Behind The Butter

ELR Wine 101: Pairing Wine With Good Eats

Hi friends and welcome to ELR Wine 101 Part 3: Pairing Wine With Good Eats!

This lesson is going to be a tad shorter than the rest and is also very relative to your own personal tastes. What I am not is one of those wine snobs that thinks you can ONLY pair fish with pinot grigio. I mean come on, if it tastes awesome to you then its golden! Although certain combinations are known to be better than others, its really all about what works for you and the only way you can find that out is to taste more wine with different foods!


That all being said, here are some classic food and wine pairings that may help you at your next dinner party (or if you want to act like you know what you are talking about!):

Pasta with Cream Sauce (Fettucine): Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Vegetarian Stir Fry: Chardonnay, Riesling

Pasta with Pesto: Merlot

Spaghetti and Meatballs or Pasta with Marinara Sauce: Zinfandel

Spicy Vegetarian Meals: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay

Grilled Fish: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc

Baked or Grilled Chicken Dish: Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling

Beef: Cabernet Sauvignon

BBQ: Zinfandel

The key with food and wine pairing is to compliment the flavors of the food with the wine so that BOTH taste even better together. If you are having a rich dinner like grilled steak, serving a robust wine like Cabernet with it will make it all just pop. Spicy food is best complimented by a cool white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or a dry Riesling. Personally, I like to serve shrimp and seafood with Sauvignon Blanc but of course I’ll take a good Pinot Noir any time of day!

In the wine world, there’s a lot of hooplah about food and wine pairings. Some winos will tell you that you simply CANNOT eat that meal while drinking that wine. If you like fish with merlot though, by all means, go ahead! A richer darker fish (like swordfish) would actually go very nicely with a richer wine like Merlot because it is more of a “steak-y” type of fish.

Still not sure what to pick up to go with a dinner you planned? Take it to the experts. The people that work in wine shops know all about this sort of thing and are more than happy to help you. I’ve consulted many a time the guys at Total Wine as to what wine would go best with my dinner. They LOVE talking about that kind of thing and would probably be very flattered you asked. However, its good to know something going into the store as well so you can casually throw out, “oh yes, I think that that dry Riesling would go perfectly with my spicy Kung Pao tofu tonight but I’m not sure which kind to choose…can you help?”

Tonight at my parent’s house my mom is making spicy buffalo shrimp and we are drinking Murphy-Goode Fume Blanc, which is featured on their facebook page right now!

What’s the best food wine pairing you have come up with on your own?

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  • katherine (the runner wife)
    July 15, 2009 at 11:54 am

    My tastes are not particularly refined, but I truly enjoy finding wines that go well with CHOCOLATE! Any suggestions? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Daria (Summer of the CSAs)
    July 15, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Thanks for the rundown, Jenna! It’s good to have guidelines, but I agree that hard and fast rules are silly. I once witnessed a waiter berate a friend for asking for parmesan cheese on his seafood pasta dish…not fun!

  • Lizzie
    July 15, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Hey Jenna! LOVING the wine chat! Are you going to be doing the same for rose/blush wines? You’ve done white and red! Blush wine is my FAVE (and very popular, despite what the winr snobs say!!)


  • brandi
    July 15, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    my husband’s pretty secret buffalo burger recipe includes a bit of red wine, which makes them taste amazing! I don’t know what else he puts in there, but I know there’s a bit of wine.

  • Whitney
    July 15, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    I just love the Wine 101! I starred this post in my reader for future references! Thanks so much!

  • meagan
    July 15, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    my husband and i accidentally stumbled upon a good one: a nice, almond-y prosecco with proscuitto whole-wheat ravioli and pesto. we just had the prosecco out to drink, made lunch, and voila! the fizz cut the oil and the flavors just really played well off each other. keep up the series ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jess
    July 15, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    I HAVE to have a red: either shirraz or nero d avola with red sauce and pasta!

  • Chloe
    July 15, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    I’m definitely bookmarking this page for future reference. It’s also a great key for when I need to bring over wine as a dinner guest and I know what they’re serving. Thanks Jenna!

  • Cait (Cait's Plate)
    July 15, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    This is AWESOME! I never know what’s appropriate to get so I totally love this and am contemplating printing it out for reference! Haha.

    Is pairing something you’re able to acquire over time hopefully? I feel like I’d never be able to tell!

  • Vanessa (Last Night's Leftovers)
    July 15, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Love it!
    …Maybe I should do some LNL Beer 101 posts? Haha

  • Shannon (The Daily Balance)
    July 15, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    this is AWESIME! i’m a total wine newbie, so this is great to know for entertaining!!

