Believe it or not, any kind of restaurant can have food and wine pairings. Wine is more than a drink–it’s a flavor enhancer. Plus, offering a special menu presents numerous benefits for your restaurants.
- Introduce new wines you purchased.
- Test out new dishes before including them on the regular menu.
- Encourage timid wine drinkers to explore new grapes and grow comfortable ordering bottles of wine.
- Create a special experience.
- Upsell more expensive wines.
To get started: schedule a tasting meeting for your staff. The more they know about the pairings, the better they can upsell.
Update your menu with any new wines and dishes from the meeting using your bar POS system, then print out small paring menus for guests to peruse.
The Fundamental Rules of Creating a Wine and Food Pairing Menu
If you are new to the idea, don’t be intimated. Your business is to serve delicious flavors; when paired correctly, wine only enhances those flavors. Get into the kitchen with your team, and start taste-testing. When your eyebrows lift and you go for another bite and a sip, you know you’re on the right path
Below, we share 14 food and wine matches that are always sublime.
Pinot Noir for Earthy Flavors
This light-bodied red has a deep savory quality, making it one of the most versatile grapes for food pairing. A bottle of pinot noir would satisfy a large table ordering a range of dishes, everything from cheeseburgers to grilled salmon and lamb chops. However, a pinot noir should always be ordered and paired with earthy ingredients. Mushrooms and truffles are excellent examples. A pairing of mushroom bisque and pinot noir is a wonderful way to start out your wine and food tasting menu.
Barbeque Doesn’t Overpower Malbec
Who said wine and food menus work only with classical fare? There’s a wine for every type of dish, including barbeque. Don’t hide those spare ribs. Instead, make them a feature of your new menu. Argentine Malbecs are famous for bringing out the flavors of a beefsteak because of undercurrent flavors of berry and plum. This warm sweetness can be paired with a tangy, sweet, or smoky barbeque sauce without being overshadowed.
Champagne with Salted Dips and Vegetables
Dry champagnes are ideal with salty or oily appetizers. You can pair just about anything salty with champagne or Spanish cava, because of their subtle sweetness. Even fried chicken, according to Australian winemaker Ed Carr. Carr explains that “fat and salt come up as a constant theme. Sparkling wine does a remarkable job balancing off those and exposing the other flavors underneath.”
But do let champagne be the star. Avoid pairing with foods that are “excessive.” If it’s too fat, too sweet, too acidic, or too anything, the flavors of the food and champagne will collide.
Sauterne with Foie Gras
Sauterne with foie gras is a must. Without the sweet wine, tasting foie gras is like eating a burger without ketchup. Sauterne is from the Bordeaux region in France. It’s a rare white grape that makes exceptional dessert wines and can age for decades. A chilled glass of the honeyed wine pairs perfectly with the fatty richness of foie gras. For a vegetarian option, Sauternes also couple well with ripe blue cheese.
Cabernet Sauvignon with Dark Red Meat
Cabernet Sauvignon wines have a complex flavor with many layers. Because of the firm tannins present, they are best paired with juicy, red meats and umami flavors. For many wine drinkers, cabernet sauvignon is too heavy to start with. So for your wine and food pairing menu, save cabernets for the second or third course, to please all palettes. Wines similar to cabernets, and just a tad lighter are Bordeaux and Bordeaux-style wine blends.
Dry Rosé for Cheesy Richness
It’s universally known that cheese paired with a robust red wine is a delightful dining experience. But a dish made with cheese is absolutely brought to life with a dry rosé. Its acidity is similar to white wines, but dry rosé has the robust character of a red. Black truffle risotto with parmigiana or a decadent four-cheese grilled cheese sandwich are the kinds of dishes that need a wine like this. Dry rosés cut through the richness of the cheese, refreshing the diner with each sip.
Sauvignon Blanc with Acidic or Tart Sauces
Sauvignon blanc is one of the most widely planted grapes, which explains the broad range of tastes and aromas available on the market. They can range from a zesty lime flavor to that of a ripe peach, from extremely dry to deeply oaky. Yet across the board, you can count on any sauvignon blanc to work with tangy tastes like citrus salad dressings.
Chardonnay for Rich, Fatty Fish
The flavor profile of a chardonnay ranges from zesty to oaky. It’s the most planted grape in the world, with the greatest variety of all. The unoaked Chardonnay is similar to a pinot grigio, while the oaky wines can be like butter in a glass. Generally, a Chardonnay goes with almost any light dish, but it’s a highlight with a delicious fatty fish, like salmon or sea bass.
Pinot Grigio and Plates of Light Fish
Pinot Grigio is one of those wines that almost everyone has tried. Some people might tell you that it’s easy to confuse with water, given how delicate and light the flavor is. While the grape is delicate enough to go with poultry too, pinot grigio is sublime with a light white fish. Its subtle acidity buoys a gently seasoned seafood dish. Pair it with a whole white fish grilled and seasoned with salt, pepper, and lemon for an easy menu offering.
Syrah and Spices
Austerely grilled and seasoned meats only need a deep Bordeaux to come alive, but things get more difficult when the meat is heavily seasoned. A syrah is your best choice in this case. Lamb burgers spiced with cumin and cinnamon, for example, would clash with other red wines, but the spicy notes of syrahs create harmony. In general, a syrah wine can be paired with any bold flavors, from aromatic herb blends to peppery sauces.
Sancerre with Oysters
Simple, salty, and satisfying. Oysters are a slice of the ocean, and only a Sancerre can be paired with them. It’s the one white wine that won’t detract from the simplicity of the oyster’s flavor profile. Sancerres are savory French wines from the Loire Valley and are considered the Frenchman’s true white wine. While oysters must be paired with Sancerre, the wine is versatile and goes with fish, poultry, cheese, Mediterranean spices, and vegetables.
Slightly Sweet Riesling with Asian Dishes
Do you have an Asian-inspired dish that’s a hit on your menu? Surprisingly enough, an off-dry Riesling or Vouvray tames the wild spices of Asian recipes. The same goes for Indian food. Chuck the classic cheese and wine pairing for appetizers, and include an Indian samosa with a Riesling.
Chianti with Old-World Dishes
Having developed together over the centuries, the wines and recipes of Old-World regions such as Tuscany, Italy, are a natural fit. Some would say Chianti is as integral to Italian cooking as olive oil. It’s perfect with a plate of prosciutto and Spaghetti Pomodoro.
Moscato d’Asti with Fruit Tarts
Dessert wines come in many varieties, but Moscato d’Asti wins for being the most popular. It’s a moderately sweet sparkling wine from Italy that’s known for its distinctive floral aroma. When paired with fruit desserts, the Moscato makes the fruit sparkle instead of the sugar, providing a refreshing close to a full and hearty meal.
Once you’ve created your food and wine pairing menu, why not look into creating cocktails with healthful ingredients?