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When it comes to creating wine and food pairings at home, the key is keeping it simple. But restaurant menus are often more complex. In addition to menu interpretation, there’s the time issue as the server awaits your order.

Most fine-dining establishments offer wine and food pairing suggestions, but if you find yourself on your own, here are some tips for pairing wine with common menu items. 


It’s rare to find unadorned chicken on a restaurant menu, so for a successful pairing, consider the sauce and cooking method. A dish such as roast chicken with mushrooms in a Madeira sauce will call for a full-bodied red wine such as shiraz or a medium-bodied pinot noir.


  • 2014 Yalumba Y Series Shiraz, Australia (about $13 retail)


  • 2013 Schug Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, California (about $24 retail)


When we think of wine and fish pairings, most of us think of white wines. But a dish like grilled halibut with garlic sauce is much more than mild white fish on a plate. For the ideal pairing, the cooking technique of grilling will add a much more earthy and smoky component. Because of the robust flavors the grill adds and the garlic in the sauce, consider merlot or pinot noir, if you’re in the mood for red. But as with most fish dishes, chardonnay is always a safe match.


  • 2014 BV Coastal Pinot Noir, California (about $12 retail)


  • 2013 Left Coast Cellars Pinot Noir, Oregon (about $24 retail)


If one ingredient in a salad overpowers the others, match your wine to that ingredient. If there is shrimp, crab or tuna, a sauvignon blanc or rosé would pair best. Salads with meats follow the same as most dishes, keeping in mind a light red such as a pinot noir may be the better pairing. For a lettuce wedge with smoky bacon mustard dressing, pinot noir or rosé would be ideal.


  • 2014 Bell Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $17 retail)


  • 2014 Anne Amie Huntington Hill Rosé, Oregon (about $19 retail)