Food and Wine Pairing Revisited

In our last column, we talked about how certain flavors in food can enhance or detract from the appeal of the wine being served, and how keeping this basic information in mind will help you greatly when planning your wine and food pairings. We continue in this column with more general combinations, and our recommendations for some of the harder to match foods, including BBQ, Asian, Mexican and others.

In most cases, you want to drink light-to-dark, not unlike planning a typical meal where you would start with delicate tastes and work towards heavier tastes. For this reason, you normally don’t serve a red wine with appetizers or opening courses in a meal. Our best recommendations for first course pairings follow:

For light appetizers, (soft cheeses, veggies trays, salads), keep it crisp, light and dry with pinot grigio/pinot gris, cava, prosecco, torrontes, New World sauvignon blanc or a dry rose.

For heavier or saltier appetizers, including antipasto, fried foods and hard cheeses, serve bright, off-dry fruity whites such as chenin blanc, viognier, German reisling or un-oaked sauvignon blanc. Some lighter red wines also can work well, including light pinot noir, Beaujolais, Tempranillo or cabernet franc.

Choosing appropriate wines for main course offerings will depend greatly on the food being served. When pairing food, you are really complementing or contrasting four elements: weight, flavor intensity, taste, and smell. The way the dish is prepared and cooked will affect these elements:

• Body/ weight: heavy, medium, or light-body?

• Flavor intensity: weak, moderate, strong?

• Smell/ aroma: earthy, fruity, grassy/herbal?

• Taste: sweet, spicy, acidic, sour, bitter, additional spices used (e.g. lemongrass)?

Surprisingly, there are very few “bad” food and wine combinations, but there are some that work particularly well, and should be considered:

• Chicken – Chardonnay or lighter reds such as Rioja, Barbera, Grenache, Burgundy

• Grilled Fish – Light medium bodied whites such as Pinot Grigio, Chablis

• Pasta (red sauce) – Chianti, Zinfandel, Pinot Blanc

• Pasta (white sauce) – Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Viognier

• Raw or steamed shellfish – Crisp, acidic wines such as Champagne, Sauvignon Blanc

• Steak – Full-bodied red such as Cabernet, Bordeaux, Zinfandel, Merlot

Lastly, some ethnic foods can be particularly hard to plan pairings for, but here’s our list of cuisines and wines that work best:

• Chinese – Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir

• Indian – Zinfandel, Chardonnay

• Japanese – Beaujolais, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling

• Thai – Chablis, Chardonnay

• Curries – Gewürztraminer, full Riesling, dry rosé

• Sushi/Sashimi – Very dry Champagne, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Sake, Pinot Gris

• Mexican – Barbera, Chianti, drier white Zinfandel or dry rosé, Beaujolais

Rombauer Vineyards Chardonnay Carneros 2008

“The balance between the buttery and creamy tones, the pear, apple and citrus tones and the fair amount of acidity make this chardonnay a very food friendly wine. This wine would pair very nicely with many heavy seafood dishes, such as: halibut with a cream sauce, shrimp and scallops in butter or even a smoked whitefish. As far as some of the items offered here at Top Shelf, there are a number of cheeses that would be well recommended. First off, the Greenfields Saxon Creamery raw cow’s milk has a creamy and nuttiness that stands up to the buttery in the Rombauer. As far as blue cheeses, the Maytag blue from Iowa, the Ba Ba Blue Carr Valley sheep’s milk and the Point Reyes Farmhouse Blue are both enhanced by the chardonnay as well is the Morvier French raw cow’s milk cheese. The duck liver mousse, goose liver mousse and the mousse truffée are also nice pairings, along with the lemon rosemary chicken breasts.”

~ John Seiberlich, Top Shelf Gourmet (Sister Bay, WI)

Appearance: full golden hue

Aroma: granny smith apples and pear aromas

Flavors: creamy and buttery with supple oak tones, pear, banana, and pineapple flavors

Finishing Notes: oak and buttery notes are balanced well with a bit of acidity towards the finish

Where to Buy: Main Street Market, Madison Avenue Wine Shop and Top Shelf

Where to Try: Horseshoe Bay, The Cookery, Sturgeon Bay Yacht Club and The Mission Grille

Information about “Where to Try” and “Where to Buy” these selected wines was provided by the local wine purveyors and vendors. If you happen to also serve or sell these wines, email [email protected].

WINE:30 is written by Karl Bradley and Jody Wuollett. Karl is the general manager and self-proclaimed “sous” sommelier for the Mission Grille. Former restaurant executive and Door County native Jody is happily under-employed as a Mission Grille food server and a member of the local band Northbound.