Some things just go together. Pancho & Lefty. Gym memberships and empty promises. Food & Wine. Have you had your AH-HA! moment, yet? That bite/drink that had you closing your eyes and thinking “NOW I get it!”? No? If not, don’t feel bad. I would argue this is much harder to come by than the Pairing Illuminati would have you believe. In this post, we are going to talk about this, challenge some beliefs, and touch on some things that do and do not work. I’m also going to unapologetically talk out of both sides of my mouth.
Let’s say that you love Chardonnay, but tonight you are grilling a fat ribeye, and everybody knows that red wine pairs best with steak. So, what wine should you drink?
Chardonnay. If you love Chardonnay then by all means drink Chardonnay. This is not a test. Yes, there are physical and chemical reasons why some things go well with other things. In this case, a fatty meat like ribeye plays well with bold, tannic red wine. The tannins in these wines work in harmony with rich meats, serving as mini-scrubbers that cleanse your palate.
Great story, bro.
Yes, feel free to place this factoid well below “Please Myself” on your priority list. While basic tenets like beef & red wine or fish & white wine do have merit, the lion’s share of pairing discussions are overhyped and underwhelming, not unlike Kanye West.
Pinot or Syrah with that pork chop? Albarino or Chenin Blanc alongside the sea bass? Can I serve Rose` with burgers?
Yes. Yes, to all of it. There is such a large middle ground where it just doesn’t really matter what wine is served with a particular dish, and even if one wine does have a bit of a leg up, this is likely overwhelmed by your own personal preference. Whatever, Boomer…, drink what you want. If you are a curious eater/drinker, then by all means geek out on the pairing thing, because it is fun! Go down that rabbit hole and stumble onto delicious, unexpected discoveries (Riesling with fatty pork!). The point I am trying to make with this large middle ground is that there is zero reason to stress – just make yourself happy.
Some things just don’t work. It is possible that you have experienced this and thought the wine was no good, but it was actually the pairing that brought down both the wine and the food. Artichokes are notoriously cantankerous. Asparagus does not play well with others, nor does that vinaigrette on your salad, and for you I-only-drink-red-wine folks…consider starting with a beer if you are going to smash some oysters. I have a personal bugaboo – creamy desserts and the red wine I have left in my glass from dinner. Hell, a single bite of vanilla ice cream turns that delicious Cabernet into astringent dishwater. Maybe that’s just me, and maybe you have a no-fly-zone of your own. That’s OK.
Pizza and burgers with fruity reds (Barbera, Zinfandel – though I love pizza with a bracing white wine)
Oysters (or any raw fish) and mineral whites (Chablis, Muscadet) or sparkling
Goat cheese and Sauvignon Blanc (they both have that tangy, grassy thing goin’ on)
Spicy foods with Riesling
Steak and bold red wines
Pasta and Nebbiolo
Pineapple and Bleu Cheese
Wait, whut? As I mentioned above, there are often chemical reasons for why things pair well. One would not expect pineapple and bleu cheese to dance together, but they do because they share a flavor component, methyl hexanoate. Kinda cool, huh?
Fortune favors the bold, they say. For those of you who fit this bill, give this a go for your next dinner party dessert.
Pair with a White Dessert Wine (Sauternes, Tokaji, Late Harvest Riesling/Viognier/whatever)
I know, I know, this sounds like a pain in the ass. But. It. Is. Amazeballs.
Bonus: both can be made a day, or two, in advance.
Ask your local wine shop for a recommendation on the white dessert wine.