Wine Pairing for Beginners: Red Wines

By September 7, 2016 October 24th, 2016 Uncategorized


Here is a quick guide to pairing food with a few popular types of red wines for those who are new to the realm of wines.


The California wine region is known for its Merlot. Merlot is a dry red wine that often has a fruity taste, with hints of vanilla or coco. This medium bodied red wine has soft tannins and smooth acidity.

California is a great place for growing Merlot because of its warm climate. Merlot grapes do not take well to frost or extreme moisture, and are sensitive to the soil quality. Variations of Merlot grapes are mostly found in Italy, France, and California. While Merlot has become a highly commercialized wine, which has caused it to lose some of its credibility, it is still a great wine with an extremely versatile range of flavors.

Because the taste of Merlot is a fairly middle of the road, it pairs well with many different foods. You can’t go wrong pairing it with a savory dish or with lighter meats such as chicken and duck.

Merlot also goes well with cheesy dishes; specifically cheeses such as Gouda and Cantal.

Beef and other red meat often pair well with Merlot when mixed with earthy or smokey flavors such as mushrooms. Cheese burgers are always a good decision with this wine.

Spices such as savory rosemary, thyme, and oregano are the perfect spices to pair with Merlot. Chicken is a wonderful match with Merlot because of it’s agreeable and versatile attributes.

For the most part Merlot pairs great with anything except for with light fish, acidic sauces, or cream sauces.

Pinot Noir

While Pinot Noir is more scarce in California, it is known for being a highly sought after wine. Pinot Noir is by far the most neutral tasting red wine with a low amount of tannins and high acidity. Pinot Noir is very fruity and is often flavored with cherry or raspberry. This wine often has hints of caramel or licorice.

Pinot Noir grapes are some of the most fragile grapes to grow and are extremely susceptible to many types of diseases and extreme weather conditions.

Because it has such an agreeable taste, Pinot Noir pairs well with most dishes that are on the lighter side.

Pinot Noir goes well with pasta dishes that have cream sauces or white pizzas. It also pairs well with goat cheese.

Light meat such as chicken or trout go well with this wine, but because it is a red wine it can pair well with darker meats as well when cooked correctly. Even bacon can be a flavorful addition to a dish paired with Pinot Noir.

This is the most versatile red wine overall.



Zinfandel is a red wine that is mainly produced in central California, but is grown throughout the majority of the state. It was introduced to California during the gold rush, and is now internationally known for its unique flavor.

California produces both red and white Zinfandel. The red variety has a more classic flavor that usually includes darker berries such as blackberry and boysenberry. Other flavors include pepper and anise.

Zinfandel pairs well with sweeter tasting spices such as basil or fennel. Because of Zinfandels overall spicy flavor, food has to match the intensity. Strong flavored meats such as Italian sausage or tuna pair well.

Along the same lines as the meats, strong flavored cheeses also pair well with this wine. Cheeses such as parmesan, aged cheddar, and asiago are a few that can compete with the abrasive flavor of Zinfandel.

While spices that pair well with Zinfandel are still bold in flavor, the ones that pair the best are on the sweeter side such as basil or fennel.

California Zinfandel has a flavor unique to California and because of that has become known all around the world.