Red Wine Pairings: The Definitive Guide for Every Dish

When it comes to food, the right wine can make all the difference! A seemingly simple glass of red wine can transform your standard, everyday mealtimes into romantic and luxurious experiences. With over 50 variations of red wines worldwide to choose from, it can be overwhelming to know which one to serve with your dish.

With over 20 years of expertise in home entertaining, Fran Berger is California’s go-to expert for dining details — what to serve, how to serve it, and how to plan overall. To better choose the best red wine for your next dish and elevate all your future dining occasions, here is a guide to the top red wine and food pairings, according to Fran. 

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What Pairs Well With Red Wine

How to Find the Right Red Wine Pairs for Your Dishes

Not every beautifully labeled bottle with a higher price tag equals better quality. Even certain vintages within a well-respected vineyard can vary in value. Depending on the food you plan to serve, there are many factors that can help determine which red wine will best complement your entrée. Consider these tips for choosing the red wine that is right for you.

How Does Red Wine Matching Work?

When it comes to matching (or pairing) red wine with food, you always want to consider either complimenting the flavors or contrasting them. Depending on the dish you plan to make, you will want to choose a red wine that will heighten both your sense of taste and smell. 

Tips for Food and Wine Pairing

Below are some basic rules of food and wine pairing to help guide you in finding the best red wine for your next dish:

  • Focus on complimenting, not overpowering your dish
    Wine, especially reds, can be highly pungent and loud in flavor. Be sure not to choose a wine that will drown out the seasoning in your food.
  • Pair an earthy wine with earthy food
    Smokey, nutty and oaky notes, for example, complement each other when combined in a dish.
  • Don’t choose a wine that is more bitter than the food
    You never want to mix bitter with bitter. Instead, always pick a red wine that is slightly sweeter than the dish itself.
  • Compliment the sauces in your dish, not the meat (if applicable)
    Usually, you can pair the red wine with the seasoning of your meat, however, if your dish contains a sauce, like garlic shrimp scampi or creamy mushroom, then choose a red wine that couples well with that instead.  
  • Acids go with acids
    Acidity in food and acidity in wine blends well with one another. Find a tart red wine to pair with dishes that are zesty or spicy.  


Top Red Wine And Food Pairings Recommended by Fran Berger

As a master in her craft - and a dedicated oenophile herself - Fran Berger shares some of her favorite red wine and food pairings for you to try for your next dining occasion. 

  • Merlot: The deep, dark flavors of a Merlot match exceptionally well with roasted chicken or turkey. More than that, this wine has delicate, soft tannins, which do not leave your mouth feeling dry. But, not every grape is for everyone.  For instance, it’s a standing joke among my friends that I will thank you for the bottle of Merlot you have brought to my home but know that it will live the rest of it’s life in my hall closet unopened!  I just don’t love Merlot… 
  • Malbec: This robust wine notes flavors of plum, black cherry, and blackberry with hints of aged oak and leather. Serve a glass of Malbec alongside spiced vegetarian stews and tomato-heavy meat dishes to highlight the acidity and spice contents. 
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: This fuller-bodied wine goes great with red meat and roasted or grilled lamb, as it complements the cedar and herb tastes. 
  • Pinot Noir: This is a lighter wine and is best paired with seafood, salads, or mushroom flatbread. The strong aromas of this red wine make your dish even more mouth-watering and flavorful.  


The Best Red Wines For Your Next Dinner Party

To make your pairing process simple and enjoyable, consider this guide to the best red wines for complimenting your favorite dinners to serve. 

Red Wine Pairing With Salmon

If Salmon is on the dinner menu, share your fish alongside a bottle of Davis Estates Cabernet Franc. This Californian Cabernet Franc red wine is rich in flavor, detecting hints of dark cocoa, toast, and ripe berry, offering a silky texture and notes of cassis that will compliment your grilled salmon dish.

What Red Wine Pairs With Steak

Steak and Cabernet are a match made in heaven, especially when paired with a Revana Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. This exclusively produced red wine is a graceful mix of baking spices and dark berry flavors, perfect for creating a dramatically delicious pair for your meat.

What Red Wine Pairs With Chicken

Pour a glass of Davis Estates Pinot Noir with your next poultry dish. This classic Pinot Noir carries traces of dark cacao, rhubarb, and rich cherry. The lively tannins of this red wine dance well with earthy spices and mushroom-based sauces. 

What Cheese Pairs Well With Red Wine

Cheese and wine go hand-in-hand but remember that not every cheese goes with every wine. Since both wine and cheese can vary in flavor and scent, pairing the right cheese with your red wine will help to avoid one overpowering the other. 

When it comes to pairing cheese with red wines, pair lighter-bodied red wines with more subtle cheeses and louder, full-bodied reds with more intensely flavored cheeses. 

If you prefer a sharper cheese, like Parmigiano Reggiano, this pairs best with a fruitful, aromatic Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. Whereas, delicate, nutty cheeses such as Aged Gruyère matches perfectly with a light Pinot Noir. 



From a robust Malbec to a luscious Cabernet, there is a red wine for all of your favorite dishes. With the help of this guide and Fran’s deeply-established entrepreneur and restaurateur experience, finding the perfect red wine to pair with your next dish is easy and enjoyable. For more tips on elevating your skills in home entertainment and fabulous living, visit our website for articles, resources, and to schedule your consultation with Fran.


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