The first step to creating a memorable wine and food experience is to find a common denominator between food and drink – turkey and cranberry sauce, for instance, served with a Pinot Noir, which is often described as having berry flavors. But when more of the same doesn’t mean more enjoyment, proceed to step two and look for opposites that attract.
Take gooey. Many of us crave the luxurious slather of melted cheese, silken eggs and creamy sauces. But a caress turns into a clog with the addition of texurous wine, often grown in warm climates, which weigh down the palate with alcohol, sugar or oak.
Instead, pair food’s richness and a wine with cleansing acidity, often grown in cool climates.
Brie en croute, for instance, is an easy and elegant appetizer but quickly dulls the taste buds. To tickle the tummy and urge the palate to ask for more, add the snap of acidity from a white Burgundy. While this region’s top wines fetch $400 per bottle and up (way up), the Macon sub-region provides excellent and affordable wines including:
Macon-Charnay “Les Chenes”, Domaine Manciat-Poncet (Burgundy, France): Green apple refreshment with mineral complexity and vibrant finish makes a classic cocktail and pairing with cow's milk cheese, seafood, poultry and dishes prepared with butter.100% Chardonnay grown in the grape's homeland. $22.50 at The Chopping Block.
Spicy cuisine is a Chicagoland specialty but will ignite the palate with the added heat of high-alcohol wine.
For make-me-sweat cuisines including Korean barbeque and Indian curry, protect your palate with a layer of sweet and/or fruity wine. In white, the Riesling and Chenin Blanc grapes offer brisk acidity and sweetness ranging from nearly-dry to honey-sweet; ask your merchant to recommend a wine to your preference or look for:
Riesling "Gobelsburger", Schloss Gobelsburg (Kamptal, Austria): Chemically dry, but lush with nectarine flavor intertwined with mineral complexity and refreshing finish, this Austrian beauty satisfies a wide range of cuisine, including most appetizers, spicy cuisine, fried dishes, seafood (including sushi), veggies and poultry. $19.50 at The Chopping Block.
Vouvray “Le Peu de la Moriette”, Domaine Pichot (Loire Valley, France): Appealing, off-dry flavors of ripe apples, honey and brisk acidity make this 100% Chenin Blanc from France a world-favorite for classic cocktails, to pair with to with light dishes, especially with creamy sauces such as Coquilles St. Jacques (scallops baked with cheese and cream), and to quall the flames of spicy cuisines. $24 at The Chopping Block.
Red wine lovers, look for rich fruit extract to add a protective layer between scratchy tannin and your palate.
Anne Pichon, Syrah Grenache “Sauvage", Anne Pichon (Ventoux, France): Lush aroma of ripe berries and brown spice, velvety texture and pleasing tannin, the result of hand-craft tradition, small production and organic winegrowing. $19.50 at The Chopping Block.
Pinot Noir, A La Carte (North Coast, California): ed fruit and earthy flavors develop on the palate for a complex but eminently enjoyable red. Classically paired with game birds and lighter meats, the silky palate makes a cooling complement to spicy dishes and modern pairing of red wine with fish. $22.50 at The Chopping Block.
On Friday, March 15th, we’ll explore the taste sensations of ethnic cuisines paired with wine in “Food and Wine Around the World”. The traditional rule “serve red wine with red meat” may apply to a Chicago-style steak, but what about Indian Tandoori Lamb Chops? Does “white wine with fish” work with Japanese Spicy Tuna? Will any wine pair with Salsa Verde? In this mix-and-match of 5 courses and 5 wines, we’ll test the guidelines of pairing wine with the world of ethnic cuisines available in Chicagoland (and at The Chopping Block), so you can BYO, take-out or prepare your own global food and wine adventure at home with confidence!