How to Pair Malbec with Food

Ten years ago things really started to heat up in my kitchen! I was a student at the Northwest Wine Academy not only studying the craft of winemaking, but learning the art of pairing the finished product with food. In one of the classes Chef Lenny Rede challenged us with an assignment he titled, “Iron Chef:  Malbec.” The goal was to create a dish to complement a Malbec of his choosing. Here are the principles we applied to pair Malbec with food.

Flavors in Malbec

Pair Malbec with food using similar or contrasting flavors.
Blackberry ♦ Blueberry ♦ Cocoa ♦ Citrus ♦ Black Pepper ♦ Smokiness


Select a base ingredient that is likely to match with the variety.
Beef ♦ Lamb ♦ Veal ♦ Pork ♦ Tuna ♦ Chicken ♦ Duck ♦ Sausage

And/or use these bridge ingredients:
Tip:  select one or just a few. A dish that’s too busy competes with the wine rather than complements it.
Blackberries ♦ Blueberries ♦ Mushrooms ♦ Sun Dried Tomato ♦ Balsamic Vinegar ♦ Beets ♦ Bacon ♦ Aged Cheeses ♦ Mustard

Cooking Techniques

Grilling ♦ Roasting ♦ Smoking ♦ Barbecuing

Of course, let’s not forget one of the great food and wine pairing principles that says, “If it grows together it goes together.” In other words, pair Malbec with a dish you would find in an area where the wine is widely produced, such as Argentina. You know, like grilled steak and chimichurri! Or empanadas.


Suggested Food Pairings for Malbec

Back in class, some roasted sweet potatoes that Chef had served us inspired me to consider preparing sweet potato gnocchi and topping it with a Chimichurri sauce rather than pesto. Then, my class partner tasted my gnocchi and very nicely suggested that we try something else. “It might take us a while to perfect the technique for making those light fluffy pillows,” she hinted. Let’s just say I’m still working on that!

Winning dishes presented in our Iron Chef:  Malbec showdown included vegan chili, goulash, and a lovely cheese plate.

A good friend prepares a roast chicken by massaging baking spices under the skin. It’s a truly lovely match for Malbec.

Mole sauce is also fun to pair with Malbec. I like to go rogue and use it as a pasta sauce, pizza sauce, or a topping for turkey meatloaf. In Seattle, the French Grocery at Pike Place Market usually carries a mole paste that enables the home cook to whip up a batch of mole without spending days in the kitchen.

Also, if you’re a fan of the grape, be sure to mark your calendar – Malbec World Day is on April 17th each year. Join the celebration!

Chips, Dips, and Wine Pairings

Pairing wine with potato chips and other snack foods is increasingly popular as food holidays are celebrated with great frequency on social media. For example, National Tater Tot Day is a thing! Next up is National Chip and Dip Day on March 23rd. Celebrating these holidays with glass in hand is a fun way to get people to talk about wine! Read on to get inspired about chips, dips, and wine pairings.

When I was growing up, about the only time my mom served chips and dip was when company was coming over for a cocktail party. Which meant that the crunchy, salty ridged chip I so enjoyed was only paired with the classic savory onion dip about once every five years in our house. The dip, like so many of the foods popularized to make cooking convenient for the 1950s housewife, was prepared using dried soup mix. Nevertheless, that chip and dip combo was something special to my younger self. Biting into a satisfyingly crunchy chip coated in creamy dip was the equivalent of putting on a fancy party dress and staying up late.

Fast forward, and here we are with so many choices. Not only are there different flavored chips, but there are different kinds of chips. I mean, how did Taro chips become a thing? The chips are incredibly delicious, but the marketing team behind that deserves a standing ovation!

Now, consider all the possible combinations for chips and dips. The options are staggering! Throw an adult beverage into the mix, and wow do things get interesting. Let’s see what we can come up with.

Restaurant Chip and Wine Pairings

Wine and food
Delectable house made chips at Seattle’s Terra Plata

In Seattle’s Capitol Hill Neighborhood, Terra Plata makes some killer house made potato chips with truffled sea salt accompanied by pecorino-chive cream. I usually order a glass of bubbly Crémant to serve as a foil to the salty chips and mouth coating sauce.

