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How to Pair Wine With Sandwiches

How to Pair Wine With Sandwiches

If you’re settling in for a nice dinner, there are plenty of classic wine pairings that dictate what you should be drinking: oysters go with Chablis, lamb with Syrah, Champagne with caviar. But the majority of us aren’t eating any of the above on an everyday basis. So, how do you pair wine with your daily breads (and everything that fits between them)? We’re talking your lunchtime cheesesteak, your late-night grilled cheese or your sauce-slicked meatball sub. You know, sandwiches.

To help pair the perfect bottle with your favorite sammie, we asked sommeliers to offer their insights.

Illustration by Eric Defreitas

The Best Wine for Philly Cheesesteak: Carmenère or Cabernet Franc

Bryce Faucheaux, wine director of Justine in New Orleans, recommends pairing a Philly cheesesteak with Chilean Carmenère “because of the green bell pepper and tobacco notes in the wine,” he says. “There’s enough ripe dark fruit to counteract the savoriness of the sandwich.”

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Meanwhile, Rachael Pack, owner of Atlanta’s Kinship Butcher & Sundry, finds that when pairing wine with onions and pepper-y fats, a robust Cabernet Franc always does the trick. “There’s enough juicy fruit and structure to complement the richness of the bread, meat and cheese,” she says. “There’s also a gravel minerality that will leave you salivating and wanting more.”

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Quady North 2019 Cabernet Franc (Applegate Valley)

Dang, this medium-bodied Cabernet Franc has enough acidity, tannic structure and sassy attitude to suggest it might age gracefully for another decade. I loved its dark raspberry and ripe peach aromatic combination, which is complemented by traces of saline and cacao nibs. A distinct blueberry flavor jitterbugs with notes of basil and white tea. Cellar Selection. 95 Points — Michael Alberty

Mad Wine

Italian Sandwich next to a glass of wine
Illustration by Eric Defreitas

The Best Wine for an Italian Sub: Prosecco or Timorasso

In Charleston, Sorelle’s lead sommelier, Simon Kaufmann, admits that a classic Italian is a challenging sandwich to pair. “There are multiple different cured meats and cheese, the element of spice and the acidic tang of vinegar,” he says. “It calls for a wine that is both crisp and lightly sweet.” His top pick? Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore. “The texture of the bubbles and the crisp, gentle sweetness is a perfect match!” He’s also keen on Timorasso, a Piedmontese white wine known for depth and complexity.

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Tuna Melt next to a glass of wine
Illustration by Eric Defreitas

The Best Wine for a Tuna Melt: Verdicchio and Assyrtiko

Sommeliers agree that the perfect companion to a hot, crisp tuna melt is a white wine with driving acidity. Pack advises you “stay light—don’t look for tannin, oxidation or age. Look for something with enough body to stand up to the deep oceanic flavors and melted cheese, like Italian Verdicchio,” she says. “The fruit you will find in the mid-palate will work well with cheddar or Swiss cheese and the lemony-saline quality will be the sea breeze that lets the tuna shine.”

If the tuna melt has a mild cheese, like muenster or havarti, Danya Degen, general manager of Meli in Washington, D.C., prefers an Assyrtiko from Santorini. “The tart acidity cuts through the cheese and mayo, and the salty notes work so well with the fish,” she says. “Thank me later!”

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Oeno P 2021 Tria Ampelia Assyrtiko (Santorini)

From 60-year-old vines on Greece’s windswept Santorini island comes this pale-straw-colored Assyrtiko with notes of ripe peaches, fresh tangerines and just-picked lemons on the nose. The medium body is a result of the 16 months the wine spends on its lees in the bottle, as are the irresistible lemon poundcake flavors on the palate and long finish. 91 Points — Emily Saladino

Mr. D Wine

Cubano next to a glass of wine
Illustration by Eric Defreitas

The Best Wine for a Cubano: California Chardonnay and Albariño

Joel Gott, a vintner and proprietor of Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena, speaks from experience—he has a Niman Ranch smoked ham Cubano on the menu—when says that Chardonnay works best with the rich pork, briny pickles and spicy mustard of a Cubano. His preference is Duckhorn Chardonnay.

