Addressing tried and true Wine Pairing Rules
Grilled Fish with Tomato Relish
This is part of 2 of my 3-part series on taking a hard look at common food and wine pairings.
You may read Part 1 – 5 Food and Wine Pairing Tips – Are They Still Relevant?
3. The wine and food must come from the same geographic region.
- Wrong! It may seem likely that an Albariño from Spain would make an excellent dining companion to a seafood dish. But nowadays, it’s important to understand a wine region’s strengths or tendencies more than automatically assuming all foods of the region are suitable for pairing with its wine. Spain and Italy have started making more wines using international grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. And, they do them well.
Exotic Herbs and Spices
- With the rise in popularity of household-name chef superstars, these top chefs are constantly looking for ways to keep fans tuning in. There are a host of new and unusual cooking styles and techniques like molecular gastronomy.
- A common meal like meat and potatoes has been turned into a complex culinary creation with an array of flavors that includes multi-ingredient sauces and rubs with exotic herbs. But a chicken dish with a crimini and chantrelle mushroom sauce could stand up to a Gamay (red) wine because it too, is light in weight.
Earthy Mushrooms & Gamay
4. You should not try to pair difficult foods such as artichokes, asparagus, quiche and eggs or vinegar
- Wrong! Today’s chefs take ingredient mixing to a new level. Try focusing on weight. Not yours, the food’s. If you are having a salad starter, then a Pinot Blanc will typically stand up nicely to a vinegar-based dressing. The acidity of this crisp white can handle the tartness of the vinegar.
Grilled Corn with Compound Butter
- The number of vegetarians in society has increased dramatically. In addition, many people try to incorporate a vegetarian lifestyle into their weekly or monthly meal planning. An ear of corn can be a complex pairing if it has been grilled and then slathered with a chive and rosemary compound butter.
In the last part of this series on examining food and wine pairing adages, I’ll discuss food complements. Yes, you like me. You really, really like me. Apologies to Sally Field and Mrs. Dice, my 7th grade English teacher.
, Food & Wine Pairing
Classic Food & Wine Pairings Tips – Are They Still Relevant?
Today’s Myriad of Foods
Ten or fifteen years ago it was quite easy to pair food and wine. We learned to pair chicken and fish with a white wine; and beef and pork with a red.
Today, food has become more complex with a mix of unusual ingredients. There are numerous combinations of sauces and exotic proteins served together. Fish may be topped with a tomato and caper relish, served on a bed of red lentils or miso-glazed pork may accompany shitake mushrooms, drizzled with port.
Americans’ wine tastes have also broadened. No longer are wine drinkers sticking to the tried-and-true choices such as Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and White Zinfandel. Wines from New World regions such as Chile, New Zealand and South Africa are frequently listed on wine lists and are readily available in stores.
Pairing Ostrich Salad with Wine
Sommeliers have added wines from Greece, Croatia or Israel to their wine lists. Bison, ostrich, kangaroo and other unique proteins have become commonplace on fine dining menus. This gives the diner a multitude of options for pairing with meals. And the choices can be daunting.
Given the shift in the food and wine scene of today, let’s examine if the old wine pairing adages of the past are still relevant.
1. The color of the wine must match the color of the food
- Yes. When in doubt, you can still use this old axiom. Serving white wine with chicken and red with beef can hold true; but it’s not very exciting.
- But there are certainly exceptions to this long-quoted rule. For instance, a Viognier or Chardonnay can pair nicely with veal. The acidity in these wines cuts through the slight fattiness of the beef, creating a beautiful pairing.
Unoaked vs. Oak-aged White Wines
2. The weight of food and wine must match (This means heavy vs. light.)
- Yes, this is certainly true. Foods that match each other in weight will typically balance each other, eliminating the battle of one overpowering the other. Think Brad and Angelina, two mega stars, coexisting.
- Here are some examples of food weights ranging from lowest to highest – Salad, Starchy foods, Seafood, Poultry, Pork and Beef. So you’d match a wine with the “weightiness” of the meat dish.
- Now check out a few wine weights ranging from lowest to highest – Sparkling wines, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sangiovese, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The dilemma-Light White, Bold Red or Light Red Wine
- But it can get tricky. A lot will depend on viticulture methods. For example, an oaky California Chardonnay will be heavier in weight than an unoaked Australian Chardonnay.
- Consider a traditional méthode champenoise made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. It’ll be bursting with hearty sur lees aging, making it weightier than a Loire Valley Chenin Blanc crémant. This particular sparkling is produced using Sauvignon Blanc only. Crémant is the name given to sparkling wines produced outside of the Champagne region.
In Part 2 of 3 in this Food & Wine Pairing Tips series, I’ll address the role of geography in pairing, as well as matching vegetables with the proper wine. See you next #WineWednesday.
, Food & Wine
, Food & Wine Pairing