“Food without wine is a corpse; wine without food is a ghost; united and well-matched they are as body and soul, living partners…”
Andre Simon, Wine Merchant and Writer, 1877-1970
My lunch in the Marais, Paris, June 2011. Duck Magret paired with a house Bordeaux
When I am home in California, I rarely have wine with my lunch unless I am at a local restaurant with a friend. However, when I am travelling in Europe, a glass of wine is a staple of that meal for me. But, my favorite part of the day, no matter where I am, is dinner, when I so look forward to my ritual of pairing wine with my meal.
I don’t like to look at wine and food pairing in terms of hard rules, but rather guidelines and principles. That being said, I find that for me matching food to the right wine, or vice versa, can be as simple as two basics…balance the flavor intensity so that the food and wine complement, not fight each other and “what grows together goes together”. These two principles help you to avoid the cliche of “white with white and red with red”. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with that notion, but never stepping out of that box could keep you from trying and experiencing something new and different…just like buying that case of the exact same wine instead of that mixed case. Sometimes the unexpected can prove to be fantastic.
At a wine dinner a few years ago, a very memorable pairing for me was a Shredded Duck Tamale with a Cabernet Franc. Pinot Noir, which is quite versatile with food and a traditional pairing with duck, was the first thing that came to mind for me. But the level of spices in the shredded duck, and the rich berry, coffee and bittersweet chocolate nuances of the Cab Franc made it a perfect and very interesting pairing that I still think about almost two years later! And, ducks do live in wetlands that are often adjacent to forests, where berries grow! So, flavor intensity balance and “what grows together goes together”
A few other “exceptions” to the “red with red and white with white” rule are turkey, chicken, pork and salmon.
Prior to Thanksgiving in the US, you will see Pinot Noir promoted as the wine to go with the turkey, while Chardonnay can nicely complement many side dishes. Chicken is quite versatile with many reds such as, again, Pinot Noir, many Italian reds like Barbera, Brunello and Chianti, Grenache, Zinfandel and Bordeaux, the exceptions being Cabernet Sauvignon and robust Syrah/Shiraz that would overpower it.
Lunch at the NH Santo Stefano, Torino, Piedmonte, Italy, June 20011. Chicken and grilled vegetables paired with a nice Barbera…
Pork is another white meat that is quite versatile and pairs with many different reds, depending on how the pork is prepared. Roasted pork does well with medium bodied reds llike Barbera, Pinot Noir, Grenache and Cotes du Rhone, while grilled pork chops can pair with heartier reds as well…Bordeaux, Brunello, Malbec and Zinfandel.
Grilled salmon pairs well with Pinot Noir and several other medium-bodied reds like Barbera, Grenache, Cotes du Rhone, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese. Another example of “what grows together goes together” …..Pacific Northwest salmon resides in the Pinot Noir country in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
All of these foods also pair well with many white wines such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, just to name a few.
But, ultimately, enjoy what wine you want with your meal. I encourage you to try the basics and then have some fun with some of the alternatives I have suggested. There are many websites, such as Winespectator.com that have good, comprehensive and user-friendly wine and food pairing tables. And, for those of you with iPhones, iPads and Androids, there are many pairing apps that can be with you no matter where you dine. Again, a subject for future posts.
Until next time….À votre santé!
The beautiful grapes in the header of this blog are Cabernet Sauvignon at the Croix de Mission vineyard at Domaine des Rochelles that I photographed in Anjou, in the Loire Valley of France, on September 24, 2011. I spent a lovely day at Le Tasting Room with Cathy and Nigel Henton at their picturesque property. I enjoyed a tutored tasting and presentation about the wines of the region, a wonderful wine and food pairing luncheon in their cave and a tour of the vineyards where the grapes were photographed.