I’ve always been a big wine enthusiast, but it wasn’t until I finally took a course on bar and beverage management (perks of being a nutrition and dietetics/culinary arts major, I know) that I finally began to understand it. There is so much to know about wine and it would take years to master all that wine encompasses. Thanks to my bar and beverage professor, and some very intense wine tasting (I mean, research), I put together this small but helpful guide to wine and food pairing that will hopefully get you started on all things wine.  

Red Wines

beer, wine
Natsuko Mazany

Red wines are exceptionally hard to understand, learn, and appreciate, especially when it comes to wine and food pairing. Pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, and merlot are four of the best red wines in the world. These four red wines will get you going on your way to appreciating all that red wine has to offer. 

1. Pinot Noir

truffle, mushroom
Lissane Kafie

Pinot Noir is one of the noble wines born in the region of Burgundy in France, meaning that the types of grapes used to make this wine are top quality grapes. The grape, also called pinot noir, is very hard to grow, which makes this wine extra special. Its taste is fresh and delicate and pairs nicely with lots of different flavors, especially earthy flavors such as mushrooms, truffled potatoes, and roasted vegetables. 

2. Cabernet Sauvignon

lamb, steak, pork
Charlotte Hull

Cabernet Sauvignon is considered a “bold red” wine. This type of red grape is very thick, thus its levels of tannins are very high, making cabernet sauvignon a very durable wine. It’s often times called a “full-bodied” wine, which makes it pair nicely with juicy red meat such as steak or lamb chops

3. Malbec

pork, chili, sauce
Claire Waggoner

Malbec wine has a very juicy and fruity flavor to it. In Argentina, malbec is the most grown grape and it is the most popular wine in the region. Since Argentina is widely known for its Argentinian asado (meat-based grilling), malbec pairs nicely with red meats and strong, spicy sauces such as barbecue sauce. 

4. Merlot

Merlot is perfect for the inexperienced wine drinkers that want to start with a red that's easy to drink. Merlot pairs nicely with any type of food from red meats, white meats, to roasted vegetables and cheeses. However, it is also excellent on its own as it is very soft, and, of course, very elegant. 

White Wines

wine, white wine, red wine, champagne, toast, alcohol
Kristine Mahan

White wines and red wines are complete opposites. While red wines give you that full-bodied, strong taste with just one sip, white wine gives you a refreshing and clean taste. White wines are much easier to like and enjoy. However, as with any other wine out there, white wine has its special and unique pairing with different foods. 

1. Chardonnay

grilled salmon, lemon, salmon
Jessica Yu

Chardonnay is by far the most popular white wine and it is the number one white wine in Burgundy, France where it was born. Very luscious in taste with a slight hint of vanilla flavoring, chardonnay pairs perfectly with fatty fish or light, creamy sauces, especially pesto salmon spaghetti and chicken.   

2. Sauvignon Blanc

rice, vegetable, meat, risotto, sauce
Meredith Davin

Sauvignon blanc pairs impeccably with seafood such as scallops, chicken, and light and tart salads. This French wine is characterized by its acid finish yet fruity (green apple, pears, and even melon) and herbal (grass) taste.

3. Pinot Grigio

ricotta, herb, spinach, cheese, pasta, sauce, vegetable
Ellen Gibbs

One of the most famous white wines in the world, pinot grigio is abundantly grown in Italy but originated in France where it is called pinot gris. Pinot grigio has a refreshing and almost zesty flavor, ideally paired with light, creamy, white sauces with garlic and herbs, and either chicken or seafood.

4. Riesling

salmon, spinach
Lissane Kafie

Born in the Rhine region of Germany, riesling offers a refreshing, aromatic, and fruity (apple, pear, peach, and apricot flavors) taste. In certain regions, such as Germany and California, riesling tends to be sweeter; however, in France and Austria, the wine tends to be more dry. The dryer versions of riesling pair well with sweet and spicy dishes such as Thai or Japanese food, and it is exceptionally good paired with tuna

Sparkling: Champagne

champagne, wine, toast
Lucy Carlisle

Popping a bottle of champagne is one of the most satisfying things to do in life. The bubbles and the sizzle make for celebrating any special situation, but in reality, a good bubbly wine can be enjoyed any time. 

vegetable, rice, risotto
Callie Carlson

Champagne, from the Champagne region in France, isn’t the only sparkling wine out there. In fact, Spain has its well-known cava and espumoso, and Portugal and Argentina have the espumante. All of these sparkling wines are produced using the champagne method, but at a fraction of the cost. When it comes to pairing sparkling wines with food, salty or roasted nuts, crispy udon noodles, or a creamy risotto will do the job. 


alcohol, liquor, beer, wine
Paige Stickevers

Rosé wine is often confused for being a blend between red wine and white wine. In fact, the secret to getting the perfect rosé is the contact of the grape skins and the grape juice. The wine wizards make a rosé by letting the red grape juice soak in with the red grape skins for a little bit, until they get the desired pink color of the wine. 

Rosé wines pairs nicely with light salads and pastas with seafood, as well as rich, creamy cheeses such as goat cheese.

I hope that this little basic wine and food pairing dictionary has helped you realize that wine is so much more than just the main drink for playing slap the bag