Orange Coast Magazine

Matches Made in Heaven

With our Friday “Must-Try Wine of the Week” posts, we give examples of what type of food pairs well with our suggested wines. But, as you may have discovered, some foods have an inherent quality that naturally fights wine, making for some difficult pairings. I’m talking asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and artichokes.

Often it just takes a little forethought about how the dish is prepared or seasoned. Now, my colleague, Rusty Gaffney, will tell you that pinot noir goes with everything. And, in many ways he’s right. But, just in case you want to dabble in a few other options, I’ll pass on a few of those, too.

Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, artichokes: Try white wines such as sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, or a gruner veltliner from Austria. Both have crisp acids and slight herbal aromas and flavors that mirror many of the qualities found in these foods. If you’re intent on serving a red wine, try a cabernet franc from France’s Chinon region, or a Beaujolais (not Nouveau). While you might also have some success with domestic versions of any of these wines, I have found the fruit to be too sweet or not sufficiently crisp to properly pair well.

Here are a few more common food-and-wine matches.

Sushi: Almost any sparkling wines work well here, but Champagne has the edge, in my opinion. The natural acidity and light citrus notes cut through the fattiness of the fish like a hot samurai sword through butter—and cleanse your palate in the process. Plus, with Champagne, there’s usually a hint of yeast from the aged lees of the wine. This alone provides both a perfect pairing and wonderful counterpoint. This is why beer or sake work well with sushi. A sparkling rosé also does the job well.

Salty foods: Salt increases the apparent sweetness of any red or white wine you choose to accompany salty dinners, so go for dry wines here. For pasta dishes or risotto, there’s a host of dry red and white Italian varieties, including (red) barolo, bardolino, nebbiolo, and (white) pinot grigio, soave, verdicchio that work well. Should you want to choose something domestic, it gets a bit trickier because many domestic wines are inherently sweet. Try an un-oaked (stainless steel) chardonnay or an Oregon pinot noir.

Since our senses of taste and smell are subjective, to say the least, there isn’t one perfect answer. These are merely suggestions based on experience. So, get out there and experiment yourself. And, don’t forget to report back to us on your findings.

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