Choosing the right wine can be a difficult task, whether you are looking for a glass to complement a takeout pizza or a bottle to impress guests with your homemade beef bourguignon. However, there is good news: it does not have to be that stressful. Choosing the right bottle is more intuitive than you may think.
The key to pairing food with wine is to achieve balance. The wine and the meal should be of equal weight or richness, without one overpowering the other. For instance, a hearty dish like pot roast calls for a full-bodied red wine, while a light salad would be overwhelmed by the same red wine and would be better paired with a lighter-bodied white wine.
The pairing of comfort foods and wine is not always straightforward. While all these comfort foods discussed below are rich and heavy, they do not all pair well with the same types of wine. Instead, it is important to consider the other elements of each dish. For example, some comfort foods, such as beef and mushrooms, are earthy, while others, such as mac and cheese or a cream-based casserole, are creamy. Each dish requires a different wine to complement its flavors.
Meaty, spicy dishes like chili need a bold and fruity wine to match their strong flavor profile. A red wine with flavors of dark fruit like cherries and plums, a bit of spice, and hints of chocolate pairs perfectly. Try to avoid wines that are high in alcohol or tannins, as these can clash with the peppers in the chili. Malbec is always a safe choice, as are Rioja or Tempranillo. A lower-alcohol GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre) or Pinot Noir would also work well. The fruity notes in these wines match well with chilis, while the subtle tannins help to break up the meatiness and fat in the recipe.
Recipe: Texas Beef Chili
How to make the best: Instead of ground beef, choose boneless beef chuck cut into ½-inch cubes. If possible, make this a day ahead and let it sit for a few hours in the refrigerator to help the flavors develop.
Simple and classic, this salty, juicy, crispy chicken calls for an equally simple wine, with a good balance of acidity and sweetness. The acidity and effervescence of Champagne cuts through the richness of the fried coating. If you’re not in the mood for bubbles, a nice Chenin Blanc, dry Riesling, or full-bodied Viognier works well, too.
Recipe The Ultimate Southern Fried Chicken
How to make the best The trick to perfect fried chicken is to keep it simple. There’s no extra sauce or brining, just a three-step dredge – seasoned flour, egg, seasoned flour – before frying.
With bacon, beef, mushrooms, and potatoes, beef stews need an equally earthy and powerful wine. Pick a deep red – something heavy, peppery, and punchy such as a Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, French Bordeaux, or Côtes du Rhône. The astringent character of tannins in red wine pairs especially well with rich meaty dishes, because they help balance strong flavors.
Recipe Boeuf Bourguignon with Roasted Potatoes
How to make the best For the best beef stew, wine goes in the dish as well as alongside it. While cooking wines are easy to spot on grocery store shelves, it’s best not to cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink. Pick a bottle you like and buy two.
With a healthy dose of ketchup in this classic blue plate special, turn to a robust red wine with subtle tannins. A bold and fruity wine complements the salty-sweet notes of classic meatloaf without fading behind the strong flavours. We suggest a robust Zinfandel.
Recipe Good Eats Meatloaf
How to make the best Make the process a whole lot easier by eliminating all of the chopping. Instead, let the food processor do the work. Don’t skimp on the glaze – that’s the key to achieving a dark, tasty crust.
Mac and Cheese
This rich and creamy classic needs a more acidic, slightly sweet wine to complement it as well as to cut through the richness and cleanse the palate between bites. A Chenin Blanc from South Africa or the Loire region of France works well, thanks to its acidity and honey notes, as does a Pinot Gris. Chardonnay, with its slight acidity and creaminess from ageing in oak barrels, also matches well with the cheesy dish. If you’ve got red on the brain, try a Cru Beaujolais, which is made from Gamay grapes that have a bit of acidity and a light to medium body.
Recipe Mac and Cheese
How to make the best For an updated, adult take on this classic favorite, start it on the stovetop with a creamy homemade cheese sauce before topping with fresh, juicy tomatoes and crunchy breadcrumbs.
Such a simple sandwich deserves a special drink. Sparkling wines are perfect with salty, crispy, and buttery foods such as grilled cheese, thanks to their faint sweetness. Go for a cava or Champagne, or a rosé (still or sparkling). A note on rosé: Regardless of the type of cheese used in the sandwich, rosé will work well due to its mix of red- and white-wine characteristics – fruitiness and acidity, respectively.
Recipe The Perfect Grilled Cheese
How to make the best Using a high-quality butter makes all the difference. To avoid the burnt bread and not-yet-melted cheese dilemma, use shredded cheese and finish melting it in the oven once you have the perfect color on both sides of the sandwich.
Few meals are more satisfying than a simple roast chicken. Select a wine that is equally simple to avoid overwhelming the food. Chicken always works well with white wine, while the rustic roasted flavours pair well with a light red wine. When you’re in the mood for red, try Pinot Noir or fruity Cru Beaujolais. For white, opt for a Rhône-style. If the roasted chicken recipe is heavy on fresh herbs, try a Grüner Veltliner; the citrus and clove flavours pair well with herbaceous notes.