Pack prefers Spanish Albariño. “The bright acid in an Albariño hits on the same flavor plane as the yellow mustard and pickles and—let’s be honest—those are the defining ingredients of a balanced Cubano,” she says. “Albariño is a thick-skinned grape, so it will have plenty of oomph to match the sweet, juicy roundness of the braised pork.” She also finds the notes of lemon, grapefruit and juicy melon pair “beautifully” with the Swiss cheese and buttery notes of that delightfully warm baguette or Cuban bread.

You May Also Like: The Best Albariños to Drink Right Now

Faucheaux, on the other hand, leans towards bubbles—specifically those from Bugey-Cerdon, a mountainous region in the French Alps. “There’s lots of rich flavors from the pork, and the mustard and pickle presence is enough to want something fun, fruity and refreshing.” He notes that wines from this region are just that—full of bright red fruits, effervescence and a noticeable sweetness.

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Alpha Omega 2021 Chardonnay (Napa Valley)

This elegant, silky wine is on the low-end in price for Alpha Omega, but performs as well in 2021 as the vineyard designates, giving unusually high quality for a broad Napa Valley appellation. The wine knits together bright lemon and crisp apple notes with tempting vanilla, toast and cream for an indulgent, mouthcoating expression. 93 Points — Jim Gordon

Alpha Omega

Rueben next to a glass of wine
Illustration by Eric Defreitas

The Best Wine for a Reuben: Tavel Rosé, Pinot Gris or Listan Negro

“A Tavel rosé and a Reuben have complementary flavors and textures,” says Ryan Plas, the wine director at Coquette and Wild South in New Orleans. “It’s full-bodied rosé with flavors of ripe fruit, spice, often a hint of savory herbs—flavors that would marry well with the likes of rye bread and sauerkraut.”

William Pye, sommelier at Prospect in San Francisco, argues that a Reuben is white wine territory. “With that sauerkraut? I’d want an off-dry white to stand up against the fatty cuts of beef,” he says. “Pinot Gris from Alsace ticks all of those boxes: off-dry with notes of apples and citrus that pair perfectly with the sauce, alongside a flinty, almost smoky minerality to play off of the roasted meat flavors.”

If you are craving a red wine, Christopher Dally of The Iberian Pig in Atlanta recommends a Listan Negro. “It has bright red fruit, purple flowers and a smoky peppercorn note on the finish,” he says. “This wine’s bright acidity and nice minerality help enhance each component of this sandwich. I serve this wine slightly chilled to really see it shine.”

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Turkey Sandwich next to a glass of wine
Illustration by Eric Defreitas

The Best Wine for a Turkey Sandwich: Sonoma County Chardonnay or German Riesling Trocken

“I swear, a buttery rendition of Chardonnay works really well with turkey sandwiches,” says Faucheaux. “Even as a sandwich spread, turkey is lean and can be really dry. A creamy and buttery Chardonnay balances out the leanness of the sandwich.”

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Pack pairs lean turkey with German Riesling Trocken. “Turkey sandwiches are an old friend—enduring classics and simple pleasures all wrapped in one,” she says. “A good Riesling Trocken complements and counters these features perfectly. The apple-y flavors will highlight the acid in the mayo as well as the sweetness in the turkey breast. Try venturing outside of the Mosel to the Pflaz or Rheinhessen for a touch more weight in the wine.”

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Dr. Bürklin-Wolf 2021 Gaisböhl Monopol GC Trocken Riesling (Pfalz)

There’s a flinty quality to this rather young, but beautifully put-together white, which is framed by firm acidity, while displaying flavors of sea salt-accented smoke, quince, lemon curd, honeysuckle and wet stone. This is really centered around its minerality and texture, with all the other pieces just adding to the symphony. It is sleek and elegant and will only show its best in years to come. Best after 2026. 94 Points — A.Z.

Flor Wines

Roast Beef next to a glass of wine
Illustration by Eric Defreitas

The Best Wine for a Roast Beef Sandwich: Syrah or Oloroso Sherry

A roast beef sandwich brings all of the comfort of a Sunday roast into a handheld form. So, like with a big roast dinner, a more extreme expression of Syrah, with cracked peppercorn, stewed fruit and lush tannins, pairs perfectly with the thin slices of succulent meat and the twang of horseradish.

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Or veer towards a more unusual pairing. “If I’m having a good roast beef sandwich, especially with a side of au jus, then I need a glass of Oloroso Sherry in my hand,” says Dally. “It has nice weight, alongside a rich nuttiness which will complement the rich meat and sauce.”

