29 Perfect Food & Wine Pairings

The right wine (and we’ve tried a shocking number) takes fresh flavors to an all new level

Sara Schneider
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Spiced Short Ribs + Petite Sirah

Don’t be fooled by the name. First, Petite Sirah is anything but little. It’s a deep, dark bruiser of a wine—a stain-your-teeth-purple kind of wine. Petite Sirah is no cocktail wine—it needs hearty food alongside. Pull out a deeply flavored dish, like these Spiced Short Ribs, with enough protein and fat to coat those tannins, and you’ll taste what all the excitement is about.

Recipe: Spiced Short Ribs with Roasted Baby Carrots and Cipollini Onions

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Asian Duck Wraps with Hoisin Dipping Sauce + Pinot Noir

Duck is always a good starting point with the bright red fruit of Pinot Noir. But with a riper, sweeter-seeming California Pinot, we’ve matched a sweeter sauce and the warm range of spices included in Chinese five spice.

Recipe: Asian Duck Wraps with Hoisin Dipping Sauce

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Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Chops with Charmoula + Pinot Noir

An earthy Burgundian Pinot Noir is likely to have both warm and savory spices.

We paired this one with a sauce that includes cinnamon and smoked paprika, as a bridge to the entire spectrum.

Recipe: Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Chops with Charmoula

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Chilled Corn Soup with Seared Scallops and Crisp Onions + Chardonnay

Fresh summer corn is one of slightly buttery Chardonnay’s dear friends. We’ve stacked the deck here with two others—

tender scallops and caramelized onions, which echo the sweet toastiness in the wine.

Recipe: Chilled Corn Soup with Seared Scallops and Crisp Onions

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Mustard-Tarragon Shrimp Toasts + Chardonnay

Sweet, succulent shrimp are a great flavor and texture match with Chardonnay. But the minerality and bracing acidity of a Burgundian Chard make an excellent foil for Dijon mustard and fresh tarragon.

Recipe: Mustard-Tarragon Shrimp Toasts

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Halibut Tostadas + Pinot Gris

Creamy-textured Pinot Gris loves meaty fish like halibut, but it also has a crisp acidity that is a great counterpoint to fried foods like tortillas.

That citrus zing keeps up with the marinade and spices in these tostadas too (consider it a lemon wedge on the side).

Recipe: Halibut Tostadas with Yogurt-Lime Sauce

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Lamb Chops with Moroccan Barbecue Sauce + Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc is a very aromatic cousin to Cabernet Sauvignon. One of the five Bordeaux grapes, it has almost always been blended in with one or more of the others ― until now. Coming on strong on its own in the West, it has an exotic combination of florals and spices that make a great foil for Moroccan flavors and pungent lamb.

Recipe: Lamb Chops with Moroccan Barbecue Sauce

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Baja Fried Fish Tacos + Dry Riesling

If you remember Riesling as a syrupy-sweet starter wine in the 70s, give it another try now!

Crisper and drier, it’s an incredibly interesting food wine ― cutting through fried foods like our favorite fish tacos and bringing enough citrus to the match to act like a spritz of lime.

Recipe: Baja Fried-Fish Tacos

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Classic Western Burgers + Zinfandel

A juicy burger deserves a juicy wine: Zinfandel’s your bottle. And its sweet, ripe fruit seldom comes with hefty tannins, so it can handle all the tangy, spicy condiments you care to pile on the patty.

Recipe: Classic Western Burgers

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Thai Green Curry Fish + Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect wine to take on fresh green herbs in a dish.

And many are aromatic with white blossoms and faint tropical notes, a profile we love with coconut milk and Thai green curries.

Recipe: Thai Green Curry Fish

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Halibut Salad Sandwiches + Unoaked Chardonnay

When it’s not fermented or aged in oak barrels, Chardonnay shows off its bright, lively apple, pear, citrus, and/or tropical fruit flavors big-time.

One of the many versions out now that ditched the oak would be a fresh sip with this unusual sandwich.

Recipe: Halibut Salad Sandwiches

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Halibut with Watercress Pesto + Sauvignon Blanc

With its natural grassiness, Sauvignon Blanc is one of the best partners for herbs and green veggies. The peppery watercress pesto on this halibut creates an exciting match.

Recipe: Halibut with Watercress Pesto

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Grilled Chicken Thighs + Merlot

Red wine with red meat is safe, but who wants to be safe all the time?

The smooth cherry-and-chocolate personality of Merlot serves meaty chicken thighs well, especially if you add sweet peppers and fresh herbs.

Recipe: Grilled Chicken Thighs with Sweet Onions and Peppers

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Tequila-Marinated Chicken Fajitas + Chardonnay

Set out fajitas, and people might be thinking Corona or margaritas. Shock them instead with a good Chardonnay, with enough crisp citrus to handle orange- and lime-marinated chicken with lots of onions and sweet peppers. Recipe: Tequila-Marinated Chicken Fajitas
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Double Salmon Burgers + Pinot Noir

Pinot loves salmon, no matter what form it takes. Put the fish in a burger, and the wine’s juicy berries still set it off.

