There is only one rule for pairing wine with food: Drink whatever wine you enjoy drinking with whatever food you have chosen to eat. While we realize this probably contradicts what you have heard about pairing wine with food, let us explain.

Over the past few decades the emphasis on black and white rules that dictate that only certain colors or styles of wine can go with certain kinds of food has gotten out of control. This pressure has caused unneeded anxiety among wine drinkers, when the reality is that many of the food pairing rules we have been told are so important, such as you should only drink white wine with fish, are actually BS. So, out with the old wine and food pairing guide, and in with something easy that will work for you.

Drinking wine should always come with no judgments.

So the traditional thought process goes, we’re not supposed to pair something like fish with a red wine, because a red will dominate the delicacy of the fish. But in fact, people have proven that what we might consider an overpowering red, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot, can actually be just as pleasurable to drink while eating the fish as a white wine. It all depends on what the flavors are in the dish and how everything plays off each other.

The pressure we experience to pair wine with food comes from nostalgia. We are so ingrained to believe that red wine must go with meat and white wine must go with fish, that for many of us, it’s hard to break this habit, and that’s ok too. If you enjoy the process of pairing wine this way, by all means ignore our advice. As we always say, wine is about your experience, not anyone else’s.

However, if you find the revelation liberating that many different colors of wine can go with food depending on its flavors, but still want a model for selecting wine, we suggest selecting wine based on things like the people you’re going to be drinking with, why you’re drinking with them, and the season.