Sauvignon Blanc and Food Pairing

Ingredients and Styles

Sauvignon Blanc is one of the best wines to drink with food. Indeed, many who aren't fond of it as a sipping or cocktail wine are miraculously converted when they have it with a meal. 

"Classic" Sauvignon Blanc (young, minimally oaked or unoaked, redolent of bright “green” flavors, with tangy acidity) is sublime with most salads, vegetarian dishes (especially those including peppers, eggplant, zucchini, asparagus, or leeks), and the freshest and simplest seafood and fowl. It performs well with most shellfish and light poultry and shows beautifully with white meats (pork and veal) if they are prepared in a manner that spikes its flavors (e.g. with citrus, capers, garlic, olives, and ginger). A green salad with goat cheese, a pasta with green beans, tomatoes, and pesto, and flash-fried rock cod fillets are all prime candidates. When you want to bring out the best in a dish, a Sauvignon Blanc can highlight a recipe without masking its character. Additionally, many sharp, soft-rind, or lightly washed-rind cheeses are lovely tablemates. Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with feta, ricotta salata, Fontana, Jarlsberg, and any shape, age and size of goat cheese. 

With the recent arrival of the “small plates” phenomenon, Sauvignon Blanc proves to be a great equalizer. It's as happy alongside a variety of Middle Eastern mezze as it is with Spanish tapas or Italian antipasto. And if you don't have a bottle of chilled fino sherry for shooting the breeze over nuts and olives, you need look no farther than a Sauvignon Blanc. 

Sauvignon Blanc styles that are rich from blending with other grapes (Semillon, Chardonnay, and Viognier) can marry well with richer preparations, such as risotto, lightly smoked or grilled white meat, fish and poultry, and many pan or oven roasts. With their fuller body and zippier tartness and acidity, these wines mirror the texture, personality, and main flavors of such dishes. 

Richer oak-aged styles of Sauvignon Blanc, fuller in flavor and texture and verging in personality on a Chardonnay, should be treated like Chardonnays in pairing. These Chardonnay wannabes are almost identical to Chardonnay in their food affinities. 

Aged Sauvignon Blanc is an acquired taste. Long gone are the tangy green and citrus flavors of youth. They are replaced by the more developed nut, yellow and green vegetable, and fino sherry tastes. With these styles, more pungent fish, dishes with stronger sauces, or flavorful vegetarian dishes with texture (think eggplant parmigiana or vegetarian lasagna) prevail.

The chart below is a recommended guide to some general pairing ideas for Sauvignon Blanc. There are no mandated rules. Feel free to be adventurous and creative, while being thoughtful and aware of the grape’s inherent personality. 


Wine Style Ingredients Cuisines + Cooking methods
Mono-Varietal (100% Sauvignon Blanc), young, both oaked and unoaked Green vegetables including green peppers, zucchini, asparagus (a hard-to-match food), Leeks
Salads
Shellfish
Fresh herbs
Many cheeses, especially goa
Unoaked foods (salads, raw vegetables)
Steaming
Spicier Mediterranean mezze, Spanish tapas
Herbed sauces and condiments, such as salsa verde, pesto, guacamole
Blended with other grapes: young, both oaked and unoaked Fish
Light poultry, pork or veal
Sautéing or flash frying
Grilling or smoking, especially fish and served at room temperature
Richer, butter-based sauces
Vegetable soups, with pureed ingredients
With pork or veal, add small amounts of citrus, capers, garlic, olives, or ginger to the dish
Rich, oak-aged, usually blended Foie gras
Oilier, “more pungent” fish
Vegetables with earthier flavors such as yellow peppers, eggplant
Creamier cheeses
Nuts
Fish dishes with stronger sauces
“Bold” flavor vegetarian dishes with texture (e.g. eggplant parmigiana or vegetarian lasagna)
Sweet Nuts
Stone fruits
Vanilla ice cream
Less sweet desserts, such as nut-based cookies
Peach tart, poached pears, or a compote of yellow and red plums

Food Pairing Guidelines

Wine Profile

Low-medium to medium bodied, bright “green” flavors with tangy acidity, and moderate alcohol

Cooking methods and ingredients

Match the fresh, green flavors of the wine with dishes that are served raw or steamed. For vinaigrettes, make it more wine-friendly by adding some verjus or a dash of the wine you will be drinking. 

