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

Choose a wine for this meaty pasta dish

Choose a wine for this meaty pasta dish

Choose wine for dinner

To choose wine for dinner, I think it’s easiest to understand the skill of pairing food and wine by starting out with your favorite dish or favorite wine.

Example: Let’s say you cook up a delicious 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 indeed, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon would all go nicely. Most Pinot Noir wines are probably too light for this meaty pasta dish.

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, pasta with a heavy cream sauce, as in penne pasta with vodka and heavy cream. Big Chardonnays like foods with some buttery sauces.

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, pasta, 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

Our Learn About Wine page educates readers on the different varieties of wine. For each type of wine, we list examples of foods that pair well with those wines.

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 massive piece of grass-fed beef.

fig pizza pistachio pesto

Zinfandel loves Pesto – Fig pizza with pesto and goat cheese


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