Crazy Good Wine Chips, Gorgonzola Dip, and White Wine at Davenport Cellars

In Woodinville Wine Country’s Warehouse District, boutique winery Davenport Cellars offers “Wine Chips” on their menu. These gourmet potato chips are seasoned with wine in mind and accompanied by a chunky Gorgonzola dip. The Davenport Cellars Roussanne, a plush white wine, is a delectable pairing. Full disclosure: I work with the winery, but this is not a paid endorsement – I eat the heck out of these chips. I am not alone as you can see from one of the comments below.

However, taste is a personal thing and people have strong opinions. So, on National Potato Chip Day last week I took an informal survey of favorite chip and wine pairings on Twitter. Following are some of the early responses. I’ve included Twitter handles to make it easy to follow these chip and wine lovers!

Favorite Chip and Wine Pairings

Hmmm. I remember a lovely afternoon we spent at Davenport exploring wines, roving cheese shop and these delicious chips with the @davenportcellar Roussanne. Yummmmm! #nationalpotatochipoday #wine 😋 I discovered a new fave white that day.

I love chips!!! My favorite right now is @kettlebrand Backyard BBQ with a @SteMichelle Indian Wells Cab! Simple and tasty!

The @GrnLakeGirl Special: bbq chips with the giant red 🍷 of your choice 😊🤤

I tried some #lobsterroll flavored chips with a zippy CA white blend and it was pretty good 😋

Calbee seaweed chips with Viognier or NZ Sauvignon Blanc

Wine Glass and Snack Food

Chips and Wine Pairings with Dips

I couldn’t resist coming up with some ideas for dips to go with these chip and wine combos!

Love BBQ chips with Pinot Noir.
Truffle chips and champagne! #NationalPotatoChipDay
VinoSocial: How about a bacon dip with those BBQ chips and Pinot?

I love chips and wine! Almost any chips with Champagne or Rosé but thanks to you and @GrnLakeGirl I now have BBQ chips for reds! Here is a favorite, followed closely by guac and corn chips.
VinoSocial: Albarino often expresses flavors of citrus and a sense of salinity very similar to a margarita. Consequently, it seems like the perfect match for guacomole and tortilla chips!

Yum Nancy!! My fav is BBQ and Zin🍷😋
VinoSocial: Let’s try a black bean dip with that!

Irrespective of the chip flavor, I always go with a Sauvignon blanc…Cheers
VinoSocial: A ranch dip sounds like a great accompaniment!

If you are celebrating #NationalChipandDipDay, head on over to Twitter and share your pairing. Be sure to tag me, @VinoSocialNancy. I can’t wait to see what you come up with! #LetsTalkAboutWine

For more pairings with snack foods, check out my Flavorful Sparkling Wine and Popcorn Pairings.

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Pairing Tempranillo with Vegetarian Food

What do you do when you want to uncork a red wine with dinner, but red meat isn’t on the menu? The trick is to find a dish with the right bridge ingredients – those that connect the wine with the food. To do this, I recently turned to a recipe from the cookbook, Plenty, by Ottolenghi.

The response to my Instagram post of the pairing surprised me. People near and far chimed in about their appreciation for the cookbook, revealing how extensive a chef’s reach can be. Additionally, wine lovers revealed a thirst for Tempranillo. It served as a wonderful reminder that wine and food bring us closer together.

Instagram Post Food and Wine

A Dish for Tempranillo

I began with the wine, because a friend was joining us for dinner. We had all visited The Walls tasting room together when we traveled to the Celebrate Walla Walla event. The wines we tasted, crafted by talented winemaker Ali Mayfield, were stunning. It was time to uncork one of the wines purchased that day to relive that OMG memory.

Tempranillo has a depth and intensity that pairs well with meat. However, I did not plan to serve meat on this occasion. The vegetarian dish I usually turn to for Tempranillo is Tabbouleh Salad. This time, I wanted something a little more robust. Paging through Plenty, Ottolenghi’s recipe for Farro and Roasted Red Pepper Salad caught my eye. It combines the earthiness of farro, the savoriness of black olives, and the smokiness of paprika to pair like a dream with Tempranillo.

If you like Tempranillo, I urge you to give this pairing a try!


Learn more about Tempranillo and food pairing.

If you are in Seattle and want to explore wines from The Walls, Walla Walla Wines visit Seattle once a year.

Valentine Wine Pairings from 14 Wine Lovers

What do wine lovers uncork and serve up on Valentine’s Day? Curious, I posed the question on Instagram. Below is a summary of what people profess to be eating and drinking on the day of romance. So, if you are still trying to figure out how to make your sweetheart weak in the knees, here is all you need for inspiration.

