A basic rule for pairing wine and food is that white wines go with poultry, whereas red wines tend to pair best with red meats, according to Williams-Sonoma. However, there are many exceptions that influence the choice of wine, such as the method of preparing the entrée, spices in the recipe and the type of accompanying sauce or condiment.
Chicken prepared with a tomato- or pepper-based sauce that has spice and tang can stand up to medium Spanish or French red wines. Similarly, barbecue chicken pairs well with reds that are fuller but slightly sweet, such as Zinfandel or Shiraz.
Very light protein, such as fish, exalts in equally light white wines, such as pinot grigio or Chablis. Bolder whites complement fatty fish or fish served in rich sauce, such as Chardonnay. As the ingredients and their corresponding treatment gets earthier, so too should the accompanying wine: wild mushrooms pair well with pinot noir, for example. For lighter red meats, the sauce dictates the type of red wine to pour.
Some other pairings include hors d'oeuvres with a dry rosé, low-alcohol wines with spicy foods, and unoaked whites with any foods that potentially receive a squeeze of lemon or lime, such as seafood. Albariño and sauvignon blanc are examples of unoaked whites, as winemakers stage them in stainless steel tanks and not oak barrels.
Another basic wine pairing rule holds that wines and ingredients that derive from similar regions and share a history within the local culture are complementary. Tuscan recipes and Tuscan ingredients, for instance, are a natural fit.
Lighter wines that are moderately sweet pair well with desserts.