Some things just go together: peanut butter and jelly, Sonny and Cher, cookies and milk. But here at VinePair, we believe that one pairing surpasses them all. Yep. You guessed it: wine and food. When they work together, they can bring out the best that each has to offer. It’s true that some wines, generally light and crisp whites, fare well as aperitifs and shine on their own. But others absolutely need food. So which wines are crying out for an accompanying plate?
Generally speaking, big, full-bodied reds do their best with a plate of food beside them. Why is that? Big reds have more tannin than their lighter-bodied white cousins. Tannins are those elements in wine that leave your mouth feeling dry. The main source of tannins in wine is from the juice coming in contact with grape skins and seeds. Red wine production includes the maceration of grapes with these skins and seeds, resulting in lots of tannins, whereas white wine production immediately separates the juice from these compounds, so the presence of tannin is lower.
Here’s where food comes into it: Tannins are an essential component in food and wine pairing. Fats in food combine with tannins, rounding them out and creating a softer, more pleasurable sensation when the two are consumed together. That juicy steak that tastes incredible on its own will become heavenly with a glass of red by its side.
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Here are our favorite full-bodied reds that shine alongside a plate of food:
These Cabernet-dominant blends are some of the greatest wines in the world, but really come alive when served with beef stew. Bitter vegetables, such as broccoli rabe, also pair very well with this wine.
It’s not surprising to find a Zinfandel clocking in at 15 to 16 percent alcohol, making food a much needed companion for these wines. The juicy, lush flavor profile of Zinfandel makes it stellar with barbecue pork or sweet Italian sausage.
This Nebbiolo based king of Piedmont is equally high in stature and tannin, making it one of the greatest food-pairing wines in the world. When served with truffle-based dishes or mushroom risotto, the wine’s tannins dissipate into a symphony of gastronomical goodness.
Napa Valley Cabernet
We love a big, bold Napa Cab, though after a few sips our palates are dying for a bite of something equally large. Pair your bottle with a juicy cut of a steak and watch the magic unfold.
The Tempranillo-based reds of Rioja have the same structure, tannin and fruit-forwardness as Cabernet, yet brim with a unique dark cherry flavor profile that Napa aficionados will love. Serve with beef chili or ribeye and watch the wine develop into something extraordinary.
The tannin-rich wines composed of Sagrantino make this Umbrian red a killer food-pairing wine. When served with rack of lamb or mature cheese, the wine’s tannins mellow out and complement either dish beautifully.
These Grenache-dominant wines from the south of France are full-bodied, earthy, and terroir-driven. The Syrah in most blends adds a peppery, tannic structure, making the wines of this region ideal with cassoulet, hard cheeses and grilled portobello mushrooms.