Maybe you’re new to the wonderful world of wine, or maybe you want to expand your horizons past your signature glass of red. No matter the reason, learning more about how to pair the best wine with the best food can increase your sophistication, show off a little something to your date, and even bring out the best flavors in your food or drink.

The basics. The typical rule is white wine with fish or chicken, red wine with red meat. You can’t go wrong with this one, but you might want to expand your horizons a bit! In addition to red and white, you might encounter blush wines, and make sure to take other factors such as the sweetness, dryness, and intensity of the wine into consideration. As far as the food goes, fortunately it usually does not sit alone on your plate—the sauces, spices, and accompaniments play a part in the wine selection as well.

Sweet Heat. Sweet wines, such as Rieslings, pair well with spicy foods. The sugar cools the spice while enhancing the flavor.

Smokey Oak. For a woodsy flavor, try pairing your grilled or charred foods with oak-aged wines, such as California Chardonnay. These intense flavors will complement one another perfectly!

Texture Time. When discussing foods, texture refers to more than just the physical texture. Consider whether your dish has a simple, mild flavor, such as many classic American “comfort” foods, or whether it has a complex, deep flavor, like curry or lobster. Lighter fares pair well with light wines, while deeply textured items pair perfectly with the complex notes of a more intense wine.

Sweet & Salty. The same magic that turns kettle corn and chocolate-covered pretzels into delightful dishes works just as well with wine. For example, salty cheeses pair very well with Port wine, bringing out the fruitiness of the wine and the savory delight of the cheese.

Matchmaker. Foods from a particular region typically contain some of the same basic ingredients, making them a natural and simple pair. Italian dishes and Italian wines, Spanish food and Spanish wines—you get the picture. Even better, many of these dishes have been paired with their typical wines for centuries.

Of course, if you’d rather leave it to the professionals, ask your server or bartender for recommendations! We’re always happy to help.