At a restaurant, what do you do first? Look at the wine list, then order food? Because if that's the case, change it. To bring out the best flavors in both, first decide what to eat, then pair the right wine with what you've ordered.
When deciding what wine-food combinations work well, focus on bringing out the best characteristics of the wine. Generally speaking, a dry white wine ordered alongside fish is heavenly, but this wine combination is not as palatable when ordered alongside red meat. Another combination you'll likely want to avoid is pairing a bitter wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, with bitter foods, as doing so will multiply the bitterness! While making your choice, bear in mind, that wine should have a higher acidity than the food you ordered, otherwise its taste would be sapless.
If you're still unsure as to what wines will work best with different foods, the fact file below, pretty much sums it all up, guiding you into what grape varieties pair well with different types of food.
Antipasto: White wines such as dry Pinot Gris (Grigio), Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Blanc, alongside antipasto are a match made in heaven.
Nuts and olives: Brut sparkling wine is a fantastic option.
Cold meats: White grape varieties are a good option when paired with cold meats. Try Riesling, Seyval Blanc and Vignoles. Chambourcin Rose also combines well with cold cuts, as does Barbera, a rich, yet light-bodied red wine.
Pasta salad: Dry white wines blend especially well. Opt for Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc wines.
Pasta with a cream sauce: Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc are your best options in this wine-food combination.
Pasta with shellfish: Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay both enhance the flavor of this pasta dish.
Pasta with vegetables: Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier marry well with such a dish. For a red alternative, opt for the Barbera grape variety.
Pasta with tomato sauce: An acidic red wine grape variety, such as Barbera, is the perfect wine to pair with rich sauces such as the classic tomato sauce. Alternatively, you may want to opt for an earthy and rustic variety such as Sangiovese.
Chicken: White wine varieties are your best bet with chicken. Chardonnay, Vin Gris, Riesling and Chenin Blanc bring out the poultry's flavors. If red is your preferred grape of choice, opt for Merlot, Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Turkey: Opt for red grape varieties such as Merlot and Zinfandel. Alternatively, white grape Chardonnay combines well too.
Duck: Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon bring out the flavors in duck. Rose sparkling wine is also a good option.
Lamb: Red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chancellor stand up to the rich taste of lamb.
Rabbit: Barbera, Pinot Noir and Merlot help bring out the flavors in rabbit. As a white alternative, opt for Riesling.
Sausage: Brut or a Rose sparkling wine, match well with sausage, as do Barbera and Syrah.
Veal: Both Barbera and Merlot enhance the flavors in veal. Chardonnay is also a good option.
Clams: Opt for Brut Sparkling Wine, Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.
Crab and lobster: Brut Sparkling Wine and Chardonnay will bring out their flavors.
Mussels: White wines such as Chenin Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc all marry well with mussels.
Red Snapper: Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc pair exceptionally well with this fish.
Salmon: For a red grape variety, salmon and Pinot Noir are a great match. Alternatively, you can't go wrong with Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.
Swordfish: If red is your preferred grape of choice, opt for Pinot Noir. Sauvignon Blanc, Brut Sparkling wine and Vin Gris are also fantastic white grape options.
Tuna: Merlot and Pinot Noir, paired with tuna are a match made in heaven. Though you cannot go wrong with Sauvignon Blanc, Vin Gris and Chardonnay.
Apple pie: White wines are a good option. Try Late-Harvest Riesling, Muscat or various Ice Wines.
Chocolate: If opting for a white wine, go with Late-Harvest Riesling. Alternatively, red grape, Cabernet Sauvignon works well too.
Cream, custard and pudding: Late Harvest Riesling, Muscat and various Ice Wines will certainly enhance their flavors.
Fresh fruit: Pair fresh fruit with Muscat or Late-Harvest Chenin Blanc.
Ice cream and sorbet: Best to have alone. However, a fruit wine or a fruit liqueur may work well.
Goat cheese: Soft goat's cheese stands well with Sauvignon Blanc and Rose Sparkling Wines. Red wine varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir are also a heavenly match. For harder varieties, whilst Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon bring out the cheese's flavors, Syrah is also a good option.
Cow and sheep cheese: Pinot Noir and Petite Syrah are an excellent choice for medium cheeses. Harder cheeses are best served with red grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Syrah (Durif), and white grape options such as Chenin Blanc, Late-Harvest Riesling, and Muscat.