The Perfect Wines to Pair with Appetizers

When talking about pairing wine with different foods, it’s easy to fall back on tried and true suggestions. A hearty cabernet sauvignon and a great steak, for instance, are a natural pairing. But, in reality, most foods pair well with most wines, with very few exceptions. 

Tips for pairing wine and food

Consider these to be loose rules to guide you when choosing your pairings, while keeping in mind that if you choose foods that you like, coupled with wine that you like, you’re going to have an enjoyable experience. 

  1. Choose a wine you like. 
  2. Choose a wine more acidic than the food. 
  3. Consider the tannins.
  4. Wine should be sweeter than the food you’re serving. 
  5. The wine should have the same flavor intensity as the food.
  6. More often than not, any wine will create congruent pairings.

How tannins affect taste

It’s different for every palate, but generally, tannin tastes bitter. It gives your mouth a ‘dry’ feeling, and after drinking wine that’s very tannic, you may feel a residual bitterness throughout your mouth. 

What determines whether a wine has strong or weak tannins is how long the juice sits with the grape skins, seeds, and stems after the grapes have been pressed.

Acidity may seem similar to tannin, but it is what makes the wine sour rather than bitter.

Byrd Vineyard is the highest-elevation vineyard in California – and the higher you get, the more sun radiates. Our vineyards are located at an astounding 2,400 feet above sea level, producing grapes with softer tannins and higher acidity.

What to eat

Remember rule number one in pairing: start with a wine you love. Then, add foods that will bring out the flavors of that wine.

Consider this from the Wine Enthusiast: no meal has ever been completely ruined by an “improper” wine and food pairing. So let your creativity, and the wine, flow! 


If you will be enjoying a full-bodied red like the 2012 Byrd Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino, pair it with foods that are bold and rich in flavor. This wine’s bold flavors of racy black cherry, fresh-from-the-oven wild blackberry pie, and sweet French oak play well with all sorts of rich, flavorful dishes. 

Start with this smoky 3-cheese fondue with toasted garlic buttered croissants. Or try these bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with bleu cheese.

How about pizza as an appetizer? This fig and prosciutto pizza has all of the makings for the perfect wine accompaniment: fruit, meat, and cheese. Pair it with this irresistible 2010 Byrdeaux Red Wine. This blend boasts lush, concentrated flavors of rich berry, cassis, and sweet tobacco leaf that combine with beautiful aromatics of nutmeg and lavender to create a smooth and velvety finish. Dense in color and luxuriously layered with deep notes of blueberry and black currant, this sophisticated wine with well-integrated tannins leaves you wanting more.


A well-curated charcuterie board might be the most perfect appetizer of all time. With so many options, you can really be in control of your grazing. 

Rustic red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel have bold tannins, and a rustic taste pair well with charcuterie selections with similar, smoky flavors. 

Try pairing this smoky charcuterie with the 2012 Byrd Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino. Layers of red and black currants reveal flavors of warm spice and sweet vanilla. This bold, full-bodied wine leaves you with a lingering, lengthy finish.


Cabernet Sauvignon with meat is a no-brainer. Steak might seem like the obvious choice, but what about meat-heavy appetizers? Try pairing your favorite cab with this roast beef crostini, or merlot with bacon-wrapped tenderloin bites.

And if you really are the “meat and potatoes” type, try switching up your heavier classics as a meal for these mouth-watering steak and potato bites. Pair them with our 2009 Byrd Cabernet Sauvignon, a dark ruby red with notes of tart fruits, warm spices, and graphite. This wine is well-balanced and smooth. Aromas of red and black fruits, cocoa, and violet come together with fine tannins and a medium-length finish.

Savory pairings

In the mood for something warm and rich? Try this savory mushroom tart paired with the 2010 Byrd Cabernet Sauvignon. With subtly sweet aromas of berry and cocoa and layered with notes of baking spices, black fruits, and graphite, this large-boned and intensely succulent wine taunts your palate with sinful flavors of blackberry, vanilla, and dark chocolate.

Don’t forget the sweets

Wine and chocolate can both present intense, dry flavors. When you put together dark, bittersweet chocolate with a powerful red wine that’s high in tannins, the two can be overwhelming on the palate. In order to find the right balance, it’s best to choose wines that are a little bit softer and juicier than the chocolate you’re pairing it with.

Try pairing these dark chocolate bites with the 2010 Byrd Merlot.

Flavors of rich berries, herbaceous notes, and beautiful sweet aromatics of vanilla and cedar come together with smooth tannins and a long finish, making it the perfect accompaniment to the rich chocolate.


The most important piece to a perfect wine and food pairing is your personal taste. Start with a wine that you love, and look for foods to complement the flavors of that wine. Be creative! Try new and different pairings that push the limits. And most of all, enjoy every sip and every bite.

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About Byrd

Bruce Byrd started Byrd Vineyard out of a love of making great wine by hand. Wine that everyone would enjoy while creating cherished memories. Check back often to learn more about his journey and wines.

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