Pairing wine with food can seem like a daunting task. It’s not just an art — it’s science, too. When pairing wine and food, you’re pairing properties of wine (acid and tannin) with components in food (salt and fat). A good food-and-wine pairing will keep all of these components in balance, but a great food-and-wine pairing will elevate both the food and the wine. We asked 10 sommeliers across the country: Which wines are the most versatile with food?
“The ones you like and the ones you really want to drink! I believe in matching people and moods before matching the food. It might sound strange, but I often think about it. Often it is more about what you crave, how you feel, and who you are with. If I had to say one wine, Champagne could well be one of the most versatile wines there is.” – Michael Engelmann, Wine Director at The Modern and Cafés at MoMa, Untitled and Studio Café at The Whitney
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“Wines with low alcohol and oak tend to work better with food. A lot of time oak tends to clash with many things. Bubbles are always a safe bet, as well as rosé.” – Eric Railsback, Wine Director, Mason Pacific
“In all of my time on the wine side of the food business (I started in the kitchen), I’d have to say that Northern Rhone Syrah shows the most varied range of styles for food pairing. I think the Hervé Souhaut wines can be simultaneously powerful and delicate, and I’d just as soon eat lamb with them as I would a nice piece of black bass.” – Nathan Lithgow, Sommelier, Sauvage
“Champagne! Sparkling wine is so versatile with food — you can drink it throughout the entire meal, and there are different weights and textures that carry throughout the meal. Another option would be rosé — people think it’s only for summer drinking, but it is truly versatile year round. Dry Riesling also pairs so well with food.” – Rachael Lowe, Beverage Director, Spiaggia
“The art of pairing wine with food is vast and I could talk about it for hours. Wines with acidity, wines with texture, wines with a backbone of tannic structure, wines that aren’t polished but have imperfections that bring out their beauty once a piece of cheese hits the table, or a fatty duck confit dish is in front of the guest. That’s when these wines make the most sense.” – Matthew Kaner, Wine Director and Owner of Bar Covell, Augustine Wine Bar, Dead or Alive Bar, AM/FM Wines
“Riesling is a favorite food-pairing wine for myself (and when I can get guests to go for it!). We have a wine from Rietsch, his Grand Cru Zotzenberg Riesling from the Alsace. It has medium weight, rich apple, and gingery undertones with a salty clean finish and pairs with so many dishes. I like it especially with our roasted duck dish; it has the right amount of richness and fruitiness to dance with the fatty gaminess of the duck.” – Kimberly Prokoshyn, Head Sommelier, Rebelle
“What type of food? How is that food being prepared? We get bogged down in too many ‘rules’ about wine pairing that may not always work. Foie and Sauternes – well how is the Foie being prepared, what is the sauce, what is the set of the dish? If you really want to look at wines that are the most versatile with food, first define what it is you like to eat. Like spicy food from Southeast Asia, Riesling under 11 percent alcohol from the Rheingau would be great. Do you only eat avocado toast? There is a pairing for that as well. There is no wine that goes with everything, but there is a wine for every dish. The only exception is rosé of Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand. That goes with literally everything.” – Jon McDaniel, Beverage Director, Acanto, The Gage, The Dawson, Beacon Tavern, Coda di Volpe
“Rosé. With so many different styles, great rosés, like Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, can really bridge a great meal from lighter, more delicate fair to richer dishes, even meat.” – Ellie Bufkin, Assistant Wine Director, Maialino