And since many Pinots have an earthy, smoky edge, a salmon burger from the grill has an even better chance of being the perfect Western partner.

Recipe: Double Salmon Burgers

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Best-Ever Chinese Chicken Salad + White Meritage (Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon Blend)

In France’s Bordeaux region, a white wine is a mix of mostly Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon ― two grapes that balance each other well, the Sauv. Blanc bringing tart citrus and earthy minerals to the table, the Semillon rounding them out with a little creaminess and sweet pear.

As it turns out, the result tastes great with many Chinese dishes, including our favorite chicken salad.

Recipe: Best-Ever Chicken Salad

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Yellow Squash and Split Pea Soup with Shrimp + Chardonnay

With its creamy citrus and buttery side, Chardonnay has an uncanny affinity for squash (both summer and winter). It’s also often a great texture match for legumes. We capitalize on all of that here ― plus its partiality for sweet seafood ― in a summer soup made for Chard.

Recipe: Yellow Squash and Split Pea Soup with Shrimp

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Pepper Steaks with Balsamic Onions + Cabernet Sauvignon

Sometimes you just have to give in to a cliché: What could be better than a good steak and a glass of Cab? Only a good steak coated with crunchy-hot pepper and loaded up with tangy balsamic onions.

Recipe: Multicolored-Pepper Steaks with Balsamic Onions

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Tandoori Shrimp + Riesling

Few wines go with as many foods as crisp, aromatic Riesling does.

The pungent herbs, garlic, chiles, and Indian spices here would intimidate most other varieties. Not a slightly off-dry Riesling, though, with delicate peach and apricot flavors and exotic floral aromas.

Recipe: Tandoori Shrimp in Green Marinade

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Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks with Miso Butter + Nebbiolo

Big, tannic, red Nebbiolo needs a cut of beef that’s both flavorful and marbled with fat. Rib-eye’s your steak for this one. And the miso butter on ours adds a remarkable savory bridge to the wine.

Recipe: Grilled Rib-eye Steaks with Miso Butter

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Meyer Lemon–Crab Salad + Chardonnay

Dungeness crab and Chardonnay are a perennial treat. The sweet fruit flavors a Chard offers keep step with the sweet shellfish, and the wine’s typical butteriness ― which can get in the way for some foods ― is an asset with crab.

Choose a Chardonnay with a bright lemon profile to echo the Meyer lemon juice in this salad. And if you find one with a hint of tropical fruit, you’ll have a link to the sesame oil in the dish too.

Recipe: Meyer Lemon-Crab Salad

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Herb-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs + Zinfandel

Pork ribs and Zinfandel are one of summer’s best pairings ― and an all-American one, since Zin is as close to a native grape as we have: While it traces its roots to eastern Europe, no one in the world does Zin like California winemakers.

We’ve shamelessly spiked our homemade barbecue sauce here with the wine to lock in the match.

Recipe: Herb-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs

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Chicken and Corn Summer Chowder + Chardonnay

Corn and Chardonnay are such an inspired pair, they can get you through the whole summer.

Find a Chard that’s bright with lemon flavors and crisp enough to work well with the other veggies in our chowder yet buttery and rich enough to thrive with the bacon.

Recipe: Chicken and Corn Summer Chowder

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Warm Steak Salad with Marinara Sauce + Cabernet Sauvignon

What’s not to like about Cab and steak?

We’ve dressed this steak down for summer with sauce and greens, so find a Cabernet that’s not so ripe that it’s lost its natural acidity (so it can handle the tomato) and one that has an herbal layer as well, to offer a bridge to the arugula.

Recipe: Warm Steak Salad with Marinara Sauce

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Shrimp and Pasta with Creamy Pesto + Pinot Gris

A good Pinot Gris ― with crisp layers of lemon, herbs, and minerals over a creamy mouthfeel ― is a great foil for pasta laced with basil and cream. Our version can be on your table in just 15 minutes.

Recipe: Shrimp and Pasta with Creamy Pesto

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Frito Pie with Red Chili + Petite Sirah

In spite of its name, Petite Sirah isn’t little, and it’s not Syrah. A hearty wine, often with big textures (it can have tannin in spades) and deep fruit, it’s a match for casual, big-flavored foods.

We love it with retro ground-beef chili piled onto Fritos, with all the fixings.

Recipe: Frito Pie with Red Chili

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Sunset Classic Barbecued Ribs + Zinfandel

The juicy dark berries and black pepper in Zinfandel make it the perfect rib wine.

Rub some spices on those ribs and baste them with a homemade barbecue sauce, and a summer Saturday couldn’t get better.

Recipe: Sunset Classic Barbecued Ribs

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Tangy Lemon-Cucumber Chicken Salad Croissants + Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is one of those wines that makes you want a glass in the middle of a hot summer day, so a sandwich is called for to match.

Our croissants filled with chicken salad seasoned with plenty of lemon and herbs make the most of Sauvignon Blanc’s green herb and citrus personality.

Recipe: Tangy Lemon-Cucumber Chicken Salad Croissants