One of the hardest things to do when going out to eat at a nice restaurant is picking out which wine to drink with your dinner. Not everyone is an expert on wine and food pairings, and depending on the restaurant, they may not have a sommelier on staff that can help you. Sure, your server probably has some great recommendations based on what other people have chosen or their personal preferences, but it’s always good to know what sorts of dishes pair well with which types of wines.
With so many different wines to choose from, as well as an almost infinite number of foods, it would be impossible for us to tell you which wines pair well with every menu item from every restaurant, but we can give you a good idea of which times of wines pair well with main types of foods.
Use this as a guide the next time you go to a restaurant and you need help choosing the wine that best goes with the dish you’ve ordered. These wines will compliment the food and the food will also compliment the wine. It will bring out flavor combinations you may have never experienced before and it may help you discover new wines that you may have never tried before.
Food and Wine Pairings at a Restaurant
When it comes to pairing wine and food at a restaurant, it’s nearly impossible for us to know what pairs well with specific dishes from specific menus, but we can tell you what types of wines pair well with overall proteins and dish types.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the types and styles of wine that pair well with general restaurant food items.
Pairing wine with chicken in a restaurant will depend on the way that the chicken is cooked, but you can’t go wrong with these wine and chicken pairings.
- Pino Grigio – If you’re ordering a baked or roasted chicken with a light sauce then this light white wine is a great place to start.
- Sauvignon Blanc – Roasted or grilled chicken will pair very nicely with a glass of sauvignon blanc.
- Riesling – If you’re chicken dish is a bit on the spicy side, or Asian influenced, the sweetness of a Riesling will pair very well.
- Viogner – Chicken prepared in garlic, ginger, or lemon will benefit from a nice glass of medium-bodied viogner.
- Chardonnay – If you’re chicken is grilled or baked then a medium to full-bodied chardonnay will compliment your dish nicely.
- Pinot Noir – Grilled and roasted chicken dishes that are complimented by a light sauce will pair very nicely with a glass of pinot noir.
- Merlot – If your chicken has bolder flavors and sauces, such as BBQ, then a medium-bodied merlot is the way to go.
- Zinfandel – If you’re ordering a spicier chicken dish then we suggest going with a zinfandel wine.
- Syrah/Shiraz – Grilled or roasted chicken seasoned with bold, earthy spices, will pair great with a glass of syrah/shiraz.
Steak typically lends itself more to the rich flavors of red wines, but there are some white wines that will pair nicely with a steak-based dish as well.
- Chardonnay – Grilled or roasted beef dishes will go great with a medium to full-bodied chardonnay.
- Sauvignon Blanc – If you’re opting for a lighter red meat based dish like flank steak or beef tenderloin, then a sauvignon blanc is going to be your best bet.
- Riesling – As with the chicken, if you’re ordering a spicier meat dish then a sweeter white wine will help to balance out those spices.
- Chenin Blanc – A medium-bodied chenin blanc will compliment a grilled steak or beef stew to perfection.
- Cabernet Sauvignon – If you’re ordering a nice grilled or roasted steak then a good full-bodied cabernet sauvignon is going to be a great wine to pair with your meal.
- Merlot – The flavors found in merlot will best compliment red meat dishes with bolder flavors and sauces.
- Syrah/Shiraz – Roasted or grilled beef dishes that are seasoned with herbs and spices will benefit from pairing with a syrah/shiraz wine.
- Pinot Noir – Steaks and meat dishes with a lighter sauce will be best complimented by a light-bodied red wine like a pinot noir.
Looking to enjoy a nice seafood dish as opposed to red meat or chicken, then here are some wine pairing recommendations that are sure to compliment both the food and the wine. While red wine is often not thought of to pair well with seafood, there are a couple choices that can compliment certain dishes.
- Pinot Grigio – A light-bodied pinot grigio with its citrus flavors will pair very well with lighter seafood dishes like oysters, sushi, or grilled shrimp.
- Riesling – Spicy seafood dishes and dishes prepared with an Asian influence would be best suited for a sweeter wine like a Riesling.
- Sauvignon Blanc – Ordering grilled fish, shrimp or scallops, then we would suggest a ligh-bodied sauvignon blanc to pair with your meal.
- Chardonnay – If you’re ordering seafood with a richer taste like lobster, crab or salmon, then we recommend a nice medium-bodied Chardonnay.
- Pinot Noir – Grilled or roasted salmon and lighter seafood dishes with light sauces tend to pair very well with a light to medium-bodied pinot noir.
- Rose – Light-bodied with a range of fruity flavors, Rose is a great option if you’re looking for a non-white wine to pair with grilled shrimp or crab.
If pasta is your menu item of choice, there are a number of good white and red wine pairings that will compliment a variety of pasta based dishes.
- Pinot Grigio – Richer pasta dishes such as pasta with light sauces will pair very well with a glass of pinot grigio.
- Sauvignon Blanc – Caprese pasta as well as other light, fresh, pasta dishes will compliment a glass of sauvignon blanc.
- Chardonnay – Alfredo or carbonara pasta dishes will benefit from being paired with a medium to full-bodied chardonnay.
- Vermentino – Pasta dishes with a tomato sauce or white wine sauce will pair very nicely with a light-bodied vermentino wine.
- Pinot Noir – Pasta dishes with lighter sauces, like mushroom or pesto sauces, will pair well with a light to medium-bodied pinot noir.
- Chianti – Tomato based pasta dishes such as spaghetti with meat sauce or lasagna will pair best with a nice glass of chianti.
- Valpolicella – If your pasta has more of a tangy, tomato-based, sauce with it, then we would recommend a glass of valpolicella.
Great Wines to Pair With Food at a Restaurant
While it would be impossible to determine which wines pair well with every single menu item at every restaurant, the guidelines above should help you with the basic pairing for most types of meals.
Wine and food pairing is an art in itself, it’s not an exact science and some people may not agree with every pairing presented. Remember, taste is a personal preference. Just because you like a certain type of wine or a certain wine and food pairing, doesn’t mean that someone else will like that as well. Take your time and try out different combinations of food and wine to better determine which pairings you like best. Guidelines and recommendations are a great place to start, but ultimately it boils down to your preference.