Monday, November 12, 2007

"Perfect Pairings"

Ahhh, food & wine...I think one of the few reasons I even bother to eat these (busy) days is the possibility of uncorking a bottle of something new and exploring how well it goes with my dish. I know I am one of those few people (at least among my friends) that REALLY pays that much attention to what I eat with what I, wine or spirits. The other day I had to really convince someone that as much as they love their Cabs, it was not going to be their best choice with a lobster dinner they were considering...eeeesh! And, the other day while minding my own business as I ordered a nice Riesling with my spiced halibut dish, someone (thinking I was out of earshot) had the nerve to suggest that "anyone who still drinks white wine has not developed their palate yet for red wines". Wow, I could hardly believe my ears!!

Now, I realize there are few absolutes here and the old "white with white meat" and "red with red meat" monikers are a bit antiquated as well. It can be confusing and complex at best sometimes. However, I would like to propose a few of what I call 'perfect pairings' for those who may want to experiment/expand their tastes or try areas that otherwise might go unexplored. These are by no means complete and leave plenty of room for experimentation (alternatives), but a good place to start. Also, a lot has to do with the sauces/spices used that can change the entire complexion of the dish, so, take it with a, uh, "grain of salt" to speak...

So, here goes...

Food/Dish + Wine Pairing

Rib Eye Steak Cabernet Sauvignon
Rack of Lamb Bordeaux/Syrah
Pork Loin Chateauneuf du Pape
Roasted meats/stews Tempranillo
Grilled meats/onion Malbec
Buttery whitefish/lobster Chardonnay
Grilled Salmon Pinot Noir
Herb Crusted Halibut Pinot Gris
Spicy/Asian Riesling (Spatlese/Auslese)
Chili/Pizza Zinfandel
Sushi/Oysters/Caviar Champagne
Red Sauce pasta Chianti
Creme Brule Sauternes/white dessert
Rich Chocolate Port
Mexican food Gewurztraminer (or beer if yo must)
Goat Cheese Sauvignon Blanc
Blue Cheese Cabernet Sauvignon

Well, this ought to give you a good place to start or at least something to think about. Try some of these and write back your comments and/or what you may have found different about your experience. As I mentioned, there are actually few absolutes (but please, no tannic reds with Lobster...), and there are a lot of variables to consider. The most general of advice is to try and match the 'weight' of the dish to the 'weight' of the wine. Light and delicate food rarely goes well with big robust wines and vice-versa.

Next time out at your favorite restaurant or making a dish at home, take a moment to consider all the flavors you are going to encounter and then try to match accordingly...ask questions, look stuff up on the net, post on forums, etc. There is a lot of info out there on the subject. Although there is no perfect science, you will find that the right pairing can make a big difference in the enhancement of the food or experience. Believe me, when you find that "perfect pairing" for your palate, you will know...and, you'll be hooked on the 'methods to the madness' to make it happen again.

Good luck and happy pairing.

Until the next sip...swirl ya' later!

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