Pairing wine with food can be a daunting task, especially for new wine drinkers. There are some set standards for what wine goes with what foods, and while the decisions are ultimately up to you, your guests and your tastes, it can be helpful to have a starting point when deciding what wines to have with dinner.
Red meats and some white meat
The standard "red wine with red meat; white win with white mean" is generally accepted and is a good rule for new wine drinkers. More hearty red meats like beef are best with a dry red wine like Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone wines. While white wines are usually reserved for white meat like fish and poultry, there are some exceptions that can work with red wine. For example, roast turkey can be good with red wine, as can some grilled or roasted chicken, which can be happily paired with a fruity red wine like Merlot.
Pasta can often pair with either white or red wine, but it entirely depends on the type of sauce served with the pasta. Pastas served with pesto sauce or tomato sauce are best with red wines like Zinfandel, Merlot and Syrah. Some lighter red wines like Sangiovese can go with any kind of pasta, however. One thing that is important to remember is that foods of a certain region or country will often pair best with local wines because they have evolved to complement each other.
Most cheeses go very well with red wine. Cheddar and other sharp English cheeses pair well with dry reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Swiss cheese goes well with Pinot Noir. Most blue cheeses pair better with white wine, but they can go with some very dry red wines. Hard cheeses like Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano go best with dry Italian red wines like Chianti and Barolo.
Chocolate can be happily paired with red wines like Merlot, Cabernet and Ports. Cabernet goes best with rich, dark chocolates because of its rich, black currant and blackberry flavor. Merlot, with its richness, also pairs well with dark chocolates. Port may be the easiest red wine to pair with chocolate. Its flavor allows it to work well with all kinds of chocolates, from light to dark.
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