10 Rules for Great Food and Wine Pairings (Plus Examples!)

by | May 10, 2019 | Appetizers, Chocolate, Mains, Recipes, Salads & Bowls | 0 comments

Inside Scoop: 10 food and wine pairing rules everyone should know!

This post was submitted by Nicholas Rubright, digital marketing specialist for Jordan Vineyard and Winery.

After working in the Food and Beverage industry for over 5 years, I learned a thing or two about wine and food. It’s amazing how the food you eat can make or break the wine you pair it with.

So, I have composed 10 rules for pairing the right wines with your meals. It’s really all about the essence and body of the wine that makes for that perfect pairing.




1. Price Doesn’t Matter When Pairing… Flavor Does.

Wines don’t need to be expensive to taste good. Nor do they have to come in a fancy packaging to be taken seriously. Many still give boxed wine the lowbrow like it’s not good enough when compared to fine wine.


Boxed Wine vs. Bottled Wine

Mind you, boxed wine doesn’t have the best packaging out there sometimes, but it’s not impossible to find a quality wine in a box. Though it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to buy yourself a bottle, what is really the difference between boxed and bottled wine?


Boxed Wine

Wine that comes in a box actually comes in a plastic bag within the box. Most boxes of wine have “Best By” expiration dates due to the packaging. The cardboard box and plastic lining is great at keeping prices low, but doesn’t do much to keep oxygen away during storage. Once opened, however, the wine can be preserved for weeks, especially when placed in the fridge.


Bottled Wine

There are two types of glass wine bottles: those with corks and those with screw-cap tops. Though some people prefer the screw-caps over corks, the corks play an important role in helping wine keep body. Not to mention nothing compares to that POP! of a freshly opened wine bottle.

Overall, the wine packaging does not determine the quality of the product. Granted, nothing comes close to preserving wine in glass bottles. Nonetheless, the stigma that follows boxed wine isn’t fair. You are able to find quality boxed wine at a low costs that still pairs like a dream with your meal.


Fun Facts: Wine boxes are recyclable, giving it better environmental use overall after the wine is consumed.

Carignan, for example, is a delicious medium-bodied red wine that is commonly priced anywhere from $10-$35, even when boxed. It perfectly pairs with Naughty Nutrition’s Roasted Root Vegetable Salad. Definitely something to try!

2. Pairing Dry White Wines

Generally speaking, dry whites are light-bodied with a higher acidity to them. When you talk about the “body” of the wine you are referring to the overall feel of the wine in your mouth. Light-bodied wines tend to have a leaner and delicate touch when compared to fuller wines.

The “dry” description actually refers to the sweetness level of a wine. This, along with the alcohol level can help keep calories low.


Dry White Wine Fun Facts

Low-alcohol (9-12%) dry wines have a calorie count anywhere between 107-147 for every 6oz serving. While high-alcohol (12-14%) dry wines have a calorie count of 153-173 per serving.


Dry White Wine List

Wines include, but are not limited to:

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pinot Grigio
  • Alberiño

Each wine pairs with:

  • Vegetables (raw or roasted)
  • Fish

Pair your next glass of Sauvignon Blanc with Naughty Nutrition’s Oven Roasted Smashed Potatoes before dinner next time!

3. Pairing Sweet White Wines

Sweet wines can be made in a couple of ways, but the most common is arrested fermentation. Arrested fermentation is when you intentionally stop an active fermentation before the wine reaches dryness. This leaves behind residual sugars and keeps alcohol levels low, because the yeast consumes the sugars and makes it into alcohol.

Once the fermentation process is complete, the residual sugar will determine the level of alcohol in the wine. Due to this, the alcohol levels and sugars play a seesaw game. Should the leftover sugars in the wine be high, the alcohol level will be low.  

Residual sugar plays a big role in establishing a wine’s sweetness, but it’s not the only factor. Many things affect the wine, such as the tannins, acidity, and temperature.


