How to choose a wine for dinner – beginner’s guide


Which wine for which meal?

I think it’s easiest to start learning about pairing food and wine by starting out with your favorite dish or favorite wine.

Example: Let’s say you cook up a very tasty pasta bolognese. Think about it. It is a fairly heavy dish and, therefore, requires a matching wine that will go well with the big flavors. I would try a Zinfandel to begin with but certainly Syrah, Merlot and Cab would all go nicely. Most Pinot Noir is probably too light for this meal.

Example: Let’s say you have a delicious and tasty favorite Chardonnay. It has a good amount of oak and some buttery characteristics. Plan your meal around this wine. I would go with chicken and a nice creamy sauce. Or, a pasta with a heavy cream sauce, as in penne pasta with vodka and heavy cream.

Make it easy to decide. Stick to these top seven wine varietals of California Wine.

  • Oaky Chardonnay –  dishes with cream sauces, cheese, shellfish
  • Sauvignon Blanc  – light foods, fish, chicken
  • Pinot Noir – moderate to heavy foods – love salmon with Pinot Noir
  • Zinfandel – pizza, pastas, red meats – the ultimate pizza wine
  • Merlot – beef, pork, lamb – love a mushroom-stuffed pork tenderloin
  • Cabernet – steak, steak, steak – love it with a Cabernet reduction sauce
  • Syrah –  red meat, but ideal with baby back ribs on the grill

As you begin to develop your wine skills, branch out into other varietals and wines from other countries. Tip: for foreign wines, see what the natives match with their wines. In Argentina, a Malbec wine is the perfect choice for a huge piece of grass-fed beef.


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