The Everywoman’s Guide to Wine Pairing

You don’t have to be an expert sommelier to make good wine pairings for your dishes at home – but a few simple tricks can have you elevating your dishes and your entertaining with wines that bring out the best flavors in what you serve!

wine bottle

So let me preface this with two things. The first thing is that I am not an expert. I’m not a sommelier, I’m not a wine-maker, I have no special training that translates into any kind of claim that says I know what I’m doing here. All of this comes from the fact that I have a love of serving and tasting delicious food and wine.

Actually, I could put that disclaimer in front of just about everything I write here. Because I don’t have any kind of training or expertise, other than working in restaurant kitchens a few times and, well, sampling a lot of wine. I’m just passionate about flavor, and when I’m passionate about something, I read up on it, I talk to people who actually are experts, and I experiment a lot!

This article is the result of a lot of those experiments and a lot of people who ask, when I remember to make wine recommendations that go with my meals, how I figured out which wines would work. So that’s the first thing.

The second thing? The best wine in any case is the one you like drinking. It doesn’t matter if a certain type of wine academically pairs best with and enhances the flavors of your dish if you just plain can’t stand the wine.

So go in with that attitude, and we’ll do well here!

So let’s talk about wine pairing.

Wine pairing isn’t as simple as red and white, as in red wine goes with steak and white wine goes with fish. There are so many different combinations of flavors, tannins, acidity, alcohol, and texture in wine that you really have to consider the personality of the wine before you can figure out what food it goes with. Here, we’re assembling a guide of our favorite types of wines with the kind of flavor profile they contain and what they go best with – along with some example recipes from our collection here at Home Front Cooking.

We’ll be adding to this list as we go, so save this one as a favorite. We’ll keep adding wines and recipes and answering all your favorite wine questions – as best as the non-experts here can, that is!


Pinot Noir

Tip: Pair with earthy flavors

Recipes made with earthy ingredients like mushrooms and truffles taste great with reds like Pinot Noir, which are light bodied but full of savory depth.

Recipes like: Philly Cheesesteak Portobellos

Cabernet Sauvignon

Tip: Pair with juicy red meat

My second favorite grape, this offspring of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc goes wonderfully with steak or lamb, and are great for refreshing the palate.

Recipes like: Grilled Steak with Peanut Sauce


Tip: Pair with sweet and spicy barbecue

Malbec, Shiraz, and Côtes-du-Rhône are big and bold enough to drink with lots of rich spice and flavor. They hail from some of the best food regions in the world for robust full-bodied food, so this isn’t surprising!

Recipes like: Sticky Sweet Boneless Wings


Tip: Bring out for the big-guns – highly spiced dishes

If you’re talking cumin powder or lots of chile or harissa, look for a red wine with a lot of spicy notes to complement these, like Syrah or Cabernet Franc {my personal favorite grape}.

Recipes like: Spicy Beef Tenderloin with Creole Mustard Sauce


Tip: Pair with rustic old-world dishes

Rustic old-world wines were made for rustic old-world dishes. These wines are almost a natural fit for traditional Tuscan recipes.

Recipes like: Easy Baked Meatballs + Spaghetti


Sauvignon Blanc

Tip: Pair with tart dressings and sauces

Tangy foods with citrus or anything else with zip pair well with the zip you can get from a Sauvignon Blanc or similar wines.

Recipes like: Mandarin Orange Chicken Salad


Tip: Pair with fatty fish or fish in rich sauces

Whites like Chardonnays are delicious with fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, or any kind of seafood in a rich sauce.

Recipes like: Mahi Mahi Street Tacos

Pinot Grigio

Tip: Pair with light fish dishes

Light non-saucy seafood dishes take on more flavor when matched with a delicate white like Pinot Grigio or Italian Arneis, or even French Chablis.

Recipes like: Poached Cod with Saffron + Tomato


Tip: Pair with sweet and spicy combinations

Sweet Rieslings help tame the heat of spicy Asian and Indian dishes and also complement the sweetness in those dishes.

Recipes like: Hawaiian Huli-Huli Chicken Kabobs


Dry Rosé

Tip: Pair with rich cheese

Some cheeses go well with white wines, some with reds {although surprisingly, red wine isn’t your best pairing for cheese!}, but almost all of them go well with rosé, which has the acidity of white wine and the fruit character of red!

Recipes like: Couscous + Goat Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes



Tip: Pair with anything salty

Dry sparkling wines like Champagne are also very sweet. That makes salty savory foods a delicious pairing. Bonus if they have a sweet and salty pairing going on already, like our example here!

Recipes like: Strawberry Balsamic Chicken Salad

Moscato d’Asti

Tip: Pair with sweet and fruity treats

Sparkling Moscato is sweet but moderately so, and they help bring out the fruit in a dessert rather than the sugar.

Recipes like: Old Fashioned Peach Cobbler


Tip: Mix with fruit for brunch

Okay, I should have a better tip for Prosecco, because it really is beautiful by itself. But it goes oh so beautifully in a brunch-time mimosa!

Recipes like: Sweet Strawberry Mimosas


Tawny Port

Tip: Great with hard cheeses, dried fruits, and really rich pastries and creamy desserts!

There area a lot of great dessert wines out there, but tawny Port is a favorite in this house – especially of the 20+ year variety. My husband’s personal favorite is the Dow 30 Year.

Recipes like: Strawberry Shortcake Tiramisu

What are your wine pairing questions? What other wines should we talk about pairing?

About the ChefKristin

Career Army officer with a tendency toward workaholism. On the side, self taught cook, carpenter, and gardener, working to build a beautiful life for my family. Trying to tilt my balance in the right direction.

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