Skip to main content

What Wine to Drink With Meat, Fish & Desserts

Wines are to be enjoyed and knowing how to find the best wines can be intimidating but worth it.

Choosing a good wine is purely a matter of taste. However, it is not easy as each of us has our own taste buds. Some like it delicate or sweet while others prefer stronger tart or even spicy flavors.

Thinking about what wine to drink with meat, fish, and desserts is exciting. We have talked about a few rules for choosing the right wine pairing. Now here comes the most exciting part -- picking the type of wine for your kind of food.

A quiet Christmas evening with siblings and wine

A quiet Christmas evening with siblings and wine

Should We Follow the Rules for Picking Wines?

I would say, it's all up to you.

The rule of thumb says, white wines with white meats, fish, and dishes with white or creamy sauces; then red wine for red meats and red or dark sauces.

Wine pairing rules are intended to make sure of perfectly combined acid, tannin, and sugar components in the wine as it acts on food -- similar to the way food spices do. Learning what wine to drink with meat, fish, and desserts is not just how to pair wine, but why. When wine does not overpower the taste in food, the blend brings out the best of both the food and wine.

While everybody is free to drink the wine they love with the food they love, taking the wine rules as your wine guide will help you find the right wine for the best dining experience.

Rule 1: White Wine for Fish & Chicken

White wines are light and sweeter. Having a low iron content, whites pair well with subtle flavor and lighter dishes like fish, poultry, and turkey. When drinking champagne, the wine is unlikely to detract from the flavor of fish or chicken.

This is why vegetarian and Asian cuisines pair well with most whites. Furthermore, the color and aroma of white wines influence the taste buds and prevent them from overpowering the flavor of the food. It complements the dish, instead.

Rule 2: Red Wine for Red Meat

Red wines and red meat when combined are unbeatable. Meat has a more powerful flavor profile, and when served with rich sauces pairs nicely with flavorful reds.

Red wines have harder tannins, a heavier body, and more alcohol, thus they pair well with fatty animal proteins. The juicy protein softens the tannin and stimulates the taste buds, resulting in a smooth nuance and flavor.

But although the high iron content in complex red wines causes a fishy aftertaste when consumed with fish, reds pair well with dark fish such as salmon, tuna, and swordfish. Even with a meatier fish, the strength of most reds may improve the taste without clashing. So, if you're feeling adventurous, try a red wine.

Pasta and white wine

Pasta and white wine

Wines for Meat

  • For Fattier Dishes - beef steaks, hamburgers, and dishes with richer sauces -Full-bodied reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Châteauneuf, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Red Bordeaux, Sangiovese, Syrah/Shiraz, Zinfandel
  • Most Pork Dishes - pork tenderloin, pork chops, pork roasted, pork barbeque, salami, cassoulet (pork usually goes with both red and white) -
    Beaujolais, Barbera, light Red Burgundy, Shiraz, Zinfandel; if you prefer white, try Chablis, Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, Reisling
  • Beef Stews and Rich Beef Meals - Malbec, Red Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel

Wines for Fish & Chicken

  • Chicken, duck, turkey -Chardonnay, Chianti, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Shiraz or lighter reds Barbera, Burgundy ; spicy chicken, Sauvignon Blanc, German Reislings, Shiraz
  • Fish simply cooked or grilled - light medium-bodied whites Pinot Grigio, Chablis; we enjoy Merlot with tuna
  • Dark fish tuna, sashimi, salmon, swordfish, mackerel -Sauvignon Blanc, Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Chianti, Reisling, Semillon, White Bordeaux; try Merlot
  • Shellfish (crab, oysters, lobster, prawn, shrimp) - crisp, acidic wines such as Champagne, Sparkling wine, Sauvignon Blanc; all light-bodied white wines
Scroll to Continue

Wines for Pasta & Salads

While the lighter structure of light-bodied wines brings out the creaminess of the food, the best experience now depends on the texture of the sauce for the wine to complement. For entrees with seafood, crisp wines do not overpower the fresh nuance in seafood.

  • Pasta in red sauce/ tomato-based - Chianti, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Merlot, Bordeaux; all medium-bodied wines
  • Pasta in white sauce/ Bearnaise Sauce - Chardonnay, Chianti, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Viognier
  • Seafood pasta - Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah; medium-bodied reds are as well great
  • Green salad, herb dishes, bitter and astringent foods like mixed bitter greens - Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Gruner Veltliner; other light-bodied wines
  • Pizza - Barbera, Chianti, Merlot, Zinfandel
  • Cheese - Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel; full-bodied white wines or light-bodied reds will do
Chocolate smoothie with Baileys is superb

Chocolate smoothie with Baileys is superb

Wines for Dessert

Dessert wine or "fortified wine" is wine served with or after dessert. These are very sweet varieties with a stronger flavor and higher alcohol content. Sweet wines are specially made from grapes with high acid content. The sweeter the wine means the more amount of sugar left over after fermentation.

Your dessert wine should be sweeter than your dessert dish. Since sweet wines have concentrated flavors, they are supposed to be sipped enjoyably. Serve lightly chilled.

  • Chocolate & Caramel - Berry Port, Shiraz, Sweet White Sauternes, Moscato d'Asti
  • Cookies & Brownies - Rosé wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay
  • Fruity & citrus desserts - Moscato, Prosecco, Tawny Port, Champagne
  • Creamy desserts - Port, Muscat, Sauternes, Madeira, Sherry, Baileys
  • Candies & gummy treats - Rosé, Sweet Blancs,

Coffee blended with brandy (try Baileys) is a happy ending to a meal.

