Wine and Meat Pairings

Learn sommelier secrets for classic pairings with rich meat dishes from the wine lovers at Firstleaf.

When it comes to home cooking, the right wine pairings can take your dishes from simply good to great. The perfect glass of wine will complement the subtle flavors of your protein, adding layers of nuance and textural variety.  

If food and wine pairing feels daunting, we believe you should stick to the only rule that really matters: drink the wine you like with the food you enjoy. Enjoyment is the reason we all started drinking wine in the first place. But if you’re curious and aren’t sure where to start, we’re here to recommend the perfect wine for any meat that might grace your table.

Pairing Rules and Considerations

The first rule that most people learn about pairing food and wine is that red wine goes with red meat, and white wine goes with fish. Unfortunately, this isn’t always accurate. Fish and red meat aren’t monoliths, and there are many different types of meat between the two ends of the flavor spectrum. The meat, seasoning, salt, sauce, and cooking method will all play a factor in how you choose a wine.

If you have an excellent cut of beef and are deciding whether to roast, barbecue, or braise the meat, then you will want to think about what wine you have on hand. Roasted meats will need a different type of wine than barbecued meats.

This is doubly true if there is a sauce that accompanies the meat. If your barbecue sauce has a bit of sweetness, it can pair with a fruity wine, but a traditionally cooked steak au poivre (with its beautiful peppery notes) will work better with the flavor compounds of richly structured, tannic wine like a Cote du Rhône.

Wine with Meat Pairings

Wine and Fish Pairings

Most of the pairings that we suggest follow the more straightforward pairing route, which uses wines that complements the flavors of the different cuts of meat instead of contrasting them. If you are in need of a great red wine or lively white white, shop the store!

Wine with Fish

Choosing a wine for a fish depends entirely on what type of fish you cook. A white wine with a delicate texture will be overwhelmed by the strong, fishy flavors of a herring.

Light fish, grilled with a squeeze of lemon, is perfect for a zippy unoaked white wine. A wine like a Sauvignon Blanc would work well with the delicate flavor of light and flaky white fish, but a rich white Burgundy or oaky California Chardonnay could be unpleasant.

Fattier fish can be complemented by a full-bodied white wine or a light red like Cabernet Franc or Pinot Noir.

Smoked fish is similar to fatty fish regarding pairing, but we often enjoy smoked salmon with sparkling wine.

What Wine Pairs With Chicken and Poultry?

White meat lovers rejoice. The pairings for chicken and turkey breast are simple; go with classics like an oaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or Chenin Blanc.

Dark meat is where things get a little more interesting; the dark parts of a chicken or duck breast have the ideal flavor profile and fat content to stand up to a medium-bodied light red wine like Pinot Noir or Grenache. Duck breast and Pinot Noir are considered an iconic pairing!

If you have foie gras, then you are in for a treat because foie and Sauternes (or any true sweet wine) is a match made in heaven.

What Wine Pairs With Pork?

Wine Pairings with Turkey

Pork pairings are all about cooking methods and spices. We love rich white wines like German Riesling and Chenin Blanc with simply roasted pork chops and suckling pig, and doubly so if apples are involved in a sauce. For sausages and barbecue, we often reach for Grenache and Zinfandel, where fruity flavor mixes with pepper for a classic pairing.

Charcuterie has its own set of rules and depends on what you are serving. We love it with red wines like Cabernet Franc or Grenache, but dry sparkling wine is also a great choice.

What Wine Goes With Steak?

Wine and Steak Pairing

Wine and Steak Pairing

Red wine with steak is a classic. The taste of a bold wine with firm tannins and ripe fruit interacting with cuts of fatty beef creates a true marriage of flavors in your mouth. The two work with one another (and the finishing salt) to build harmony and balance. But what wine is best?

Unlike pork, where you can essentially drink the entire spectrum of wine, steak is almost always served with red wine. When you have a 30-day dry-aged steak, you want to make sure that you have a great pairing, and in that realm, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is king, but we also love Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, and Super Tuscans.

For cuts of tender meat with less fat like a filet, we tend to choose wines with softer, sweet tannins like Merlot, Malbec, or Cabernet Franc.

What Wine Pairs With Lamb?

Despite some people calling lamb “gamey,” the flavor is much more delicate than a cut of beef. Lamb dishes are best complemented by medium-bodied red wines that can play off the preparation style. We tend to choose Pinot Noir, but the occasional Bordeaux Blend (especially those high in Merlot) will do very nicely.

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March 12, 2023
Iraj Zolnasr
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