Dishes

Most salads, green vegetables, a range of mezze and tapas, including spicier options, as well as herbed sauces and condiments, such as salsa verde, pesto, guacamole. Cheeses with some acidity -- feta, ricotta salata, Fontana, Jarlsberg, and goat cheese are pairing winners.

Wine Profile

Fuller-bodied, richer, acidity is more subdued on the palate

Cooking methods and ingredients

If serving with a soup, make sure to puree some of the ingredients, so that the soup is not too thin. If pairing with fowl, pork or veal, spike the dish with citrus, capers, garlic, olives, or ginger. The Sauvignon Blanc will also cut the heaviness of light cream- and butter-based sauces.

Dishes

Heartier vegetarian soups, especially minestrones and simple purées, simple grilled fish served at room temperature. With chicken, pork or veal, add small amounts of citrus, capers, garlic, olives, or ginger to the dish.

Wine Profile

“Sauternes-style” wines with developed nut, yellow vegetable, and fino sherry tastes, and plenty of complexity on the palate.

Cooking methods and ingredients

Savories that are rich with a sweet note, fish dishes with stronger sauces, “bold” flavor vegetarian dishes with texture. 

Dishes

Foie gras, some creamier cheeses, eggplant parmigiana or vegetarian lasagna

Wine Profile

Sweet, smooth, round and creamy on the palate

Cooking methods and ingredients

Less sweet desserts with nuts or stone-based fruit 

Dishes

Cookies with nuts, peach tart, poached pears, or a compote of yellow and red plums. And with pure, creamy vanilla ice cream, few wine selections marry better.

Pairing Pointers

Sauvignon Blanc works well: 

  • With most vegetarian soups, especially minestrones and simple purées. Soup can be tricky, and Sauvignon Blanc is one of the best wines to pair it with. Avoid serving Sauvignon Blanc with broth-based soups unless you plan to add substance to them (pieces of vegetable, pasta, etc.).
  • With anything emphasizing or enhanced with fresh herbs, such as a salad, a dish grilled with or over herbs, or a dish served with a sauce, even a bold one such as salsa verde, an herbal pesto, or guacamole! 
  • With a dish served with a vinaigrette dressing, be it a dressed salad or grilled fish, meat, or poultry with a vinaigrette spooned on top (especially grilled dishes served at room temperature). The acidity of a vinaigrette dressing can be reduced using citrus or verjus (made from unfermented grapes) in lieu of vinegar, or simply by using the wine you'll serve with the meal as the basis of your dressing. 
  • With dishes that are spicy and hot, Sauvignon Blanc's brighter acidity levels and generally lower alcohol cleanse and refresh your palate. 
  • With sharper or more acidic ingredients: citrus, dairy (yogurt, crème fraîche, sour cream), dill, sorrel, capers, olives, tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash. 
  • To cut through richer dishes. To counter light cream- and butter-based sauces, often a clean and bright Sauvignon Blanc is the way to go.
  • To show off pure and clean ingredients. Try a Sauvignon with a plate of oysters, a bowl of steamers, simply grilled swordfish, or the first ripe tomatoes of summer (which will be better still with a little fresh basil and mozzarella!). 
  • At the start of a meal. This wine not only pairs well with an array of starter courses but also allows you to progress from lighter to heavier (and from white to red) wines as the meal continues. 
  • With so many cheeses. Do not fear the urge to switch back to a dry Sauvignon Blanc when serving the cheese course or opt for a sweet interpretation that can pair with both dessert and cheese. 

Sauvignon Blanc does not work well: 

  • With classic red meat dishes. Although it's possible to fool your palate (by squeezing lemon on a steak or serving lamb with a citrus treatment and marinade), it's simply not the slam dunk that red wine would be. 
  • With savory dishes that border on the sweet. Like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc isn't the number-one choice for holiday foods and sweetish ethnic dishes (Asian, North African, Latin American).
  • With caramelized onions, roasted garlic, or slow-cooked and sweet squash and root vegetables. 
  • With dishes that are extremely rich. This grape pairs best with leaner foods, and syrupy sauces.
  • With thick and creamy soups, which can overpower the wine and make it taste sharp. 
  • When you pick the wrong style for a dish– Oaked and blended styles of Sauvignon Blanc are not interchangeable with stainless steel 100% varietal bottlings. Oakier versions of Sauvignon Blanc follow the Chardonnay rules more closely. 
  • On its own (sometimes). Many find it too intense and won't enjoy it as a cocktail sipper. Always have some food to accompany it!