Thanks to its dizzying verbiage and oft-intimidating presentation, wine can be tricky to pair with food. The task gets especially daunting when there’s a dinner party at stake: How do you impress guests even if you can’t tell your Cab Franc from your Cab Sauv?
Below, we break down easy-to-remember classic pairings, starting with light-bodied white wines and ending with full-bodied reds. Best of all, none of these bad boys breaks the bank.
① Chandon Sweet Star ($24)
There’s no need to pay for expensive Champagne when you can drink Chandon Sweet Star, a classic, light-bodied bubbly with peach, nectarine and grapefruit aromas. The fruit notes are rich and sweet, and provide ample acidity to balance spicy appetizers. Enjoy chilled or on ice.
② 2016 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc ($32)
Sauvignon Blanc is a light and herbal white wine, and the 2016 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc offers a vibrant mix of kaffir lime, lemon zest and nectarine aromas. Enjoy this wine with dishes like salmon and grilled asparagus.
③ Cliffhanger Pinot Grigio ($13)
With a slightly fuller body than Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio has a sweet, perfume-like aroma. The Cliffhanger Pinot Grigio features notes of ripe pear, white melon and fresh peach, and pairs best with grilled fish and creamy pasta dishes.
Viognier is a full-bodied, creamy white wine, and the 2015 Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Viognier is crisp and distinctively fresh. With hints of honeysuckle and vanilla, this is the perfect warm-weather wine; it pairs well with fragrant dishes like chicken curry and pan-seared tilapia.
⑤ 2016 Angels & Cowboys Rosé ($17)
Rosé, which tends to be medium bodied, offers fruity florals and is great for sipping alone. The 2016 Angels & Cowboys rosé includes hints of pomegranate, golden delicious apples and wildflowers, and pairs well with seafood, like seared tuna and crab cakes.
As a light-bodied red wine, the 2015 Alexana Revana Vineyard Pinot Noir features aromas of violet, molasses, boysenberry and cedar. With creamy notes of roast coffee and brown sugar, this wine pairs wonderfully with umami-rich truffled dishes and creamy burrata.
A medium-bodied red wine, the 2012 Silverado Vineyards Mt. George Merlot has aromas of rosemary, mint, blackberry and spice, which pair well with chicken or lightly spiced dark meats and fish.
⑧ 2015 Rombauer Zinfandel ($32)
Bolder than Merlot, Zinfandel is a medium-bodied, fruity red wine, and the 2015 Rombauer Zinfandel has concentrated aromas of blackberry, raspberry, clove and spice. Its cherry and vanilla flavors pair well with savory dishes like pulled pork and lamb ravioli.
⑨ Rosso di Ca’ Momi ($10)
Red blends are the perfect way to capture unique characteristic of many grape varietals, and the Rosso di Ca’ Momi has flavors of intense plum, blackberry pie and toasty spice. It pairs perfectly with rich Italian foods like pizzas and pastas.
This full-bodied red wine was aged in oak barrels for 15 months, lending to its aromas of ripe mulberry, spiced black tea and hazelnuts. The bold wine pairs best with decadent dishes like burgers, steak and chocolate desserts.