Web Directory  

When gathering with friends and loved ones, wine is a versatile choice that will serve an elegant soiree, corporate function, or intimate dinner with equal aplomb.

It's happened to many of us:

You taste a great wine at a friend's place one evening. You write the name down and buy a few bottles for your next dinner party. But somehow, at your place, the wine doesn't taste nearly as wonderful as you remembered. What gives?

The best place to start in answering that question is to look at what you were eating when you first tasted the wine. Food has a dramatic effect on the perceived taste of a wine, and vice versa. The old "rules" about white wine with fish and red wine with heavier meats aren't important -- in fact, today's wines have evolved to the point that some Chardonnays are heavier than some Pinot Noirs, so color coding doesn't always work. What matters is what tastes good to you with what you're eating, and there are some guidelines that can help get you started.

Where to start

Although a wine may be loved by critics -- and by you -- when tasted on its own, that doesn't mean it's the best wine to have on the table with your next meal. Wines that go best with a range of foods are often full-flavored but medium- rather than full-bodied, not too sweet, with a touch of acidity.

Generally (and this is a big generalization), with a meal it's a good idea to work from light to dark. Often lighter whites bring out the best in appetizers and salads, while heavier reds are a better match for robust meat dishes. Whether you should match similar flavors (a raspberry-tasting wine with a berry dessert) or try to create contrast (a slightly sweet wine with a spicy meat dish) is a matter of experimentation and deciding what tastes good to you.

Wine and cheese

There's a reason most wine-tasting parties serve cheese as the main snack: Wine and cheese go well together, and there's a cheese that will bring out the best in just about every wine. Here are a few suggestions:

Cheese Type

Wine Suggestions

Baby Swiss

. sparkling whites like Asti Spumante


. reds like Port, Madeira, Sherry


. whites like Gewurztraminer

Brie (European)

. whites like Champagne, sweet sherry

Brie (U.S.)

. reds like Cabernet, Beaujolais


. whites like Chenin Blanc, or reds like Cabernet


. whites like Gewurztraminer

Cheddar (mild)

. whites like Champagne or Chardonnay

Cheddar (old)

. whites like Sauvignon Blanc or reds like Cabernet


. whites like Riesling


. whites like Gewurztraminer, Champagne


. whites like Riesling or Champagne


. whites like Riesling or dry Champagne


. reds like Beaujolais


. whites like Riesling, Champagne


. whites like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc


. reds like Bordeaux, Rioja

Monterey Jack

. whites like Riesling


. reds like Beaujolais, Zinfandel


. whites like Chardonnay


. reds like port


. reds like port


. whites like Gewurztraminer

Sparkling wines and food

Whether you're serving true French Champagne or sparkling wine from another part of the world, there are a number of foods that work well with the light, bubbly texture of sparkling wine. It complements a number of cheeses well (see "Wine and cheese" for specific combos), and goes well with seafood appetizers like raw oysters or shrimp. Champagne is also great paired with sushi, foie gras and any number of mushroom appetizers.

When it comes to main courses, the lightness of champagne pairs well with lighter (read: no creamy sauces) seafood dishes like lobster, scallops and shrimp. Light chicken dishes also benefit from Champagne as an accompaniment.

When it comes to dessert, continue to think light for optimal Champagne pairings -- strawberries, fruit desserts, shortbread or almond cookies.

White and red wines and food

wine and foodRather than referring to a standard list of suggested pairings between wines and your favorite foods, think about matching the weight of the food you're eating with the weight of the wine. This provides you with more room for experimentation -- and besides, Cabernet isn't always the ideal partner for lamb, particularly when you consider the differences in today's Cabernets from around the world.

The following list, first published in Wine Spectator

magazine, arranges wine types from lightest to weightiest. If you balance food and wine weights, your odds of success are high. But don't be afraid to try wildly different combinations -- you might just find something you love in the most unlikely pairing.

Selected dry and off-dry whites, lightest to weightiest

Selected red wines, lightest to weightiest

Soave, Orvieto, Pinot Grigio
Off-dry Riesling
Dry Riesling
Champagne and other dry sparkling wines
Chenin Blanc
French Chablis and other unoaked Chardonnays
Sauvignon Blanc
White Bordeaux
White Burgundy
Pinot Gris (Alsace, Tokay)
Barrel-fermented or barrel-aged Chardonnay (United States, Australia)

California Pinot Noir
Chianti Classico
Merlot (United States)
Cabernet Sauvignon (United States, Australia)
Rhône, Syrah, Shiraz

Wine and dessert

There's one basic principle that applies to matching wine with dessert: You want a wine that's slightly sweeter than the food. The wine will taste a little less sweet with the food. This isn't always as easy as it sounds, and again, experimentation is key. Often the label on a bottle of sweet wine will offer suggestions on ideal pairings.

Champagne, Port, Sauternes, Sherry, Madeira and Marsala are all classic dessert partners. When choosing Champagne, however, steer away from brut styles, unless the dessert isn't at all sweet. An extra-dry style is usually a better dessert option.

Some super-sweet wines -- ice wine, for example -- are best served on their own, as a dessert substitute, or after dessert.

When matching wine with chocolate, you must know the sweetness of the chocolate or chocolate dessert. Bittersweet chocolate, for example, can actually be paired quite effectively with Cabernet, while that same wine would be tart or sour with a sweet chocolate mousse. Often, fortified dessert wines such as sweet Sherry, Port, or Madeira are good partners for moderately sweet chocolate desserts.