A Frazzled Mom's Guide to Wine Pairings

by Alice Jones Webb
Originally Published: 
A close-up of a woman in menopause holding a glass of wine

Wine can be intimidating for the uninitiated. There are so many choices and so much tradition and so many rules… rules for service and storage and what wine goes with what food.

Standing in the middle of the grocery store wine aisle surrounded by all of those choices can be overwhelming — especially if you are a mom. How can you pick out a wine with one kid trying to climb out of the cart like an inmate breaking out of Alcatraz, one kid tossing in random bags of junk food (some of which smack the first kid in the side of the face), one kid announcing at the top of his lungs, “I have to go poop NOW!” and one kid attempting to take over control of the cart and mow down innocent elderly shoppers? …especially when you only brought two kids to the store with you.

Do not despair! I am here with my many years of motherhood and wine-guzzling (er… I mean SIPPING) experience. Let me help make this daunting task a tad bit easier for my fellow overwhelmed and stressed-out mothers.

Here is my basic wine guide for moms, including some basic wine pairings. No more glassy-eyed staring in the wine aisle. Go forth empowered to purchase vino!

Champagne (or other bubblies like Cava and Prosecco) is the classic wine of choice for parties and celebrations, so feel free to pop a cork to commemorate special occasions… like that first poop in the potty, your toddler’s Frozen-themed birthday party or your teenager passing his driving test (although, if I were you, I might reach for something stronger). Since most dry sparkling wines tend to have a faint touch of sweetness, it makes them seem extra-refreshing when served with salty foods — like the random french fry you found under the seat of your minivan or the Goldfish crackers that your kids stuffed between the couch cushions.

Also pairs well with: chaotic child party games, the salty tears of frustration, stale potato chips, other snack foods left in random places, and the loss of your dignity.

Pinot Grigio is Italy’s most popular white wine. It’s dry (unlike the baby’s diaper), crisp, and food-friendly (which means it goes with whatever you’re fixing for dinner that your kids are going to refuse to eat). Pinot Grigio is particularly great with light fish dishes, so it’s perfect for drinking with the fish sticks remaining on your child’s plate after she has meticulously nibbled away all of the crunchy breading… leaving just the fish (that still counts as her eating a serving of protein, right?). I mean, are you really going to waste all of that food? Go ahead and scarf those boogers down while leaning over the garbage disposal. And while you’re at it, grab a glass of Pinot Grigio. Pinot Grigio doesn’t judge. Pinot Grigio understands.

Also pairs well with: mom guilt.

Riesling is another versatile wine. Most varieties (at least the ones off the grocery store shelves) tend to be off-dry, which means almost sweet in the same way that the toddler hugging the cat is almost sweet… because she might be crushing the cat’s rib cage (Don’t worry. I promise the cat is quietly plotting revenge). The slight sweetness of a good Riesling will help tame the heat of spicy Asian and Indian dishes, in much the same way motherhood has tamed the spicy heat of your love life.

Also pairs well with: Chinese take-out (because going out to eat is now a chore) and midnight interruptions of “mom & dad time.”

Chardonnay is probably the most popular wine in the United States. As with all white wines, it should be served chilled — like the cool moms at the playground who seem to have it all together and don’t stress over their child’s every move. With complex fruit flavors and a rich creamy texture, Chardonnay goes well with that chicken alfredo you slaved over but your child hardly touched.

Also pairs well with: the discarded crust from your son’s grilled cheese sandwich, reheated macaroni and cheese, and meal-time temper tantrums.

Rosé has been a staple in the south of France for centuries, where it is embraced as the best lunchtime, all-occasion wine. (Woohoo! Wine for lunch!) And speaking of lunch, Rosé is a fabulous accompaniment to the best lunchtime all-occasion sandwich — peanut butter and jelly. The crispness of Rosé helps cut through the peanut butter, while the faint hints of sweetness will let those fruity jelly flavors shine through. Added bonus: the pink color helps you pass it off as “juice.”

Also pairs well with: picnics, missed nap times, afternoon playdates with that kid who frays your last nerve, and embarrassing your teenager in front of her friends.

Pinot Noir is a light-bodied, silky and sensual red that is full of depth (kind of like your pre-kid self). It is a wine that enhances earthy flavors, like food eaten with grubby hands. As with all reds, Pinot Noir is served at room temperature, which is handy for emergency wine situations. Just grab, open, pour, and enjoy.

Also pairs well with: reminiscing about the glory days, as well as mud pies, dirt birthday cakes with twig candles, and hugs from filthy but happy children.

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most recognized red wine varieties. The grape is grown in nearly every major wine-producing country and thrives in a diverse range of climates (just like children who refuse to wear shoes outside in 40 degree temperatures). Cabernet goes great with a big thick juicy steak. (Too bad you can’t afford one. College is going to be expensive. You might as well start saving now.) The wine’s firm tannins work to refresh the palate after each bite. Speaking of refreshing… have you looked in the mirror lately? You could use some refreshing.

Also pairs well with: quiet evenings after bedtime and binge-watching Netflix.

Merlot is the most popular red wine in the United States. It carries the same complex flavor package as Cabernet Sauvignon, but is generally rounder and softer, like your postpartum body. Pairs well with grilled backyard hamburgers, even the ones your husband charred black because the kids are incredibly squeamish about blood.

Also pairs well with: poor body image, yoga pants and other generally frumpy mom-wear.

Port is a sweet fortified wine (usually red) from the Douro region of Portugal. Fortified means it’s stronger than your garden variety table wine (Bo-nus!). Port and chocolate together is like sensory nirvana, so pair it with that stash of chocolate you’ve been hiding from your kids. (I suggest you hide it in the box of tampons in the bathroom. No one wants to go in there. Brilliant idea, right? I know, I just changed your life. You’re welcome.)

Also pairs well with: fervently whispered prayers and ninja package-opening skills (“Please, please, please don’t let the kids hear me open this Snickers bar!”)

This article was originally published on