Sweet White Wine Fun Facts

Sweet wines are the coldest wines as they are stored and served between 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit. Light alcohol (6-9%) sweet wines have approximately 111-147 calories per 6oz serving. Meanwhile, high alcohol (9-12%) have anywhere between 177 – 213 per 6oz serving.


Sweet White Wine List

Wines include, but are not limited to:

  • Moscato
  • Riesling
  • Malvasia

Each wine pairs with:

  • Cheeses (hard and soft)
  • Cured Meats
  • Desserts

Sweet wines pair well with foods with less sugar in them or fruity desserts. A glass of Moscato would be paired well with Naughty Nutrition’s Chai Spiced GF Thumbprint Cookies with Apricot Jam.

4.  Pairing Rich White Wines

Rich white wines are full bodied, which means they’ll consume all your tastebuds. They have a subtle creaminess to them and a smooth finish. This white wine is a great alternative for those red wine lovers.

It’s interesting when you look at the flavor profiles of full-bodied white wines. Like with aged whiskey, winemakers age the wines in oak barrels giving them their rich flavor. The aging process is what makes the wine so smooth. Take Chardonnay, for example:

Rich White Wine Fun Facts

Wines with alcohol levels over 13.5% are considered full-bodied. Most of those wines tend to be red, however, Chardonnay is a classic example of a rich white wine that is a great alternative to those red wine lovers.


Rich White Wine List

Wines include, but are not limited to:

Each wine pairs with:

  • Hard Cheese
  • Bread
  • Fish (including Shellfish)
  • Chicken

Pair your next glass of Chardonnay with Naughty Nutrition’s Fish and Chips.

5.  Pairing Sparkling Wines

Sparkling wines are fun to drink because of their bubbles. This is due to the carbonation in the fermentation process. How do they do this? Out of all the methods there are to create sparkling wine, the most common one is the “Champagne Method” — also so known as the traditional method.

In this process, the wine is first fermented into a dry wine before being blended with other base wines. This is commonly known as “cuvée”. After blending, the wine goes in for a second fermentation where yeast and sugar is added before being sealed in a bottle.=

As previously mentioned, yeast turns sugar into alcohol, so whilst in the bottle, the sparkling wine alcohol level increases by 1.3%. This also creates CO2 which gets trapped in the bottle, creating carbonation.

Fun Fact: Wines, in general, take on the name of the location it’s originally from. Champagne is actually a region in France.


Sparkling Wine List

Wines include, but are not limited to:

  • Champagne
  • Prosecco
  • Cava

Each wine pairs with:

  • Fresh Vegetables
  • Cheeses (hard or soft)
  • Starches

Pair a glass of Prosecco with Naughty Nutrition’s Garlic and Herbed Grain-Free Flatbread.

6.  Pairing Light Red Wines

Light red wines can get their color either from the grape pigment or their age. The color of the wine fades as the wine ages. The pigment of the wine can range from blue to red, and it’s affected by its pH level. Typically wines with red-based hues will have a lower pH level when compared to wines with blue-based hues.

When reviewing the color for aging purposes, the vibrancy of the colors is more important than the opaqueness of the wine. If a wine is premature, the color will actually dull with a yellowish tint on the rim. 

Fun Fact: Light red wines are best served and stored between 46.5 – 52 degrees fahrenheit. Given the fact that all health benefits in wine come from its tannins, not all red wines are good for you. As I’ve mentioned, there are several ways to make wine, and some red wines will have higher level of tannins than others.

So, what food and wine pairings go well for light reds?


Light Red Wine List

Wines include, but are not limited to:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Gamay
  • Zweigelt

Each wine pairs with:

  • Starches
  • Seafood
  • Chicken
  • Cured Meats

A glass of Pinot Noir will be perfect for Naughty Nutrition’s Oven Roasted Acorn Squash.