  • Stacey
    July 15, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    This is a great post! I’m new to trying out different wines, and I never know what type of wine is best with what type of food, and thanks for adding vegetarian on that list!! This is a great go-to guide ๐Ÿ™‚ Keep up the good work!

  • Allison K.
    July 15, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    My pairings are totally random and are usually generated by season…I love whites in summer and reds in winter.
    But, on a totally unrelated note, I made your enchiladas last night and they were AMAZING. seriously. It took all of my will power not to eat like 3 of them.

    If you have not made Jenna’s enchiladas make them TODAY!

  • Kim
    July 15, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Cabernet & dark chocolate….mmmmmmmm!!

    I love how laid back you are!! I think you would be great for this job!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Heather @ Health, Happiness, and Hope
    July 15, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    What neat idea for a post. I loved hearing all your favorite pairings! Definitely got some classic meals there! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Julie
    July 15, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    I almost always drink Gewรผrztraminer with shushi. And I love a bold Zin with garlicly white pizza w/ lots of broccoli!

    Love the wine posts! And good luck with your upcoming interview!

  • SarahF
    July 15, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    The best wine pairing I’ve ever had was a 2005 Masi Amarone with a 10 year aged white cheddar. Both were too bold for me alone, but together-mmmm….I couldn’t get enough.

    Sadly the 2005 is now very hard to find and their 2006 doesn’t have enough body to it to handle such a strong cheese ๐Ÿ™

  • katie s
    July 15, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    How about Sushi?? I usually have sushi with a Pino Noir or a chardonnay-nay (hehe) to be honest… Are you going to be doing any “lessons” or prosecco, champagne, and those types?

  • Pru
    July 15, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    I’m not a big fan of roses (not the flower lol) but recently I found a White Cabernet that I really love. I bought two bottles from the guy who makes it, and was really excited to have it – but I also really wanted Mexican food. Determined to have both, I made some fish tacos with some Mexican seasonings, but not too heavy on the spicy-ness. It actually went together really well – until I got a little carried away with my salsa and made it too spicy. But oh well. It was still delicious.

    I also love a good red with dark chocolate! Mmm.

  • Andee (Runtolive)
    July 15, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks for this informing post! I’m having honey glazed grilled salmon tonight, anyone have any suggestions for a good wine pairing?

  • Megan (The Runner's Kitchen)
    July 15, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Any tips for wine pairing with a pb & J? hehe. just kidding! but a glass of chardonnay would be a nice treat in this busy work week…

  • Sarah
    July 15, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    I pretty much just drink whatever I happen to have with whatever I am eating, but I think it would be fun to choose a good pairing on purpose sometime ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I have never tried regular (no white, ahem pink) Zinfandel, so I’m going to have to put that on the list!

  • Mel @ She Runs Brooklyn
    July 15, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    This is great!

    I, unfortunately, know nothing about wine, except that I prefer white ๐Ÿ˜‰ .. and a lot of it.

  • Greta
    July 15, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Pizza and Lambrusco.

  • Barista
    July 15, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    I LOVE this series! Great job!

    I can pair coffee with food, but wine…not so much. I used to be a huge Piesporter fan (yes, everyone made fun of me), but now I’m finally able to handle wines that aren’t quite so sweet. I can’t wait to try some of those you’ve suggested.

  • Gloria
    July 15, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    I looove the Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and I pair it with fish. Last time it was sweet potato encrusted cobia. Oh and I always pair my Zinfandel with chocolate cake!
    These lessons are great!

  • leslie
    July 15, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    i definitely agree on pesto + merlot – bold and bolder flavors. i actually love salmon paired with pinot noir! but i’m a big red wine person. ๐Ÿ™‚ loving the wine 101!

  • Rose-Anne
    July 15, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    In the interest of full disclosure, I will confess that I had nothing to do with this food-and-wine pairing, but my favorite wine expert and I made a Spanish-style chickpea and artichoke heart stew and with it, we drank (I believe) a bottle of Zinfandel. The stew (link below) and the wine were delicious by themselves, but together they were outstanding! That night made me a believer in the power of tasting food and wine together–the synergy takes the flavors to new heights. Oh yes.

  • Kathleen
    July 15, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Honestly, I really want wine when I read these posts. I will definitely be referring back to what you’ve written.

  • Stephanie
    July 15, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    I absolutely love all of this wine knowledge that you are sharing. I know nothing about wine and all of this information is so useful. I’m seriously going to print it all out and use it as reference to help me get started. I never drank much wine before, but now I’m excited to start and to experience what is out there. Thanks Jenna!

