Good Pairings Enhance Wine Tastings
by Susan Montgomery
A few weeks ago our intrepid Southern California Wine Review Council met to taste a variety of interesting wines that we paired with some delicious dishes. I would like to share our experience with you and particularly express why the pairings were so good. (Photo below is of our Wine Review Council gathering.)
Creating an effective pairing can be a challenge, but a little knowledge about what makes a good pairing can dramatically improve your wine tasting experience. For me, the goal of a good pairing is primarily to enhance the wine, although many times a good pairing will also improve the taste of the food. Here are some general guidelines for creating a good pairing.
1. Pair lighter wines with lighter foods and bolder wines with richer foods. So a Pinot Grigio might go nicely with a seafood dish or salad while a bold Cab might be a good match for a nice juicy steak.
2. Sweeter wines go better with sweeter foods, but make sure the wine is as sweet or even sweeter than the food you are matching. You don’t want the sweet treat to overwhelm the wine.
3. High acid wines go well with high acid foods and also salty foods. So a tart Sauvignon Blanc might be a good match for a salad with a vinaigrette dressing.
4. You can soften the astringent tannic in wines with rich, fatty foods.
5. And finally, there are always exceptions to these guidelines. Your main guideline should be to match foods and wines that you enjoy together.
We sometimes start a wine tasting event with Prosecco, which can act almost like a palate cleanser, readying your palate for a variety of tastings to come. So we began this tasting with Bervini 1955 Prosecco Doc Millesimato Extra Dry that we primarily paired with a Spanish tortilla consisting of potatoes, onions, eggs and olive oil. I followed each bite of the tasty tortilla with a sip of Prosecco, which was definitely more flavorful after the bite of the tangy, salty tortilla. This is a good example of a high acid wine being enhanced by a salty dish, but this lovely Prosecco could also easily have been enjoyed without food. The Prosecco’s nose was fruity and its taste lemony with hints of pear, peach, and grapefruit. This nice bubbly typically retails for $18.99.
Moving on to another bubbly, we next tried the Bervini 1955 Spumante Rose. I loved its almost iridescent pale color, soft bubbles and apple, citrus tastes. Its good acidity made it a nice pairing with the salty prosciutto and cheese tart and it also went well with dark chocolate covered pretzels. Retail price is $18.99.
The N27 — New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and light with tropical fruit flavors and a nice refreshing hint of lime. Because it is richer than most Sauv Blancs, it matched nicely with the richer ham and cheese sliders but also was enhanced by the goat cheese tart. At under $20, this wine is well priced for its impressive quality.
We next moved to two very different 100 percent Pinot Noirs. The first was OR6 Oregon, which is a classic Pinot with flavors of rhubarb, dried cherries, blackberries and earthy notes. The next Pinot, CA5 — California Red Wine, had a stronger fruity nose and raspberry, cherry flavors with a peppery tang. This stellar Pinot was the favorite of the evening’s tasting. The Oregon Pinot is $23.99 while the CA Pinot sells for $19.99. Both these Pinots were more flavorful after tastes of rich food, particularly the goat cheese tart and the ham and cheese sliders.
We ended our tasting with a bold red called Barrel Road Bourbon Barrel Red Blend. It was smooth but intense with blackberry and plum aromas that carried through to the palate along with flavors of caramel and toast. This wine had fermented in bourbon barrels and I enjoyed its unique hints of whiskey. I sipped it along with bites of dark chocolate and oatmeal raisin cookies. I think this rich wine might also be enhanced if savored with a juicy, rare, ribeye steak. The retail price is $16.99.
As if tasting all these wonderful wines wasn’t magical enough, just as we were finishing our tasting, a friend appeared at our front door and urged us to run outside where we saw a spectacular show in the night sky. We learned later that a Space X rocket had been launched from Vandenburg Airforce Base. It was the perfect ending to a night of stellar pairings and stimulating conversation about good wines.
Photos by Todd Montgomery. Group photo by Allan Kissam.