Wine Basics

Wine Styles

from The Wine Lover's Companion

In most instances, when pairing wine with food, you should drink a better wine and forgo its compatibility with the food rather than settle for a mediocre wine just to achieve a food-wine match. But it’s also worth the extra effort to try to balance the style of the wine with that of the food. A hearty dish like osso buco, for example, is better paired with a rich, intense wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, or Red Rhône. On the other hand, a lighter dish like a simple pasta primavera (fresh vegetables and olive oil) is better complemented with a white wine or even a lighter red wine such as Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Lambrusco, or Valpolicella.
The goal in pairing wine with food is compatibility -- neither should overpower the other. The following information provides a general guide to the style of various wines in terms of the body they typically exhibit. Keep in mind that individual winemaking styles and a given vintage may influence the weight of these wines.
Note: White and red wines are noted separately and grouped into one of three sections -- light-, medium-, and full-bodied. In each section, the wines are ordered (top to bottom) from the lightest to the heaviest.
White Wines
Light-Bodied (from Lightest to Heaviest)
• Italian, such as those from Frascati, Galestro, Orvieto, Soave, Trebbiano D’abruzzo, and Verdicchio Dei Catellidi Di Jesi
• German, nonsweet (Trocken or Halbtrocken) from grape varieties such as Müller-Thurgau, Sylvaner, or Scheurebe
• Pinot Gris (also called Pinot Grigio)
• German, nonsweet (Trocken or Halbtrocken) from Riesling grapes
• Melon De Bourgogne--like French Muscadet, America’s Melon de Bourgogne, and some U.S. Pinot Blancs (some of which are actually made from Melon de Bourgogne grapes)
• Champagne and other better Sparkling Wines--Blanc de Blanc (lighter, less-yeasty styles)
• Riesling from the United States and Alsace
• Pinot Blanc (unoaked) from Alsace and the United States
Medium-Bodied (from Lightest to Heaviest)
• Chenin Blanc--French from Savennières and Vouvray from the United States
• Champagne and other better sparkling wines--all but the less yeasty-style Blanc de Blan
• U.S. Pinot Blanc (oaky styles)
• Southern Rhône wines like Côte Du Rhône
• U.S. Sauvignon Blanc wines (unoaked)
• Bordeaux
• U.S. and Alsatian Gewürztraminers
• Pouilly-Fumé, Sancerre, and U.S. Sauvignon Blanc (oaky styles)
• Italian--like those from Gavi
• Chardonnay--unoaked U.S. or French (like those from Chablis)
• Burgundy--those from Pouilly-Fuissé, Saint Véran, and other Mâ-Connais wines (Mâcon, Mâcon-Villages)
Full-Bodied (from Lightest to Heaviest)
• Chardonnay--United States, barrel-fermented and aged in oak
• Burgundy--those from premier Burgundian villages like Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault
• Northern Rhône wines, especially those from Hermitage but also Saint Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage
Red Wines
Light-Bodied (from Lightest to Heaviest)
• Bardolino
• Lambrusco
• Nouveau-style--French, United States, and others
• Beaujolais (except for Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon, Mouin-À-Vent, and Régnié)
• Most German red wines--like Spätburgunder or Portugieser
• Valpolicella (except Amarone-style)
• Dolcetto--United States and Italian
• Beaujolais from Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon, Mouin-À-Vent, and Régnié
• Burgundy--most Côte De Beaune
Medium-Bodied (from Lightest to Heaviest)
• Valpolicella (Amarone-style only)
• Rioja
• Barbera--U.S. and Italian
• Chianti Classico
• U.S. Pinot Noir
• Burgundy--most Côte De Nuits
• Bordeaux--most vintages
Full-Bodied (from Lightest to Heaviest)
• Burgundy--from the better vintages of top Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards
• U.S. Merlot
• U.S. Syrah and Australian Shiraz
• U.S. Zinfandel
• Bordeaux (the best vintages)
• U.S. Cabernet Sauvignon
• Aglianico wines from southern Italy, particularly Taurasi and Aglianico Del Vulture
• Rhône (especially Hermitage, Côte Rotie, and Cornas)
• Brunello Di Montalcino
• Barbaresco
• Barolo

© Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc.
by Ron Herbst and Sharon Tyler Herbst.

Tags: pairing, compatibility, wine, food, light-bodied, medium-bodied, full-bodied, white wine, red wine

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