A meaty tomato-based sauce like this classic Italian six-hour-simmer bolognese needs a strong Italian wine. Choose a bottle with juicy fruit flavours and slight acidity with soft tannins. It can be hard to find a suitable mate for tomatoes, but the sweetness in this slow-simmered sauce makes it a bit easier. Nero d’Avola complements the tomatoes well, while also cutting through the fat and meatiness. (Plus, it’s affordable.) Barbera d’Asti also works well, thanks to its juicy acidity, supple tannins, and notes of blackberry and sage.
Recipe Marcella Hazan’s Ragú Bolognese
How to make the best The secret to this recipe is time. Don’t rush it. Take the whole six hours to allow the flavors to concentrate and achieve the right flavor.
Dishes containing canned ingredients can be tricky to pair with wine. If the wine is too tannic, the whole meal will begin to taste metallic. The creaminess of a tuna casserole calls for a wine with slight acidity and light, fruity notes, such as a rosé from the Côtes du Rhône region of France. If pink isn’t a favourite, the subtle acid notes of an unoaked Chardonnay would work perfectly, too.
Recipe Tuna Noodle Casserole
How to make the best Creamy is key. Instead of opting for the classic canned condensed mushroom soup, whip up a homemade cream sauce to bind everything together, and add fresh mushrooms for an earthy note.
An Italian classic like lasagna deserves a classic Italian wine to go with it. Pick something medium-bodied, such as a Chianti or other Sangiovese-based Italian red. Both are heavy enough to match the meat and tomato-based sauce without overpowering the dish.
Recipe The Best Traditional Lasagna
How to make the best Don’t cut corners and substitute only beef when making the filling. The ¾ pound of pork sausage in the recipe makes a noticeable difference in the flavor of the sauce.
A bold wine with a good dose of tannins and peppery flavour can stand up to a hearty dish while helping to cut through some of its richness. Cabernet Sauvignon – with flavour notes of dark fruit, black pepper, and a bit of earthiness – is the perfect pairing for a hearty, buttery, meaty dish like shepherd’s pie.
Recipe Cheddar-Topped Shepherd’s Pie
How to make the best Don’t overcomplicate this dish. It’s just as delightfully simple as it seems, and doesn’t need anything else to make it better.
Chicken Pot Pie
With a rich, tender crust and thick, creamy filling, chicken pot pie begs for a refreshing white wine. Try a full-bodied, floral Viognier, which tends to have a sweet nose but tastes quite dry. This recipe is lightened up with the addition of fennel bulb and cubed ham, which also go well with slightly acidic and dry white wines.
Recipe Chicken Pot Pies with Ham
How to make the best If time doesn’t permit making all ingredients from scratch, use store-bought rotisserie chicken and pie dough to get full flavor without spending hours in the kitchen.
A humble dish like pot roast needs a humble, country wine. Try a Côtes du Rhône, made from a blend of red grapes from southern France, or a Cabernet Sauvignon, which has somebody (and tannins) but works well with juicy meats.
Recipe Beef Pot Roast
How to make the best Searing the beef before slow cooking with the rest of the ingredients is key to developing flavor when making pot roast. Don’t skip that step.
Whether you’re working with a tomato- or pesto-based pizza, a light-bodied red wine with plenty of depth accompanies just about any pie perfectly. Pinot Noir is the perfect pick when it comes to earthy flavours such as tomatoes, herbs, roasted chicken, and mushrooms. Of course, an Italian classic such as Chianti would also work well.
Recipe Roasted Chicken and Mushroom Pesto Pizza
How to make the best Don’t forget to pre-bake the crust. This step is essential to achieve a crispy base without burning the toppings.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
For the classic chocolate chip cookie, plain old wine just won’t do. Instead, opt for a tawny port. Inexpensive bottles are easy to find, and the rich, high-alcohol drink brings out the caramel and chocolate flavours in the cookies.
Recipe Original Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies;Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
How to make the best: Creaming the butter and sugar together is extremely important to achieving the correct cookie texture. Without that step, very little air is added into the dough, making the cookies tough.
The secret to pairing wine with dessert is to choose a wine that is a touch lighter in body and at least as sweet as the food. For classic apple pie, there are many good options. Moscato d’Asti – with its light fizz and apricot notes – will emphasize the fruit flavours in the pie. Late-harvest wines such as Gewürztraminer or Riesling (which are made from grapes left on the vine for longer than normal, allowing their sweetness and flavour to concentrate as they get riper) also work well with baked fruit desserts like this classic pie. Craving bubbles? A fruity, sweet, and slightly creamy extra dry, sec, demi-sec, or doux sparkling wine would work well.
Recipe Classic Double-Crust Apple Pie
How to make the best Pre-cook the apples to eliminate a gap between the top crust and the filling, making a denser, more structurally sound pie.