The Anti-Pairing: Wines that go with Everything

anti pairingsOkay, maybe not everything….but most things. Ever been stuck with the responsibility of ordering wine for the table when one person is having chicken, another is having filet mignon, and yet another is having rare tuna? What about choosing wine for a cocktail party that includes a bevy of snacks and hors d’oeuvres ranging from the lightest of canapés to the most pungent of cheeses? How can you possibly find one wine to satisfy not only your guests varied tastes, but also the plethora of flavors in front of you??

Bad news: you can’t. There isn’t one magical wine that is equally stunning when paired with pasta primavera as it is alongside coffee-rubbed steak. The good news, however, is that there are two classic wines that work pretty well with a wide range of flavors from vegetables, to white meat and fish, to relatively simple preparations of red meat. Folks in the biz’ often refer to these as ‘Crossover Wines’ – wines that are medium-bodied, have some (but not too much) acidity, with flavors that are subtle enough so as not to overwhelm lighter dishes yet formidable enough for somewhat heartier fare. As luck would have it, these wines also tend to be crowd pleasers; neither too heavy nor too light, neither too sweet nor too tart, neither too oaky nor too tannic – these are wines hit that middle of the road just-rightness that would make Goldilocks (or your party guests) smile.

Pinot Noir: Perhaps the ultimate crossover wine, Pinot Noir has the heartiness of a red wine but is feather-light on the palate when compared to bold new world Cabernet and Syrah. As such, it works equally well with many vegetarian dishes as it does with fish, chicken, pork, and even some more subtle beef dishes. As a general dinner party rule, I stay away from California Pinot, which can often be bigger and more oaky than most – choose any Pinot Noir from Burgundy, Loire or Oregon and you’ll be in good shape.

Might we suggest:
High Vines, Pinot Noir USA Oregon
Bourgogne Rouge Cuvée Prestige “Alexis,” Jean-Philippe Marchand 2009 France Burgundy

Chardonnay: The Chardonnay grape produces wines that are more full bodied and lush on the palate than most other white grapes which means, just like Pinot Noir, they have the ability to work nicely with veggies, fish, chicken and pork. Most any beef dish would be a stretch with Chardonnay, but if you absolutely must drink white with your steak, a full-bodied Chard is going to be your best bet.

Might we suggest:
Mâcon-Vergisson, Litaud 2009 France Burgundy
Norton Ridge Chardonnay, Napa 2009 USA California


For more pairings check out Kimberly’s Wine & Food Pairing Essentials Workshop at Astor Center

  • eliotseats

    Pretty informative post.  We have been to a couple of wine classes and basically have been told that “if you like it, drink it with anything.”   That advice, however, has come back to haunt us.  We do like pinot with just about anything though.