  • Rebecca
    July 15, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    I didn’t come up with this on my own, and it would likely not appeal to many of your readers, but there is nothing like some steak off the grill paired with malbec! Malbec is my favorite varietal and waaaay affordable!

  • Amanda @ Cakes and Ale
    July 15, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Pork chops and pinot noir is an amazing combo… very Oregonian, as some of the best of both can be found there. I like crisp Sauv Blancs with sushi, buttery Chards with roast chicken, and spicy Shiraz with BBQ anything. Rieslings are great with grapes, champagne is amazing with little green olives, and a big, bold Cab is the best thing for pasta pomodoro…
    Those are my favorite combos at least! Great post!

  • simpledaisy
    July 15, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Pizza and cabernet in the winter and grilled fish and pino grigio in the summertime!!
    But really i’ll drink just about any wine with any food!! I love vino especially cabernets, reislings and chardonnays!
    Recently I have gotten into Malbecs…

  • K
    July 15, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    I’m still a newbie so I haven’t come up with my own pairings but I love the sounds of the ones you listed! I feel so much smarter!

  • woman&warrior
    July 15, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Thanks for highlighting some of the pairings for spicy vegetarian fare! That’s just my style of cooking.

    Btw, how do pick from a list of wines? What differentiates a Cabernet from California or from Australia? Without knowing too much about wine-growing regions, how do you pick at a restaurant?

    Just recently, I had a truly odd Cab at a restaurant. It was terrible–so light, it almost tasted watery. I thought Cab was supposed to be strong, standing up to spicy fare. Would you send it back? (I just passed it off to my date…)

  • Lauren
    July 15, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Great ELR 101 post, Jenna! Although I’ve been a wine drinker for years, I’m just now becoming interested in the difference between grape varietals and which foods complement which wines. I’m bookmarking your suggestions for food/wine pairings – thanks for the tips!

  • Rachel
    July 15, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    Ooh, this is one of my fav. topics ever!!! Just finished a fab Argentinian Malbec with a filet mignon, paired with a piece of Green & Black’s Maya Gold organic dark chocolate with orange spices! oohLaLa I tell ya. My odd pairing is a chardonnay-nay (hehehe) with stove top popcorn! try it. love it.

  • Jenn
    July 15, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    can’t wait to try the banana soft serve:) And, I just returned from the DR on a missions trip….but I finished The Time Traveler’s Wife. REALLY GOOD!! Hard to get used to with the time jumping around, but great in the end!! I’m sure you’ll love it. Can’t wait for the movie!!

  • MarathonVal
    July 15, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    This post just reminded me that I NEVER think about wine and food pairings….ever! I literally grab a bottle and pour, regardless of what dish I just concocted. Thanks so much for the great tips!

  • Joelle (The Pancake Girl))
    July 15, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    I am loving your Wine 101 seshs! I know nothing about wine except that I like drinking it, sooo.. basically your tips are coming in handy. My fav combo, like a lot of other people, would be wine and chocolate of course! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Lisa
    July 15, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    I love your wine 101! I’ve been learning a lot. While I may not be an expert I adore pinot grigio with pizza!

  • Katie K
    July 15, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    you should do a yoga video post!!!!!!! i love yoga and im not as advanced as you are so it would be fun to see the poses you do at class!! just a thought!

  • Jean
    July 15, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Everything looks delicious! And I am craving wine!!!!! I wonder why after reading your fabulous blog all week!!!!

  • Lauren
    July 16, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Hey Jenna- How long do you think a bottle of the Skin Glow would last, if used daily? I use Bio-Oil now on my face and it’s $10 for a teeny bottle. I’m thinking the Skin Glow might be worth it, although its a tad pricey.

  • carly
    July 16, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    If you really enjoy wine try my families (Hill Family Estate)… Go to We are located in Yountville, CA, 15 minutes north of Napa… Loving the blog… Be sure to try the Carly’s Cuvee Chardonnay with some seafood!

  • Red Wine
    July 18, 2009 at 1:18 am

    my husbandโ€™s pretty secret buffalo burger recipe includes a bit of red wine, which makes them taste amazing! I donโ€™t know what else he puts in there

  • kimmy
    September 14, 2009 at 2:40 am

    i need making my fiance dinner on friday and i want to drink pinot grigio.what meal could i cook around that?with what sides?im a horrible cook…

  • Unlavefinaxia
    April 17, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    ??????? ??????? – ???????? ??????????????? 12 220, ????????????? ???????? ?????????? +??? ????????, ??????????????? ?????????? 24 220, ???? ??????? +??? ???????? hp ? ?????? ??????.