Wine & Food Pairing: Basics for people who just want to eat, drink and not talk about wine

Not everyone interested in pairing wine with food necessarily wants to spend hours of their life learning the ins and outs of wine.  If you simply want to eat tasty food and drink delicious wine to enhance the time you spend with people you love, this quick guide will be your cheat sheet for most restaurants in America. Here are the best wine & food pairings:

Sparkling Wine

Fantastic with food! Most people reserve bubbles for special occasions or as a precursor to a meal, but it has a much bigger role to play than just as a toast.  Its vibrant mix of effervescence, acidity, and lower alcohol make for a playful pairing.

Works well with…

  • Salt, cream, richness, butter and fried foods
  • All kinds of raw fish- sushi, oysters, caviar and ceviche
  • Rich, salty or creamy cheeses (triple creams, feta, parmesan)
  • Asian cuisines (Thai, Japanese, Indian, Cambodian)



Found on almost every restaurant wine list and is the most popular white wine in the country.   While its grown in most wine regions in the world, Chardonnay at its finest is from Burgundy, France with our own backyard of Santa Barbara County being a close second. 

Chardonnay works well with:

  • Rich textures and flavors
  • Mild shellfish- lobster, prawns, shrimp
  • Nuts and sweet spices- cinnamon, nutmeg, peanut butter, almonds


Sauvignon Blanc

Bold and often considered one of the best white wines to drink with food.   Classic Sauvignon Blanc is usually consumed at a young age, minimally oaked or unoaked, with loads of bright green flavors with tangy acidity. 

Sauvignon Blanc works well with:

  • Vegetarian soups, especially vegetable purees.
  • Dishes with a lot of fresh herbs such as salads, guacamoles or salsas
  • Spicy dishes
  • A variety of cheeses- great with most cheese courses either before or at the end of a meal.


Pinot Noir

Jancis Robinson describes Pinot Noir as ‘liquid chicken’: find one that everyone enjoys and all your troubles are solved.  Because it’s such a light red wine, it tends to be a very easy match with foods.

Pinot Noir works well with:  

  • Goes with just about everything. When in doubt, choose Pinot.
  • Smoked, grilled or oak-driven foods.
  • Rustic and earthy vegetable dishes
  • Picnic like foods- cheeses, sandwiches, charcuterie


Cabernet Sauvignon

Famous for its part in the distinguished wines of Bordeaux and more recently, Napa Valley in the US, Cabernet seems to be either loved or scoffed at by wine drinkers.  That said, it’s a staple on most wine lists, especially those serving red meat.  Cabernet usually has a high alcohol content, lots of oak and tannin so be wary of pairing with most dishes.

Cabernet Sauvignon works well with:

  • Classically paired with red meats
  • Bitter components like radicchio, braised escarole or roasted eggplant


Want to take a deeper dive into the world of wine?  Here are some great online resources

Wine Folly-

Somm Select-

Guild Somm-

Make sure to wipe & clean your teeth with Wine Wipes after!