux, have earthier influences and will pair better with mushrooms. Wines from cooler climates that have noticeable vegetal notes can be balanced with vegetables and greens. New World wines, with bolder fruit flavors that may even be perceived as sweet, will pair well with bolder dishes that have lots of different flavor influences. While Cabernet Sauvignon has the potential to pair well with bitter dark chocolate, it will not pair well with sweeter styles such as milk chocolate. The wine can typically pair well with a variety of cheeses, such as Cheddar, mozzarella and Brie, but full flavored or blue cheeses will typically compete too much with the flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon to be a complementary pairing.

Merlot – In food and wine pairings, the diversity of Merlot can lend itself to a wide array of matching options. Cabernet-like Merlots pair well with many of the same things that Cabernet Sauvignon would pair well with, such as grilled and charred meats. Softer, fruitier Merlots (particularly those with higher acidity from cooler climate regions like Washington State and Northeastern Italy) share many of the same food-pairing affinities with Pinot Noir and go well with dishes like salmon, mushroom-based dishes and greens like chard and radicchio. Light-bodied Merlots can go well with shellfish like prawns or scallops, especially if wrapped in a protein-rich food such as bacon or prosciutto. Merlot tends not to go well with strong and blue-veined cheeses that can overwhelm the fruit flavors of the wine. The capsaicins of spicy foods can accentuate the perception of alcohol in Merlot and make it taste more tannic and bitter.

Pinot Noir – Pinot Noir is well-suited to pair with poultry, beef, fish, ham, lamb and pork. It will play well with creamy sauces, spicy seasonings. This wine is extremely versatile

Riesling — This is a versatile wine for pairing with food, because of its balance of sugar and acidity. It can be paired with white fish or pork, and is one of the few wines that can stand up to the stronger flavors and spices of Thai and Chinese cuisine. A Riesling's typical aromas are of flowers, tropical fruits, and mineral stone (such as slate or quartz), although, with time, the wine acquires a petrol note as mentioned above. Riesling tends to be lighter weight and therefore suitable to a wider range of foods. The sharp acidity/sweetness in Rieslings can serve as a good balance to foods that have a high salt content.

Zinfandel – Zinfandel goes well with "typical American" food such as pizza and burgers, but it is hearty enough to pair with red sauces, gamey meats, spicey dishes and asian cusisine. Zin also matches will with highly acid foods like tomatoes and citrus fruit.

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