With its abundance of fresh food, enticing flavors and relaxed atmosphere, summertime presents a great opportunity to explore wine pairing. From backyard gatherings to date night dining, matching warm weather meals with a companion wine can help you accentuate the delicious flavors of the season.
While it’s tempting to pull out full-bodied wines to serve with the main course attraction, delectable summer entrées can benefit from a bit more finesse. Cooking methods, seasonal ingredients, flavors and spices all play a role in creating a match that’s memorable.
In general, three basic ideas of wine pairing for entrées are as follows:
- Light food pairs with lighter wine while heavier food pairs with full-bodied wines
- Acidic, sweet and dry wines match with vinegar-based foods, white sauces and BBQ
- Full bodied, rich, red tannic wines pair with red meats and tomato-based sauces
You’ll find the most popular summer entrées below along with suggested wine pairings designed to either balance or contrast. Use these ideas when creating your next summer menu to help you savor the flavors of warm weather cuisine.
Summer is the perfect time to celebrate fresh seafood offerings and indulge in exquisite pairings of delightful wines to compliment oceanic cuisine. While most think of white wine as the traditional pairing for fish, you might be surprised that lighter reds can be a match for some seafood entrées.
The layered flavors and zesty acidity of crisp dry white wines such as Chenin Blanc and Pinot Grigio pair well with shellfish, clams, and oysters. They’re also a match for flakier white fish. These luscious white wines can hold up to any spiciness that’s served with these entrées.
If lobster with a creamy sauce is on your menu, serve it with a buttery chardonnay. The flavors of each offer a complimentary pairing that’s classic and always a winner. A light red, such as a Rosé, can also be paired with lobster, offering a tart crispness with a fruity nuance resulting in an appetizing finish.
Pinot Noir brings its earthiness and low tannins to entrées such as salmon, tuna and other meatier fish. This duo is a smooth pairing that lets the flavor of the fish shine. For an alternate choice, try a Rosé or Beaujolais with salmon for a fresh and delightful taste.
From backyard BBQs to formal dinner menus, chicken is an entrée that can be enjoyed in many forms, especially during the summer. Because it’s such a versatile food that can be prepared in a myriad of ways, pairing wines with this protein largely depends on how it’s cooked, seasoned and served. This opens the door to matching it with reds as well as whites.
If a saucy and grilled BBQ chicken is on the menu, a high acidity wine wine such as Chenin Blanc pairs wonderfully with any sweet notes in a BBQ sauce. Any fruitiness in the wine will complement the sauce while still allowing the acidity to counterbalance the flavors.
For chicken served with creamy pasta dishes, such as a cheesy Alfredo sauce, pair it with a medium-bodied and lightly oaked Chardonnay. Similarly, if serving an entrée salad with chicken, such as a Caesar salad with a creamy dressing, Chardonnay is a safe pick.
For spicy chicken entrées, a chilled and sweet white wine like Moscato or Riesling offers a counterpoint to the zestiness found in highly seasoned hot flavors and sauces. These whites will mingle nicely with any spiciness.
If you’re opting for tomato-based sauces served with chicken entrées, move over to the red wines. A light red like Pinot Noir will balance and tame the acidity of the tomato sauce. This includes pastas with red sauce, chicken parmigiano and tomato curries. The light tannins in the red wine won’t get lost with the complexity of the sauces, making for a tasty pairing.
For sweeter chicken entrées, like grilled chicken seasoned or served with a fruity salsa topping, opt for a Rosé or Zinfandel. The wine notes will bring out the sweetness and offer a complementary match.
Whether you’re grilling a ribeye or serving a filet mignon with a rich sauce, the right wine can elevate this entree to an unforgettable meal. Generally, red meat is paired with red wine since both are full-flavored items and one needs the other for just the right counterbalance of taste. The tannins in red wine work to contrast with the fat in the meat which produces an incredible experience in the flavor department. So, choosing the best red wine is part art, part science, and ultimately, an incredibly tasty experience.
Because there are so many ways to prepare and serve steak, the seasonings and sauces will factor into which wine is best suited for pairing.
For leaner cuts of meat, such as filet mignon or flank steak, choose a medium-bodied and silky red like Pinot Noir that will enhance rather than compete with the more subtle flavors of these cuts of beef.
For porterhouse, ribeyes, and New York strip, all of which are marbled and have a high-fat content, you’ll want to pair those cuts with a lush and robust red, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel. These couplings work synergistically between the wine’s tannins and the fat and protein of the steak, resulting in a most delicious taste experience which is the hallmark of a perfect pairing.
If you’re in the mood to bust the myth that only reds should be paired with steak, get ready to uncork a bottle of white. Choosing a white wine to pair with steak is less about what cut and more about how it’s prepared. Generally, any grilled beef with milder seasonings will pair with a full-bodied, barrel-aged Chardonnay. Both are weighty and flavorful items, so they’re well-suited as a culinary match.
On that note, feel free to break the rules of tradition and try your own pairings for summer fare. As always, the best match is the one that resonates with you. Cheers!