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Pinot Noir Food Pairing: Beyond the Basics

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Three bottles of Pinot Noir next to a plate with a knife and fork across it.

Pinot Noir is a light red wine that is easy drinking on its own and pairs very easily with a variety of foods. It’s so versatile it can pair just as easily with a steak as with chicken or fish. It’s the best go-to when you’re at a restaurant and your tablemates order across the menu.

When pairing wine with food, it’s important to consider how the meal is prepared and the sides served along with it. We’ll break this down into 2 layers. The first layer is the meal base like the type of meat such as fish or steak. The second layer is the preparation and seasonings along with the sides.

Pinot Noir Taste Characteristics

First let’s understand the typical flavor profile of Pinot Noir. This will help guide us to the right food pairing.

Pinot Noir is a light red wine. It has flavors of raspberry and red cherry along with vanilla and clove from aging in oak barrels. It’s a dry wine with high acidity. The acidity gives a bit of sharpness and freshness to the wine. It has a medium level of tannin. Tannin is what creates that drying sensation. Because Pinot Noir has a medium level of tannin, it won’t give that super dry mouthfeel that you would get from a Cabernet Sauvignon, for instance. Instead, it will have more of a soft, silky texture.

Pinot Noir Food Pairings that work every time

Image of chicken marsala in a pan.

Layer 1: Meal Base

  • White meats like chicken, duck, lamb, pork, and ham.

  • Red meats like steak, beef roast, and burgers.

  • Fish like Salmon and white fish such as Halibut and Trout.

Layer 2: Seasonings & Sides

  • Earthy seasonings and sauces such as pork with mushroom sauce or chicken marsala.

  • Roasted vegetables such as onions, summer squash, beets, and figs.

  • Mushrooms and Beans such as black beans, lentils, and cannellini beans.

Try some of these meals with Pinot Noir:

  • Grilled lamb meatballs with mint yogurt

  • Steak with chimichurri sauce

  • Beef stew

  • Beef Bourguignon

  • Pork with mushroom sauce

  • Chicken Marsala

Pinot Noir Food Pairings that don’t work

Image of cooked mussels and fettucine in a bowl.

Layer 1: Meal Base

  • Shellfish such as oysters, mussels, or clams.

Layer 2: Seasonings & Sides

  • Spicy hot Asian food or Cajun food will taste hotter paired with a Pinot Noir.

  • Barbecue will overpower this light red.

  • Bitter foods like lettuce, Brussel sprouts, and green vegetables will make the wine taste bitter.

Pinot Noir Food Pairings Chart

Pinot Noir Food Pairing Wrap Up

A good pairing is all about matching the wine to the food preparation, sauces, and seasonings. Since Pinot Noir is a light red, stick to earthy, roasted flavors. Think middle of the road in terms of spice and flavor levels. If the meal has a lot of heavy flavors, you’ll need a bolder wine to stand up to it.

When in doubt, test it out! The best part of learning is to test out these theories and experiment with different flavors. You can always open up a couple of bottles of different varietals to see what you like best. Prost!

More resources:

Learn more about Pinot Noir: The top producing regions, recommendations from around the world, tasting profiles, self-guided tastings and more.

Pinot Noir Taste Profile: Learn the typical flavors and how to identify Pinot Noir without even seeing the bottle.


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