The Best Foods To Pair With White Wine


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By Maria Scinto/Sept. 7, 2021 6:15 pm EDT

While white wine isn’t quite as popular in the U.S. as red wine, it’s pretty close. According to a 2019 YouGov poll, 69% of American wine drinkers favor red, but white is the top pick for 65% (we’re sensing some overlap here). When they broke it down into types of wine, the poll results were all over the map. The most popular white wine, with 23% of the vote, was sweet moscato, while Chardonnay came in second with 17%. Riesling, pinot grigio/pinot gris, and sauvignon blanc were also popular picks.

When it comes to pairing wines with foods, it’s not as simple as red goes with beef, white goes with chicken and fish. For one thing, what about pork? For another, what about cheese? Couldn’t that go either way? Plus, the type of wine itself is going to play a part: sweet or dry? Still or sparkling? French or Italian? Contrary to what some may think, there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to wine pairings. If you happen to enjoy a glass of pinot gris with your Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, well, you know, we’re just going to assume you’re onto a good thing there, and no, we wouldn’t mind joining you for a sip and a nibble. If you’re looking for a few other suggestions of foods that play nicely with white wines, though, here are a few you might wish to consider.

White wine pairs well with poultry

White wine with poultry is often cited as if it appeared on page one of the Culinary Bible, at least if there were such a thing. As Wine Folly explains, however, even this seemingly simple rule can get complicated. Yes, white wine works best with lighter white meats such as chicken and turkey breast, but for darker, fattier duck or even a turkey leg, you’re probably better off with a red wine. (Or mead, should you be chomping that turkey leg at a Renaissance festival). They do say, though, that the slightly sweet, yet still somewhat tart riesling can stand up well to dark meats.

For a chicken dish in a creamy, buttery sauce, try a dry chardonnay or a Côtes du Rhône to offset some of that richness. Sauvignon blanc works well with roast chicken or turkey, especially when you’re seasoning it with herbs such as parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. (Admit it, you just started humming that Simon and Garfunkel song, as you do pretty much every thyme -– er, time -– you open your spice cabinet.)

Seafood likes a light, dry white

According to Wine Spectator‘s Q&A guy “Dr. Vinifera,” the reason why white wine works so well with seafood is due to its higher acidity. The good doctor says this type of wine can complement fish or shellfish in much the same way as does a squeeze of lemon juice.

For shellfish, especially crab, shrimp, and lobster, Medium suggests that a riesling or sauvignon blanc will be best able to balance out the rich flavors. Fish, on the other hand, usually tends to have a lighter, more delicate flavor, so the wine you serve should also be on the light side so as not to overwhelm it. Riesling or sauvignon blanc could still work with fish, though, as would a chardonnay. Should you be serving fish eggs, though, you simply must choose a sparkling white wine. After all, Champagne + caviar may be among the most clichéd of food pairings, but that’s because it’s a match made in foodie heaven.

White wines make a good match for spicy foods

Many people prefer to wash down their super-spicy foods with soda, beer, or water, while drinking milk is the common-sense approach to cooling things down in a hurry. If you want a beverage that will complement the flavor of the chiles, though, white wine goes surprisingly well with all things spicy (up to and including those aforementioned Flamin’ Hot Cheetos).

DCanter says that a slightly sweet wine such as a riesling or gewürztraminer can help to temper some of the heat in a peppery dish, and they also suggest chenin blanc or a fruity, but not too bubbly, sparkling white such as moscato d’Asti. Wine expert Fiona Beckett, writing for Decanter magazine, also agrees with a sparkling white/spicy food pairing, saying, “I love to drink fizz and find that a rather creamy and really mature Champagne goes well with chili-accented dishes like soft-shell crab or squid fried in a cayenne-spiced batter.”

Sweeter white wines have a place on the dessert tray

Many sweeter white wines are so sugary they could almost pass for a dessert themselves, with the sweetest, according to Wine Folly, including moscatel, passito, and vin santo. Plus, of course, you have flavored whites such as Aldi’s Petit Vanilla Bean Wine. These sweet white wines, and even a few of the drier ones, can be served to accompany the dessert course, since there’s no rule that says sweets must only be accompanied by milk or coffee.

Love to Know suggests that vanilla-flavored desserts such as crème brûlée go well with sauternes, moscato, and gewürztraminer. For apple pie and its ilk they suggest a riesling, a wine that complements lemon flavors as well. Muscat, they say, goes with both berry and pumpkin desserts, while for tiramisu you should try either vin santo or sparkling wine. As for chocolate, the rule of thumb seems to be that red wine makes a better match for very dark chocolate, but white wine goes nicely with chocolate that’s not quite so bitter. If you want a curated collection of chocolates to accompany white wines, keep an eye out for Aldi’s wine pairing chocolate boxes. There’s no need to wait for Aldi to re-introduce these, however, as the Kendall-Jackson winery offers the following guide: chardonnay with white chocolate, sauvignon blanc with citrus-flavored white chocolate, pinot gris with orange-flavored chocolate, and riesling with both milk and semi-sweet chocolate.

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