A glass of Sancerre on a hot afternoon, Champagne at midnight on New Year’s Eve, a nice big red by the fire in the winter; there are certainly times when a wine needs no food to be spectacular on its own. Still there are few experiences more enjoyable than having wine and food that are great on their own, yet manage to make the other better when paired together, elevating the meal to a whole other level. Going after this successful pairing can be a tricky and intimidating. As we get ready to release our first bottlings, we also have some great recipes in the works to accompany each wine. In the meantime, check out these four tips for keeping pairings approachable and delicious no matter what the occasion may be.
“If it grows together, it goes together”
This is probably my favorite pairing technique, using historical and geographical context to point myself towards combinations that are safe, but also likely to be spectacular. Food and wine have long been intertwined in cultures across the globe. It just wouldn’t make sense for local vignerons to create wines that didn’t go with the regional recipes. Muscadet, a wine from coastal France based on the Melon de Bourgogne grape can be a little bit thin and tart on its own. Use it to chase a creamy oyster, and your palate comes alive with zippy lemon notes and salty minerality. Chianti from Tuscany too can be lacking in fruit and complexity, but not if it is joined by a bowl of pasta with red sauce which serves to highlight its red cherry fruit and herbal tinge. There are also some great examples from closer to home. For a great red to try with Pacific Northwest Salmon look for a silky, medium-bodied Pinot from Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley. Not sure what to bring to the Labor Day BBQ? Think about a juicy, spicy Zinfandel with some grilled ribs…the ultimate California culinary combo.
Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet Sevre Et Maine ‘Sur Lie’, Loire Valley France 2015
$11.99 @ PJwine.com
Belle Pente Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2013
$22.50 @ Bellepente.com
Casaloste Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy 2011
$15.99 @ Marketviewliquor.com
Bedrock Zinfandel ‘Old Vine’, California 2014
$24.99 @ Klwines.com
Watch Your Weight
It is easy to get caught up in trying to identify flavors in a wine and spend hours thinking about how they may compliment the flavors of the dish, but this isn’t always necessary. The weight (body) and texture of wine can be just as important and lead to some matches that would make Tinder jealous. A light bodied Riesling is a delicate option that won’t overwhelm the artistry of your favorite sushi spot. (My main issue with going our for sushi is that I’m hungry an hour and a half later.) It would be hard to go wrong with good old-fashioned California Cabernet on your next steak night. Thinking about the body of the food and the wine is also helpful when pairing reds with fish or whites with meat. A light and fragrant Pinot Noir or Gamay is likely to let the fresh seafood shine through. A rich, creamy California Viognier is a great option to stand up to many meat dishes.
Von Schubert ‘Maximin Grunhauser – Herrenberg’ Kabinett, Mosel, Germany 2014
$34.99 @ Wine.com
Routestock Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2013
$21.99 @ Wine.com
Salem Wine Co. Gamay, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2014
$24.99 @ Thewinecountry.com
Melville Viognier, Santa Barbara 2013
$19.99 at Klwines.com
The meat and seafood department at the grocery store can provide a dizzying array of options for that next home-cooked meal. However, the protein decision may not necessarily be the most important one when it comes to coming up with the wine. Sauces and other accompaniments can offer some great clues. Coq Au Vin, the French classic of chicken tenderly braised in a red wine sauce does great with red Burgundy or similar light red. (This pairing combines aspects of the two other methods discussed above). Adding lemon to the sauce for chicken pasta? Think about a citrus-driven white such as Chablis. Feel like Roast chicken is too healthy with out some crispy bacon? A smoky Syrah can be a great addition to the mix here. In this case we see the same base ingredient being paired with three very different French wine styles. You will have to try them all to figure out which one works best.
Mongeard-Mugneret Pinot Noir, Fixin, Burgundy, France 2013
$39.99 @ Klwines.com
Louis Michel Chardonnay, Chablis, Burgundy, France 2014
$19.99 @ Klwines.com
Jamet Syrah, Collines Rhodaniennes, Rhône, France 2014
$26.95 @ Crushwineco.com
The best pairing is good company with whatever wine you want to enjoy
Yeah, yeah yeah, this is cliché. Yet it is also very true. Ultimately, eating and drinking with loved ones is one of life’s great pleasures. Worrying too much about choosing the perfect wine should never interrupt. I have been known to drink a lighter Champagne all the way through a full dinner, and love every minute of it. There are other nights when a beer or Manhattan may seem more appropriate. If spicy Spanish reds make you really happy, then why not enjoy them with the fish recipe from the new diet you are sticking to? The important thing is that wine be allowed on any diet you begin!
Dhondt-Grellet ‘Les Terres Fines’ Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, France NV
$48.00 @ Mwcwine.co