Perfect Pairings

Wine Pairing | Part 2 | Red


Shopping list in hand, you may find yourself in the wine aisle at the grocery store, not knowing which way to turn. Never fear, we’re back with more pairing practices to inform you as you prepare your next feast!

Last time, we mentioned finding balance between the flavors in your meal and your wine, aiming to achieve harmony. While white wines are often paired to contrast, reds are paired congruently to echo the depths of a meal’s flavors. This time around, we’ll dive into the endless potential of red wine pairings and leave you ready to mix and match meals and glasses all season long.

Part 2Red Wine

We’ve narrowed down a whole bunch of advice down to three rules:

  • Red wines pair best with bold flavors.
  • Bitter wines are best balanced with fat.
  • It is better to match the wine with the sauce than with the meat.

The primary feature of most red wines will be the bitterness, but also consider the sweetness and acidity. Reds range from light to bold and picking the right intensity depends on the dish. We’ll, once again, work through courses and see where you can enhance taste with the ideal red wine pairing. 


While a white wine is usually appropriate for the beginning of the meal, pairing a red with a cheese plate can also be a delightful way to start. Bold flavored cheeses make good matches, like a Cabernet Sauvignon with a sharp cheddar or Sangiovese and Pecorino Toscano. 

For any other starters, avoid getting too heavy too early in the evening and choose a lighter red like a Pinot Noir or light Zinfandel for most other hors d’oeuvres. 


The opportunities to pair reds with meat courses are endless, but it’s often easier to match the wine to the sauce used.

For an herby, lighter sauce like a pesto, try out a Cotes du Rhone red or Chianti for a lighter and fruitier pairing – a young wine with bright acidity will echo the greener notes in a dish.

The cheesiest and creamiest sauce will need something that can cut through thickness, like Viongier. While seeming sweet, it’s bone-dry enough to match the rich dairy in alfredo or other creamy sauce while still delivering flowery and nearly tropical notes. 

Red sauces tend to have high acidity. If your wine isn’t acidic enough you’ll find your dish comes off bland so try a Sangiovese or Zinfandel to best accompany a tomato centric sauce. The richer and meatier the dish, opt for a heavier body like Malbec. 

For classic gravies and butter based sauces, a Cabernet Franc or Pinot Noir will blend well with the sweet notes without overwhelming the senses. If the sauce is particularly herbal, a Cabernet Sauvignon will accentuate the vegetal notes, complement the bold flavors, and elevate a hearty meal.

If what you’re serving isn’t sauce-centric, then pairing by flavor intensity is the way to go; remember that the more intense the flavor, the bolder the wine can be. Lighter entrees like chicken and seafood require a lighter red such as Pinot Noir or Gamay while turkey, burgers, and vegetable heavy dishes mesh with a more middle of the road, earthy and mild red like Merlot. Save the deep, spicy nuances of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah for choice cuts of steak and lamb. 


To finish your meal, a red wine pairing can be the fruity and sweet cherry on top to an evening. Chocolatey treats like brownies or pudding can handle the bitterness of a Cab Sauv, but if you’d rather keep things on the sweet side, Lambrusco, a bubbling red with sharp tannins and fun jammy taste is a good way to go.

A fruit filled and zesty dessert would do well with a Granache or Tempranillo. The acidity will balance out the sweetness while staying light and the plum and cherry notes will echo the fruit in the dish.

For the thickest and most indulgent of sugary desserts like chocolate mousse, try Port. This rich sweet wine with blackberry and caramel notes has just enough pepper to enhance without overwhelming. 


Now you’ve dipped your toes into the wide and wonderful world of wine pairing. We encourage you to go forth into the world and delight the senses of your friends and family with informed and insightful wine pairings. Make sure to grab a Cork Genius or two so you can make the absolute most of every bottle you serve with a meal. We have everything you need to open, aerate, and store wine like a professional!


Genius Team

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