Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Food and Wine Pairing 101, part deux

Wow, I have 12 followers...thank you!

So, yesterday I posted about the pairing "likes" method of matching food and wine. Today I would like to talk about the other theory...we'll call it the "add to" method. Whereas in yesterday's method, you basically look for aspects in the food, and try to find similar aspects in the wine; today's method calls for you to look for what's NOT in the food. That's right, you look for ways that the wine can add to the food, but not compete with any of the flavors that are already there. This is a method that is a bit more cerebral- you really have to know a lot about the taste structure of not only the food you are eating, but also a wide array of wines. Let's start with an example...Grilled Sausage. According to yesterday's method, you would look for something in the wine that is evident in the food (say a grilled, smoky note) and then find a wine with similar attributes (maybe Malbec). With the "add do" method, you would notice that this is a high fat food, with not much going in the way of acid. One direction you could go with this would be Riesling. The high acidity in most rieslings can "cut through" the fat in the sausage, and provide something that the dish was lacking.
Another example would be portabella mushrooms (this is for Matt R...my vegetarian follower). Traditional food and wine pairings would say find something with a earthy note, maybe nebbiolo from Piedmont, Italy. Today's method would say maybe something with a more fruit-forward note (which again isn't evident in the dish)- let's say a Chardonnay from Carneros, California.
I know, this method is confusing, and takes a whole lot of thought. Maybe even too much. There are a couple of instances when it is great to use though. For example, if you have a really super-spicy food, you may not want to pair a spicy wine with it. I noticed once that really hot, spicy bbq sauce doesn't pair well with a big, high alcohol, spicy Zinfandel. The spiciness of the food really amped up the alcohol in the wine, and that's all you could taste. A better choice would have been a riesling with a touch of sweetness- it would have downplayed the spiciness, and added a peachy, slaty component that wasn't already there.
One final thought- If you are eating pasta with just a simple tomato sauce, this isn't the time to bring out your biggest, baddest Italian or California wine. Tomatos are a high-acid food, and the dish doesn't have much protein. Plus these wines are usually full bodied and very tannic (high in tannins)...this doesn't match well- your wine will completely mask the taste of the food, and will likely taste bitter. If you are dead set on drinking the wine, your best option for the food is to add a protein to it (this is why Italians often add meat or cheese to the dish). The tannins in the wine will bind with the protein in the dish, and make it a much more pleasant experience.

Also, don't drink wine at a ball park- you look like an idiot. Ballparks are for beer or Coke.

I heard one of the greatest quotes last night on "No Reservations" (the Anthony Bourdain show, not the cheesy movie with Catherine Zeta Jones)- he tried something and said it "tasted like it died screaming". Classic.

Today, I am suggesting the 2007 Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir. The '07 vintage is by far the best one produced by this classic Carneros wine producer. Expect really nice bing cherry, barely-ripe plum, and tobacco notes along with silky tannins. It will pair well with something...you tell me what. It will cost you around $30.


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