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On Monday evening, I put my pairing guidelines to the test (place, structure and flavor) posted earlier this week.   All the wines worked very well with each course and participants were amazed at how much the wine changed after trying them with the different courses. Flight two was especially fun in that a white wine worked with meat and a red wine worked with the creamy risotto … it was a fun and delicious evening, to say the least!

Here was the line up:

FLIGHT ONE.

Trio of ceviche: tuna and watermelon, scallops and avocado, wild salmon and oysters.

Viña Ventisquero Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2012. A lively, crisp wine from the home of ceviche (Casablanca Valley, Chile). Intense aromas of lime, grapefruit and pineapple with crisp acidity that is typical for this variety. 

Pionero Mundi Rias Baixas Albariño 2011. This aromatic white wine comes from the northwest corner of Spain (known as Green Spain for its Celtic and maritime influences). Seafood dominates the cuisine here! 

Other wines that could worked with this course: Dry Chenin Blanc from Loire Valley or South Africa, dry or off-dry Riesling, northern Italian Pinot Grigio (Alto Adige), Vermentino, Prosecco, or a rosé with vibrant acidity.

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FLIGHT TWO.

Long Island duck breast with English peas risotto, white asparagus and crispy leeks.

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Ca dei Frati Lugana 2012. The Veneto is the capital of risotto, so I went with the local white made from Trebbiano di Lugana, which was aged on the lees for six months for added weight and flavor.

Domaine Chaponne Cuvée Joseph Morgon 2010. This Beaujolais cru is made entirely from Gamay, a lighter red with lighter tannins, but great acidity and lots of berry, cherry flavor.

Other wines that could have worked with this course: Viognier from Northern Rhône, Gewurztraminer, dry Furmint, any of the Beaujolais Crus, unoaked Pinot Noir, Barbera from Piedmont, Valpolicella Classico (Corvina), Bardolino, Grignolino, Tempranillo roble (lighter style), premium Lambruscos, Cabernet Franc from Loire Valley (Saumur, Anjou Rouge, Bourgeuil), Zweigelt from Austria.

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FLIGHT THREE.

Roasted Colorado lamb loin with Spring vegetable succotash and rosemary jus.

Kir-Yanni Ramnista 2009 (Xinomavro). A wild red from one of Greece’s best winemakers, this grape is often described as a stylistic cross between Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo, it ages beautifully.

 Domaine le Galantin Longue Garde Bandol Rouge 2000. This is a personal favorite of mine for roast beef and lamb. Made from a blend of old vine Mourvedre and Grenache from southern France, made only in select vintages. 

Other wines that could have worked with this course: Cabernet Sauvignon, Northern Rhône Reds (Côte-Rotie, St-Joseph) Merlot, Tuscan Cabernet Franc, Aglianico from Southern Italy, Agiorgitiko from mainland Greece, Blaufranksich, Douro reds (Touriga Nacional).

There is only one real rule: If you like a food and wine pairing, it works. If peanut butter and Sauvignon Blanc tickles your fancy, go with it. Simple as that! (But you might want to get friends something else to drink … )

In fact, there are some simple ‘guidelines’ that can help you navigate this complex, often daunting, task of wine and food pairing. And knowing some of these basics can also get you away from that old adage that you can serve only white wine with fish and red wine with meat. One has far more options than that.

Here they are:

ONE: PLACE. Is there a traditional food for that wine region? Chances are high the local wine will go very well with that! Oysters with briny Muscadet sur Lie, elegant Pauillac with roast lamb, Chianti with pasta e fagioli

TWO: STRUCTURE, or how the wine ‘feels’ in the mouth. This gets into the real ‘science’ of food pairing, and includes acidity, sweetness, weight (or body), tannins.

  • Acidity in food should be matched in the wine.
  • Acidity can cut through lighter, fatty dishes like salmon, cream sauces or pork tenderloin.
  • A wine should be as sweet or sweeter than the food (and by this I mean sugar, not fruitiness).
  • Off-dry or sweeter wines pair great with spicy foods.
  • Match weightier dishes with weightier wines (and vice versa).
  • Or don’t. Contrast a weighty dish with a lighter wine (or bubbles), just make sure the wine is intensely flavored if you do.
  • Tannins require meat.
  • Avoid tannic wines when eating salty or spicy foods.

THREE: FLAVORS (which are really aromas). This is the most subjective of the three guidelines, but one can get more creative here!

  • Contrast your flavors (Sweet and sour, salty and sweet, savory and sweet)
  • Or don’t. Match them: Echo a flavor in the food: a peppery note with a spicy wine.
  • One of my favorites: pairing with cilantro? Pick a wine that has lime and citrus notes in it … delicious.

I will actually be putting this all to practice for members of the distinguished Lotos Club tomorrow evening … stay tuned for the menu and what worked.

Ligurian feast