What I find interesting is that these pairings come from a mix of casual wine drinkers, weekend wine warriors, students of wine, wine bloggers, professional wine writers, and wine industry professionals.
A big thank you to all for playing along!

pasta and red wine

There’s that adorable scene in Lady and the Tramp where they share a bowl of pasta. 🍝 But for some, that creates more of a Friends “Joey doesn’t share food” situation. 😳 In both cases, there’s no mention of wine! 🍷 So tell me, what’s your favorite romantic food and wine pairing for Valentine’s Day? ❤

Filet mignon and lobster tails. Wine of course – a nice Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 🍷

So many options! Champagne and oysters followed by a perfectly grilled steak & Washington Cab or Merlot 😊🍷

Champagne just oozes romance to me and one of my favorite things to have it with is steamed shellfish. Ok, that and French fries.

I always start with sparkling wine or champagne. It goes with just about anything and I a great way to clean the palate. My husband is always begging for my homemade chicken Parmesan with either pasta or cheese ravioli. It is a family favorite. I pair with that @luna.vineyards Sangiovese or if it’s a special night, Canto which is their Super Tuscan blend. Candles and a fireplace, nice music and we are all set. Hubby loves Port and dark chocolates to finish.

Always like seafood and a great white – love prawns, scallops- salmon or Halibut – lobster is the ultimate.

It’s cliché but sparkling wine is my wife’s favorite so we always go with something bubbly.
One of the things we love about it is how well bubbles go with everything–scallops, butternut squash lasagna, truffle fries, steak, fried chicken etc. We don’t try to pair it with anything in particular. Just the moment.

Dark chocolate and LBV Port.

Always wine and chocolate for us.

So many great suggestions. I think a beautiful bowl of Bolognese or wild boar ragu with a well-aged Brunello – it’s like an Italian opera.

Rosé champagne. Food optional so I’m not distracted from the wine!

Rosé Champagne and just about anything! Pink bubbles are always festive and fun.

We often make a fantastic breakfast for dinner, like Eggs Benedict with Dungeness Crab. We like to pair that with a great mimosa made with Prosecco.

Champagne is my favorite way to celebrate love. And it’s so food friendly!

We’ll start with some bubbly from @laetitiawine and finish with a bottle of @jordanwinery Cab. Only question will be which vintage to uncork with our filets!

What are you serving up? Do tell – head on over to Instagram and share! Speaking of Instagram, I’ve included links to the profiles of those mentioned in this post to make it easy to follow them.

Tater Tots and Wine

Tater tots and wine may seem like an unlikely match. Yet, why shouldn’t casual grub from the frozen food aisle be enjoyed with a nice glass of wine? Since there is an official National Tater Tot Day (I promise, I don’t make these things up), here are some of my favorite dipping sauces and wines to accompany the crispy potato bites.

Tater Tot Dips and Wines

Pesto Dip + Rosé
This pairing is a result of my yearning for spring, when we’re inclined to drink pink with greater frequency. The bright pop of a lemon laced pesto is so refreshing, and even more complex when part of an herb based sauce. Plus, the dip comes together quickly by mixing equal parts of pesto with sour cream. A nice, crisp rosé makes a lovely accompaniment.

Chimichurri + Torrontés
Both Chimichurri, an herb sauce similar to pesto, and the white wine, Torrontés, hail from south of the border. As the saying goes, if it grows together it goes together.

Guacomole + Albarino
If you love margaritas, you’re bound to appreciate Albarino! This vivacious white wine from Spain has the hallmark flavors of lime backed with a surprising salinity. Doesn’t that sound like the ultimate pairing for guac?

Barbecue Bean Dip + Zinfandel
What wine complements anything barbecue better than a nice, fruity Zinfandel? Check out Lodi for its beguiling Zins at reasonable prices.

Sloppy Tots + Cabernet Franc
That’s right, I said Sloppy Tots! Instead of a bun, throw that Sloppy Joe mixture on a bed of crispy tater tots. Then pour a Cabernet Franc alongside. The variety pairs well with the green pepper in the dish.

Did I miss an epic tot and wine pairing? Head on over to social media and let me know!

For more fun pairing ideas, check out my Flavorful Sparkling Wine and Popcorn Pairings.