Wine and Food

3 Aug

Beringer Winery

The enjoyment of wine can be wonderfully improved when appropriately paired with food. A pretty obvious statement, right? Most wine drinkers have for years enjoyed a glass of wine or two with dinner and many of those people don’t give a second thought to how the wine improves the food while the food improves the wine. But that magic synergy really does (or can, depending on the pairing) occur!

Recently I took the “Taste of Beringer” tour at Napa’s oldest continuously operating winery. Beringer has been making wines since 1876, and is one of the most awarded wineries in Napa. Sampling the ’09 Knights Valley Reserve Cab and the ’10 Modern Heritage Chardonnay was a treat, particularly after experiencing a barrel tasting in the wine caves and tunnels. As good as the samples were, when paired with small food bites, the wines really came alive.

Have you wondered why Cabs and big tannic Petite Syrahs go so well with steak? The salty taste actually makes those bitter tannins taste milder and allows the fruity layers of the wine to come through. Sour tastes will do the same – if you have ever tried high cocoa content chocolate and found it to be too bitter, try pairing it with a Zinfandel!

Wine tasting in the caves

Savory tastes (also known as umami) such as cooked tomatoes, onions and green veggies, as well as spicy foods will make wine taste stronger – less sweet, more bitter and tannic.The opposite relationship holds true for sweet foods. It may seem that pairing a truffle with a late harvest wine would result in too much sweetness, but the sweet foods actually make the dessert wine taste drier and more acidic. A synergistic pairing.

While it’s the end of grilling season in much of the country, I love cooking on my Big Green Egg and will pass on a couple of my favorite pairings. Not surprisingly, grilled fish benefit from a zesty, tangy white wine, like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The refreshing acidity acts like an extra lemon squeeze. However, when grilling salmon on a cedar plank, I find that the light fruitiness of a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir goes best. Similarly, while most people immediately think of pairing white wine with poultry, when smoky grilled flavors are added to chicken, it also matches very will with medium-bodied reds like Pinot Noir and Côtes du Rhône.

It’s fun when drinking wines to swirl the wine to enhance the aromatics and take a couple of sips, and then take a bite of food – salty or sour to make the wine milder, sweet or savory to make it seem drier and more tannic. Given your individual taste in wine you can discover which pairings work best for you.

The most important “rule”: eat what you like, drink what you like!



2 Responses to “Wine and Food”

  1. Rusty August 3, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

    useful, good info, veniferist. Thanks

  2. Fumbling Viniferist September 10, 2013 at 12:09 am #

    Reblogged this on fumblingviniferist.

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