How to Pair Wine with Your Wedding Menu

A bride and groom holding glasses of white wine.

Whether you’re a foodie or an oenophile, you understand the importance of pairing the right wine with the right dish. For some of you, that knowledge may seem like common sense, but for those unfamiliar with the territory, it may be a bit confusing.

What wines you choose to serve at your wedding will be determined by one of two things. Either you serve your ideal wine preference, or you choose the wine based on the main course. But if you don’t have a preference per se, note that we say wines because there should be at least one white and one red option in the bar. Ideally, especially if you’re serving a varied multi-course meal, you might want to consider having several types of reds and whites on hand. A rosé is optional, as it can be replaced by either a white or red wine depending on the dish, but recommended to have as well, especially if you’re serving seafood.

Of course, there are endless varieties of wine and the subject can get really complicated. So, let’s start it off on an easy note by taking a look at the most popular wine types and what common dishes they go the best with.

White Wines

Someone pouring a glass of rose.

No matter what anyone tells you, white (and rosé) wine should always be served chilled, and colder is always better. It’s safe to say if you serve light-colored wines at room temperature, you’re going to have a lot of confused guests.

Sauvignon Blanc

This easy to drink and lavishly flavored white wine is ideal for fish and seafood. It’s crisp acidity also makes it suitable for any chicken or turkey dish, especially if it has a creamy sauce. Speaking of creamy—Sauvignon blanc tends to go quite well with soft cheeses such as Feta or goat cheese. And for dessert, opt for something citrusy and light like key lime pie, meringue, or any tropical-flavored sweet.

Pinot Grigio

Like Sauvignon blanc, this is a light wine that pairs well with light foods. However, it has a less-strong flavor, making it even easier to drink. Pinot grigio can work as an apéritif, but also goes well with any pasta, chicken, or turkey dish. Although red meat isn’t normally paired with white wines, Pinot grigio makes for an excellent complement for a steak with blue cheese sauce.

Chardonnay

Although this is a white wine, it is on the heavier side. Not everyone is a fan. Depending on how it’s prepared, it can have a thick, buttery flavor or a more crisp, acidic taste. It’s heavier texture makes it suitable for middle-ground meats such as veal and pork. And like other white wines, it also goes well with seafood. Chardonnay pairs surprisingly well with spicy meats, such as chorizo, and it highlights the flavor in vegetables such as potatoes and squash.

Red Wines

Red wine in glasses and appetizers.

Although red wines come in all strengths, most fans of the darkly colored beverage prefer a richer flavor. As a quick and easy shortcut, the stronger the ABV (alcohol by volume), the stronger the flavor will be. So, for something more powerful, you will want to look at a bottle of wine with at least 13-13.5% alcohol content.

While red wines are rather versatile, some argue that they doesn’t pair too well with fish. The minerals are highlighted by the red wine, ruining the taste.

Cabernet Sauvignon

This is a classic go-to that pairs well with pretty much any dish, especially red meat or venison. It is also suitable for lamb and, surprisingly, seared ahi tuna. For lighter bites, you can’t go wrong with classic cheeses like cheddar or Gorgonzola. Cabernet Sauvignon is a very versatile wine and it’s hard to go wrong when choosing a dish to complement it.

Merlot

Another classic. However, unlike CabSav, it is generally richer and fruitier in flavor and has fewer tannins. As a result, it’s a hint sweeter. Like other red wines, it’s an excellent choice for steak and is ideal for higher quality meats such as filet mignon or roast beef. Grilled or roasted chicken (anything that has a lot of flavor) is also a great choice. For sides, anything with garlic, mushrooms, fruit, or cheddar and/or blue cheese is a definite yes.

Zinfandel

Even more fruitier than Merlot, Zinfandel pairs excellently with any spicy or blackened dishes. A high-quality Zin tends to highlight any peppery or Cajun notes in your food. Any dish with pork, duck, or other exotic meats will have its taste be magnified with a sip. As far as cheese goes, opt for ripe or flavored cheeses such as an aged Brie or Camembert. And remember to keep the spice going even for dessert: a carrot cake or something with gingerbread will pair perfectly.

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