Simplifying Wine Pairing

Rebecca Germolus on Dec 3, 2023

The perfect food and wine pairing can make or break a meal, but how do you pull it off? Do you serve a new wine with each course? What if your guest wants to keep sipping what is in their glass, and you’re moving on to the next course and next wine?

These aren’t major life issues, but when you want your gathering to come together seamlessly, every detail, including the food and wine pairings, becomes important. This seems especially true during the holiday season.

Pouring red wine into a glass with food in the background


Wine Pairing Tips

For my work I often need to find recipes that pair well with specific wines. To do this, I first taste the wine, noting the aromas, flavors and structure. Then I either look for a recipe that has similar flavors, or one that has contrasting flavors that will complement those found in the wine.

An example of similar flavors would be a Zinfandel with rich berry flavors pairing well with Raspberry Balsamic Pork Tenderloin, or a bright citrusy Sauvignon Blanc with Pan-Seared Halibut with Lemon Caper Sauce. For contrasting flavors, an aromatic Gewürztraminer is perfect with Saag Paneer Enchiladas, which marries Indian and Mexican cuisines with a Germanic wine.

If you’re just learning about matching food and wine, try pairings that you know will work—hearty foods with robust wines, and lighter meals with lighter wines. As you get more comfortable with wine pairings, expand your choices and do some experimentation. If you find a bottle of wine doesn’t work with the food, have a backup option available just in case. You can always use the wine that didn’t work as the after-dinner sipper.


More Wine Pairing Tips

If you’re pairing wines with each course, let your guests have multiple glasses in front of them. This allows them to move on to the new course and new wine without having to set aside (or gulp down) the wine from the previous course. They can also revisit the previous wine and try it with other foods being served. This is how our palate learns what pairs well with particular flavors — trial and error. Don’t dictate what they should sip with each course, rather suggest the wines that pair best.

Avoid serving foods in the same meal that require different wines to truly enjoy both the wine and the food. An example would be serving a red meat entrée that pair perfectly with a robust red wine and having one of the side dishes be asparagus, which taste better with sparkling or white wines. If you want to serve asparagus or artichokes hearts as part of the main course, serve an entrée that pairs with a crisp white wine.

Make sure you’re serving the wines in “tasting order.” Tasting order is lighter to heaviest, and driest to sweetest. Why? If you serve a heavy or robust red wine first and then a white or sparkling wine after it, your palate will no longer be able to detect the subtilties or nuances of the lighter wine. One example of a tasting order is sparkling wine with appetizers, white wine with a salad course, red wine with dinner, and a port or late harvest wine for dessert. Sometimes I return to serving a sparkling wine with a cheese course for dessert to give my guests a break from heavy wines, then serve port or a big red as the after-dinner sipper.


Know When to Let Go

If you want to serve multiple types of wines at a gathering, let go of your desire to control who drinks what with each course. In a festive atmosphere, the focus is on having a good time and you shouldn’t stop someone from enjoying the wine they prefer. If you want to make sure the food and wine pair well together, then select wines that go with everything you’re serving. Wine is about enjoyment and sometimes my guests will drink Cabernet with prosciutto wrapped asparagus, but I know the fat and salt from the prosciutto will make even that pairing palatable.


Classic Pairings

The following wine pairings will give you options for the upcoming holiday season. Included are some pairings from winery websites and from the Wine & Food Affair recipe database. These websites are gold mines of recipes. When you look at one of the recipes linked below, take a few minutes to back up to the main recipe page and look at more options. You won’t be disappointed.


Wine Pairings with Appetizers

Caviar Pie paired with sparkling wine

Hot Artichoke and Jalapeño Dip paired with Sauvignon Blanc

Strawberry Brie Bites paired with Grenache

Oysters with Rhubarb & Pink Peppercorn Mignonette paired with Pinot Noir

Roast Beef Crostini with Horseradish Cream paired with Cabernet Franc

Artisan Cheese and Charcuterie Board paired with Merlot

Marble slab with various meats, cheeses and fruit.


Wine Pairings with Salads

Caesar Salad with Rock Shrimp paired with Rosé

Salad Pear, Pecans & Gorgonzola paired with Pinot Gris

Salad of Frisée, Apples, Blue Cheese & Bacon paired with Chardonnay

small white plate with greens covered with a slice of blue cheese, sliced pears, a piece of prosciutto drizzled with salad dressing


Wine Pairings with Entrees

Seared Scallops with Leeks and Ginger paired with Chardonnay

Salmon Wellington with Smoked Paprika Tomato Sauce paired with Pinot Noir

Crab Cioppino paired with Sangiovese

Chanterelle Ragout with Acorn Squash Ravioli paired with Mourvèdre

Chicken Piccata paired with Sauvignon Blanc

Saffron Paella with Chicken, Andouille Sausage & Shrimp paired with a Red Rhone Blend, like GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre)

Pan Seared Duck with Blackberry Sage Sauce paired with Dolcetto

Grilled Pork Loin with Maitake Mushrooms and Cannellini Beans paired with Syrah

Grilled Lamb Chops with Pomegranate Molasses and White Beans paired with Malbec

Filet of Beef Wrapped in Parchment with Bearnaise paired with Cabernet Sauvignon

close up of paella with shrimp and sausage in a blue pan


Wine Pairings with Dessert

Orange Panna Cotta paired with Gewürztraminer

Crème Brûlée paired with Late Harvest Muscat

Flourless Chocolate Torte with Raspberry Sauce paired with Late Harvest Zinfandel

Easy Chocolate Mousse paired with Cabernet Sauvignon


Wine Road web page with Wine & Food Affair Recipes database options.

Explore the Wine & Food Affair Recipes

The food and wine pairing lists go on and on in the Wine Road’s Wine & Food Affair recipe database, with hundreds of recipes and pairing suggestions from past Wine & Food Affair events.

What I love about this database is you can search by:

  • Winery or Lodging who contributed the recipe/pairing
  • Category, such as appetizers, breakfast, lunch, main dish, salad, and more
  • Main Ingredient
  • Wine Pairing, which lists dozens of varietal options
  • Vegetarian or Gluten Free
  • Year published in the database

Here are just a few of the recipes listed:

Mushrooms and Gouda in Puff Pastry paired with Sauvignon Blanc

Chorizo Mac and Cheese paired with Zinfandel

Italian Style Breakfast Pizza paired with Pinot Noir

Lamb Shank Cassoulet paired with Malbec

Boeuf Bourguignon over Swiss-Style Creamy Polenta paired with Syrah

The Wine & Food Affair Recipe database will provide you with so many recipes and wine pairings, you’ll be thrilled to have it at your fingertips.


Keep it Simple

Sharing wine and food is about having fun, enjoying time with others and exploring the pleasures of smell and taste. As you explore the links in this blog and dig deeper into the various websites, enjoy the journey and I hope you discover your perfect pairing this holiday season.

Six hands with red or white wine in their glasses toasting. Blurred images of food in the background.



Although many winery websites include recipes, only a few were included in this blog. I want to thank them for sharing their wealth of recipes and pairings online.
Thank you to

Alexander Valley Vineyards

Capo Creek Winery

DeLoach Vineyards

Jordan Winery

La Crema

Pedroncelli Winery

Sonoma Cutrer Vineyards

And of course, the Wine Road for their amazing Wine & Food Affair recipe database.

Happy Holidays & Happy Sipping!


Posted by Rebecca Germolus

Rebecca Germolus, co-owner of Maximum Value Marketing, loves Sonoma County and playing along the Wine Road. Rebecca daily immerses herself in wine country by providing cost-effective marketing and writing solutions to wineries and restaurants.

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