Wine:30 – Daring Pairings


We looked before at some of the more common wine varietals and foods to pair with them. Today we will look at some of the more obscure varietals and what foods work well with them.



This medium-bodied dry white wine mainly from Spain is also grown in Portugal, Australia and a little in the United States. Albariño typically has steely acidity and sharply defined fruit. Flavors are usually of apricot, citrus, fresh grass, pear and peach.

Most cooked seafood – fish and shellfish – pair nicely with the grape’s citrusy nature, lighter alcohol and firm acidity. The varietal is also a nice accompaniment to raw proteins such as fish crudo, ceviche, sushi, and salmon or tuna carpaccio. The varietal also works with Japanese, Korean and northern Chinese dishes as well as chicken and poultry.


Grüner Veltliner

A medium to medium-full-bodied white that is typically dry to off-dry. The varietal has flavors of celery, citrus, cucumber, green bean, green melon and lentil. Grüner Veltliner is mainly found in Austria, with some plantings in the Czech Republic, New Zealand and the United States.

This grape is a nice pairing to dishes with aromatic and distinctive marinades or sauces such as sweet and sour and sweet and spicy styles. It works well with most Asian cuisine. Grüner Veltliner is one of the few wines that works really well with salads and vegetables. Beans and lentils are also great with this varietal.



A medium-bodied dry white wine from Argentina that’s also grown in Chile and Spain. The flavor profile consists of apricot, passion fruit, mango, yellow apple, honeysuckle and jasmine.

This varietal tends to be a harder pairing partner as the flavors can tend to overpower and dominate many foods. This grape matches nice with shellfish, as the ripe fruit can bring out the basic sweet flavors of scallops, crab or lobster. Rich dishes and cream sauces will work with Torrontés too. The combinations of fruit and sweet spice in dishes such as Indian mango chutney, Chinese plum sauce, and a tangy fruit-based barbecue sauce can pair nicely as well.



Carménère is a typically medium to medium-full-bodied red with components of blackberry, plum, black tea, rosemary, thyme, bitter chocolate and smoke. It is commonly seen coming from Chile, but is grown in Australia, France, Italy and the United States as well.

The smokiness of the grape makes smoked food a great pairing. Smoked chicken and pork shoulder and even beef brisket all match well here. More than most red varietals, Carménère is one of the few red varietals that compliments herbs in dishes. The herbal component of the grape mirrors the herbal component found in dishes such as salsa verde, gremolata on grilled meat and rosemary-crusted lamb.


Petite Sirah

Found to be medium-full to full-bodied and dry, Petite Sirah can produce flavors of beetroot, blackberry, black current, chocolate, clove, mocha, vanilla, black licorice and black pepper. This varietal has a range of areas that it is planted: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Israel, Mexico and the United States.

The bold personality of Petite Sirah makes it relatively straightforward to pair with food. The grape craves big red wine fare. Meat, such as slow-cooked brisket to smoked sausages, rich braises and stews, and charcoal-grilled steaks are the best options here. The ripe fruit and sweetish tones give Petite Sirah the flexibility to pair with cheeses that range from mild blues to semi-hard styles.


Karl Bradley is the wine sales representative for General Beverage Wines for the Door County area. He has worked in fine dining and wine sales for more than 25 years and has a sommelier certificate from the Court of the Master Sommeliers.


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