Wine and food pairing shouldn’t be difficult, and isn’t as complicated as many people make it out to be. The old rule about white wine with fish and red wine with meat made perfect sense in the days when white wines were light and fruity and red wines were tannic and weighty. But today, when most California Chardonnays are heavier and fuller-bodied than most California Pinot Noirs and even some Cabernets, color coding does not always work. Keep it simple and follow this simple guideline: Pair lighter bodied wines with lighter bodied foods and richer wines with richer foods.

Example Let’s take a salmon fillet. If you poach a salmon fillet and serve with a light, lemony cream sauce, I would suggest a lighter-bodied white or even red such as a Sauvignon Blanc, dry Riesling or perhaps a fresh Beaujolais if you enjoy red wine. If you use a spice rub on your salmon fillet and grill it, I would suggest a domestic Pinot Noir, Rhone-style blend (Syrah/Grenache) or a nice red Zinfandel.

Bottomline What you are really matching isn’t the salmon fillet. Rather you are matching the method of preparation or sauce.

Selected dry and off-dry white wines
(lightest to weightiest)

Soave, Orvieto, Pinot Grigio
Off-dry Riesling
Dry Riesling
Champagne and other dry sparkling wines
Chenin Blanc
French Chablis and other unoaked Chardonnays
Sauvignon Blanc
White Bordeaux
White Burgundy
Pinot Gris (Alsace, Tokay)
Barrel-fermented or barrel-aged Chardonnay (United States, Australia)

Selected red wines
(lightest to weightiest)

California Pinot Noir
Chianti Classico
Merlot (United States)
Cabernet Sauvignon (United States, Australia)
Rhone, Syrah, Shiraz