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

M. Chapoutier 2020 Petite Ruche Syrah (Crozes-Hermitage)

Delightful aromatics exude brunch vibes as the nose is reminiscent of bramble jam over butter toast with bits of black licorice shaved on top. The palate offers white strawberries, pomegranate juice, rhubarb, blackberry, rose petals, green peppercorn, sweet vanilla and cardamom. Tannins are balanced by impressive acidity, making it difficult to put the glass down. 94 Points — A.C.


BLT next to a glass of wine
Illustration by Eric Defreitas

The Best Wine for a BLT: Corpinnat or Godello

When digging into a BLT, Plas ensures he has a crisp, cool Corpinnat—a forward-thinking category of sparkling wines from Penedès —in his glass. “Penedès is in a renaissance of sparkling wines right now,” says Plas, of the Spanish region that produces most of the nation’s Cava. With a BLT, “the crisp acidity matches well with lettuce, the ripe flavors of Grenache square up to the tomato and the bubble washes away the grease from the bacon.”

Pye is from California, so he underlines that his BLT always includes an “A” for avocado. “My pairing would always be an old-vine Godello,” he says. “It’s a crisp mineral-driven wine with huge complexity yet minimal oak influence. It delivers aromatics that match the lettuce, tomato and avocado, but an ample texture to stand up to bacon (although I prefer pancetta).”

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Llopart 2015 Leopardi Brut Nature Sparkling

Light yellow to the eye, this softly sparkling wine has Bartlett pear, Fuji apple and vanilla-bean flavors. It is brighter on the palate than expected, with lemon-lime, Granny Smith apple and white-peach flavors that are met with a sophisticated streak of slivered almond and freshly-baked brioche. 93 Points — M.D.


PB&J next to a glass of wine
Illustration by Eric Defreitas

When eating this nostalgic lunchtime staple, “off-dry Riesling from the Mosel in Germany is my go-to,” says Faucheaux. “There’s so much energy and minerality that matches the creaminess of the peanut butter. The petrol aromas work well with the nuttiness. A PB&J can be rich, so having a refreshing, palate-cleansing wine is the way to go.”

Pack prefers a Pinot Gris with a hint of skin contact. “The subtle pink fruits and light florality really tickle your palate, then you’re met with this wake-up call of silky tannins that can handle the peanut butter that will inevitably stick to the roof of your mouth.”

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Meatball Sub next to a glass of wine
Illustration by Eric DeFreitas

The Best Wine for Meatball Subs: Barbera or Chianti

Nicholas Schulman, the director of wine for RPM Italian, finds Chianti is a fantastic companion to meatball subs. “The iconic Tuscan red offers such a great balance of acidity, fruitiness and tannins that complement the rich, savory elements of a meatball sub,” he says. “The moderate tannins will sop up the fattiness and bold flavors of the meatballs while adding a touch of complexity. The elevated acidity will cut through the richness of the meatballs and cheese, cleansing the palate between each bite.”

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Pack is sipping something from Piedmont. “Barbera is a light-bodied wine disguised as a richer one,” she says. “For a meatball sub, I’m craving just that: something with some juicy ripe fruit that is a little easy-going and with a snap of higher acid, so you don’t completely fall into a food coma. Bonus points if you chill the wine before enjoying.”

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Vietti 2021 Vigna Scarrone Barbera (Barbera d’Alba)

This single-vineyard Barbera pops out of the glass with tart blueberry and boysenberry jam aromas accented by candied violets and savory spices. Round and giving, the wine aims to please while still being serious. Ripe mixed berries combine with dried herbs and finish with such great structure and acidity you might do a double take. 92 Points — J.P.

Morrell Wine

Grilled Cheese next to a glass of wine
Illustration by Eric Defreitas

The Best Wine for a Grilled Cheese: Semi-Dry Riesling

The crunch of the bread, the buttery exterior, the gooey cheese pull: grilled cheese sandwiches layer richness on richness. German Riesling plays an excellent starring role beside the sandwich as the bright acidity cuts through the fat and cheesiness while leaving your mouth craving another bite. If you prefer to dip your grilled cheese, the slight sweetness of the Riesling plays off the sweet-sour twang ketchup or tomato soup brings.

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

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