Of all the ingredients on the dining room table, vegetables, beans, and squash-based dishes are the most challenging to pair with wine. These ingredients are full of tannin and other harsh qualities that often work against the fruits commonly found in wine. Below are my three go-to grapes when a challenge of pairing presents itself.
Sauvignon Blanc: Parent grape of Cabernet Sauvignon, this varietal almost always has a distinct herbal aroma. The structure of Sauvignon Blanc is high in acid and, depending on where it is made, you will find everything from new oak to stainless steel as the aging vessel. Major areas of production include California, New Zealand and the Loire region of France, which includes Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre. Some of my favorite vegetables to pair with Sauvignon Blanc include asparagus, spinach and watercress.
Sangiovese: The major grape found in Chainti blends and the sole player in Brunello di Montalcino. Sangiovese is characterized by the subtle flavors of cherry pit, tomato stem and dried rose petals. These wines are extremely dry with gripping tannins, which helps it brace well with others dishes that are notoriously difficult to pair. Sangiovese goes great with tomatoes, lentils and zucchini.
Cabernet Franc: Cabernet Franc can be found along the Loire River within the communes Anjou and Touraine. It is also one of the main grapes grown on the “Right Bank” of Bordeaux. In the Loire, Cabernet Franc has the appearance of bright crimson red with vividly similar aromas to eucalyptus and bell pepper. In Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc plays the secondary role, adding spice and backbone to the famous blends. I love Cabernet France with roasted brussels sprouts and bell peppers.
Looking for great produce in Orange County?
Orange County is blessed with amazing produce found throughout its numerous farmer’s markets and grocery stores. One of particular note is the Growers Direct, located in Coast Mesa. Give them a try next time you’re in the mood for a perfect heirloom tomato to compliment your Caprese salad & glass of Sancerre!