Can We Drink the Wine We Like for the Food We Love?

Yes, we can.

On my side, we love Merlot from salad to pork barbecue, chicken, beef steaks, and even with fish, although a Pinot Noir has a light and sweeter taste great for shrimps and tuna. The fruitiness and juiciness of these wines are so complementing they are so nice to drink. Even mixed berry flavors have that tannin levels that pair fairly well with almost all kinds of food.

Red wines with as low as 7.5 to 9 percent ABV or percentage by volume of alcohol, can go with any dish. At least you will not feel some burning sensation on the palate than with higher volumes as much as 13 to 20 percent ABV.

Novellino 7.5 percent is a popular favorite. Its very low ABV content allows the wine to not go wrong even with sweeter entrees like ice-creams and cakes. You can opt for the 4.5 percent lighter version or 5 to 10 percent low alcohol white wines as they are refreshing and perfect for non-wine drinkers. All I can say is these wines will have you begging for more, lol.

Wine lovers, though, may prefer the stronger 18 to 19 percent Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and a lot more wines to choose from.

There may be an immense variety of red and white and few customary rules in pairing, the important thing is to enjoy the wine you like with the food that you like.

YES Everyone Can Afford Wine

When it comes to wine, price is the first thing that comes to mind. The key to finding the best wine is by defining what you like and do not like. You buy something expensive and you don't like it means pouring money down the drain.

Drinking wine is not a status symbol, or should be a collector's item. In fact, there are thousands of great but inexpensive wines to choose from. The love for wine is about enjoying a meal with family and friends one bottle at a time. Perhaps, you can begin with Chardonnay?

Concluding Thoughts

For a wine to be enjoyed by everybody, look for wines with lower alcohol content. Opting for 5.5 percent or 7.5 percent ABV wines will not leave you feeling drowsy.

Alcohol concentrations in wine range from 5.5 percent to 23 percent ABV, or even greater. Without alcohol, wine would simply be concentrated grape juice. Normally, wine lovers enjoy an average of 11 percent to 14 percent which is considered a medium alcohol content.

If you're not sure, follow your tastebuds, pick what you love, or start with champagne or sparkling wines. You want to have the best dining experience, so go for what you love. It can be intimidating at first, but you will be able to pick what wine to drink with meat, fish, and desserts whether for a special occasion or to finish your evening meals.

I drink red wine for the heart.

A word of caution:

You should drink red wine in moderation; about 150 ml of red wine is an ideal serving. If you are suffering from any disease, you must consult a doctor before you start consuming any kind of wine.

Interesting to Read

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Tonette Fornillos


Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on December 14, 2014:

Thanks Bertie. Perhaps this is a tough challenge. There's a saying -- sharing knowledge is learning and learning is the knowledge of sharing. Good for us! Thank you for reading. Have a berry-merry Christmas Bertie:=)

Bertie on December 14, 2014:

Just do me a favor and keep writing such trnenhact analyses, OK?

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on December 14, 2014:

Cheyenne! That's so nice to know, I'm glad. Hope you'll enjoy your wine. Thanks for reading.... Cheers and MERRY CHRISTMAS! :=)Tonette

Cheyenne on December 13, 2014:

Aligrht alright alright that's exactly what I needed!

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on May 23, 2013:

Hello Careermommy. That's terrific-ly gratifying - white wine with every meal, lol. As long as it's no more than a glass, that's good :=)... I bet you'll like Beaujolais. A toast to discovering we both love delicious light wines. Really thank you for visiting. Hugs from me:=) -Tonette.

Tirralan Watkins from Los Angeles, CA on May 23, 2013:

Tonipet, this is great information. I drink the same white wine with every meal. LOL! Now when I go out I'll know the proper rule of etiquette. Thank you for sharing.

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on March 26, 2013:

Hi girishpuri. Yes, it pays to know some pairing ideas. Probably not really a MUST-follow but are sure to make the simplest occasion worth an experience. Thanks so much for reading and for your thoughts. A toast to that! :=) -Tonette

Girish puri from NCR , INDIA on March 26, 2013:

Very useful hub while celebrating dinner with the guests. thank you so much, God bless.

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on March 18, 2013:

Very much agree with you, teaches. A list, no matter how short, can be very helpful, and for the simple woman, means a lot to entertaining even the most VIPs, lol. Thank you for the support on this. You're wonderful. Blessings and a toast... :=)

Dianna Mendez on March 17, 2013:

I know this will be very useful to those who want to put out their best when entertaining dinner guests. Well written and useful.

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on March 16, 2013:

Love it too, M. Thank you for reading. So glad you've made it by. A toast to healthiness! :=) Best wishes.

DragonBallSuper on March 15, 2013:

Excellent excellent writing Toni. You know your wine :)

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on March 13, 2013:

As a woman, little knowledge about wines has truly been interesting, and the most fun part? Drinking it :=)... I'm happy you find this interesting, as well. Cheers to that, Ruby.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 13, 2013:

Interesting article..Some good tips..Thank you...

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on March 13, 2013:

Thank you Martin. Collecting those wines went by the year and tasting some of them was the most exciting. So glad you made it by. Best wishes and cheers! :=)

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on March 12, 2013:

Thank you for this. Extremely well laid out.

Related Articles