7.  Pairing Medium Red Wines

Medium red wines tend to be more spice-oriented in flavor, which is why they pair well with more meats than they do fishy foods. Common flavors among red wines vary between plum, cherry, strawberry, raspberry, currant, raisin, fig, violet, cinnamon, pepper, leather, and tobacco. Those aged in oak barrels will have a light vanilla undertaste with a deep wooddy flavor.

There’s no need for artificially added flavors when you get so much in the fermentation process. Every red wine has a way to be made unique, and no grape has the same outcome once aged.

Fun Fact: Red wines tend to all come from the same species of grapes. This species is vitis vinifera and it’s responsible for all light, medium, and bold red wines. There are almost the same number of medium-red wines as there are bold reds.


Medium-Red Wine List

Wines include, but are not limited to:

  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cargnan

Each wine pairs with:

  • Starches
  • Bread
  • Soft Cheese
  • Chicken
  • Red Meat
  • Cured Meats

Your next glass of Merlot will be be great with Naughty Nutrition’s Pineapple Jerk Chicken.

8.  Pairing Bold Red Wines

Bold red wines are among the most popular red wine selection with a strong, full body. When it comes to health, some aged wines may be better than others. Though fine wines taste great when aged, if they lose their color, it can be an indication of low tannins as wells as its bold flavors.

How do you know if it’s high in tannins? The tannin component is what makes a red wine bitter in taste. Not to say to drink bitter wines because you can find an optimal balance between the fruit flavors and tannins. You can use this wine vintage chart to learn more.

Fun Fact: Cabernet Sauvignon is among the most popular bold reds. Interestingly enough, its flavor and feel is almost the complete opposite of a light bodied wine like Merlot. Even though Cabernet Sauvignons are pretty close to the medium-bodied wines.

Bold Red Wine List

Wines include, but are not limited to:

Each wine pairs with:

  • Soft Cheese
  • Bread
  • Read Meat
  • Cured Meats

A glass of California Cabernet Sauvignon would go really well with a dark chocolate dessert instead of meats. Chocolate in general is hard to pair with wine, but when you add a fruity component found in the wine, it’s a delicious treat.

In this case, Verity Nutrition’s Raspberry Chocolate Vegan Brownies would be a match made in dessert heaven.

9. Pairing Dessert Wines

Touching point on dessert heavens, there is a whole category dedicated to dessert wines. These wines don’t always tend to be high in sugar, but their sweetness is much higher than other reds. Though their name suggests otherwise, these wines pair best before and after dinner.

Dessert wines can go really well with appetizers since the relationship with sweet and savory are so delicious. A platter of charcuterie would be ideal with these, especially with the mix of starches, cured meats, and cheeses.

Fun Fact: Some sweet wines are made with rotten grapes. No that wasn’t a typo! Some grapes are left on the vine past their harvest seasons in order to get them super ripe and naturally increase their sugar levels.


Dessert Wine List:

Wines include, but are not limited to:

  • Port
  • Sherry
  • Marsala

Each wine pairs with:

  • Hard Cheese
  • Bread
  • Cured Meats
  • Desserts

Dessert wines are best paired with foods that offset it’s sugar levels. A tawny Port dessert wine would be delicious with Jordan Winery’s classic Apple Pie recipe. This wine delivers in rich flavors, yet it’s not overpoweringly sweet.

10. Pairing Up When Drinking

Great food and wine pairings mix well with company. The saying, “Never drink alone” says it all! Not only is it good for your mental health to surround yourself with good company, but it’s also fun.

As we grow up, we tend to simmer down with partes. A great way to celebrate an occasion is to throw a party together and show off your food and wine pairings knowledge. Your friends and family can each bring a wine corresponding to a meal — appetizer, entree, or dessert. Definitely drink responsibly, but eat abundantly! Cheers!

Nicholas Rubright

Nicholas Rubright is a digital marketing specialist for Jordan Vineyard and Winery - one of the top Cabernet Sauvignon brands in California.


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