Affinities of Wine and Food |

Affinities of Wine and Food

I often see people in the grocery store wine aisle with puzzled looks on their face, trying to figure it all out among the countless bottles of different wines and brands.

Amazingly, no one seems to explain what wine goes with what food, so I thought I would.

Sauvignon Blanc

This white wine often is discernably varietal in character. The expected grassiness in taste is often tempered by the addition of semillion. This wine is very fruity while retaining a silky finish, with slight overtones of barreled oak.

Sauvignon Blanc is ideal when served with more moderate flavor fish and shellfish like scallops, oysters, or red snapper. The crisp acid balances butter and rich cream sauces.

Roasted or smoked foul and game birds along with veal, vegetable, and cheese quiche, crepes, and casseroles are enhanced by the fruit and acid balance of the wine.


This is a white wine augmented by toasty flavors of vanilla imparted in most all wineries by the use of French oak barrels. The wine is well balanced and the distinctive flavor of chardonnay is called “buttery.”

Serve chardonnay with stronger flavored fish and shellfish like crab, lobster, mussels, or clams, grilled or poached. Rich cream, cheese or tomato sauces are superb with chardonnay.

Poultry and game birds that have been roasted or smoked are complements, but especially so when cooked with chardonnay.

Veal dishes, cheese souffles and casseroles, fish chowders, and any type of pate or terrine go well with chardonnay. Use it with cheese like dofino, bleus, Gouda, and cheddar.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is an elegant red wine rich in berry flavors. The elegance of cabernet is best served to more simply prepared entrees of lamb, beef, pork, game or duckling.

Use as a marinade, deglazing liquid, or ingredient in reduced sauces but don’t combine with tomato or citrus.

Nuts, particularly pecans and sometimes walnuts are perfect with cabernet. Onions, shallots, and mushrooms of all kinds, sauteed in butter, may be added to stuffings, sauces, vegetables, and starches to enhance side dishes served with cabernet.

The ultimate complement… serve cabernet with beef pieces marinated in cabernet, pecans, basil and shallots, with a side dish of wild rice.


A red wine of incomparable richness and depth. Full fruit flavors of wild blackberries and plum dominate.

Syrah serves to complement stronger food flavors found in dark m eats such as beef, wild game and duck. Lighter meats such as lamb and pork are also superb with syrah.

Syrah is particular in concert with meats that have been marinated, smoked or grilled as shish kabob. Tomato and orange are very compatible with syrah. It’s superb with Swiss, Brie and stronger cheese like cheddar, blue veined, and crisp apples with crusty bread. Goat cheese with or without herbs is delicious with syrah.


Zinfandel is a unique red wine of style and flavor. Intense berry flavors, especially wild blackberry and raspberry, are underlined at times by a subtle accent of herbs and spices – often a peppery taste.

Zinfandel has an affinity for foods with tomato or orange flavors such as pasta dishes, spaghetti, lasagna, pizza, stuffed peppers and ratatouille. This would also include Cioppino and Bouillabaisse or duckling with orange sauce.

The wine is attracted to stronger flavored entrees, such as lamb, pork (either meat or sausage), wild game, venison, elk, duck and beef. Beef is superb when marinated with zinfandel (or used as a deglazing liquid). It also makes a good marriage with turkey, barbecue, or Mexican food when young and chilled.

Norman E. Gates is a Lake of the Pines wine connoisseur. He can be reached at

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