Food and Wine Pairing

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Posted by: Wizzle

There 7 really food-friendly wines. Almost any meal you're making can be well complemented by one of these.


   * Riesling
   * Chenin Blanc
   * Sauvignon Blanc
   * Cabernet Franc
   * Pinot Noir
   * Barbera
   * Gamay


Riesling is a grape of German origin. It's now made in many places. The best Rieslings to come from North America seem to come from Canada and the Northern US. Riesling actually flourishes in colder temperatures. Most people think of Riesling as a sweet wine, but it actually can range anywhere on the spectrum from bone-dry to a dessert wine.

German Rieslings are rated on a scale of dryness. The driest wines are called Kabinett and move up through Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trokenbeerenauslese and to Eiswein (Ice Wine). Alcasian (France) reislings are typically dry.

Choose Riesling to go with a dish that has high acidity. Choose a sweeter version for a spicer meal. Riesling is probably the most versatile wine as it will pair with nearly any dish. Try it with seafood, chicken, pork, vegetable dishes and even some beef dishes. I wouldn't go so far as to pair it with a steak, though.

Chenin Blanc is a grape that comes from the Loire Valley in France. It, like all wines, has found its way in to other parts of the world, but no one does it like French. The kicker is, the French Chenin Blancs are the same price as ones from California.

Chenin is often referred to as Vouvray (the part of Loire valley where it is grown). Accompanied by the word "Sec" means a very dry wine. Demi-Sec is somewhat dry. There are some very sweet Chenin Blancs as well, but I don't know what they are called. Chenin blanc also has a sparkling variety that's most often very dry.

The most amazing food pairing is Chenin Blanc with salmon. The acidity in the wine with the fat in the salmon makes for a culinary orgasm. Drier varities pair up nicely with salads and shellfish. Sweeter, again, with spicy and or salty dishes and fruit.

Sauvignon Blanc is another French wine. It is the primary white wine grown in Bordeaux. It is also very popular in California and there are some growers that actually do it justice. The trick to finding a good Sauv Blanc is finding a grower that uses little or no oak. A steel-aged white wine is so much more palletable than the flabby, oaky and typically more expensive barrel-aged wines. Also try Sauvs from New Zealand.

Pair this wine with shellfish. It's dry and herbacious. Think of it like a wedge of lemon with your seafood. Its acidty is also great with fried foods.

Cabernet Franc is probably my favorite red variety. It comes from France and is the parent grape to the popular Cabernet Sauvignon. It differs from Cabernet Sauvignon in that it is leafy and vegital while still maintaining a tanic grip. It lacks the huge fruit power of Cabernet Sauvignon, which for food is a good thing. Cab Franc is grown in the Loire Valley in regions like Chinon. It is also grown in Bordeaux as a blending grape because of its ability to add structure and complexity to Cabernet Sauvignon. Some places in Napa grow it as well, but most of it is too powerful or is over oaked to be enjoyed with food.

Cab Franc is sometimes made as a Rose which is a red wine fermented without the skins. It's pink but is most certainly not White Zinfandel which really isn't even wine. Don't shy away from pink wine if you know what it is. It doesn't make you gay.

Pair it with meat dishes that have an herbal component to them, such as braised lamb. It's one of only a few reds that will pair with salmon, provided your recipe makes good use of herbs and black pepper. If you get anything at all from this post, please learn how to love Cab Franc.

Made famous in the movie Sideways, Pinot Noir is one of the oldest cultivated varietals of grape. Its home is Burgundy in France where it is the sole red grape grown. Pinots are also being grown in California and New Zealand.

Pinot is characterized by its light fruit, floral nose and complex mid-palate. It should have a spicy character to it like cinnamon or allspice, but that should in no way compete with the rest of the wine.

A heavy pinot pairs well with duck, goose and gamey meats. It also works well with roasted meats like beef tenderloin. Lighter styles can actually pair with fish and poultry, but avoid shellfish. All red wine has tanin which, when combined with the minerality in shellfish, produces a nasty effect in your mouth.

Barbera is an Italian varietal grown in Piedmont. It's grown in California as well, but rarely finds its way into anything worth putting on the table.

Barbera stands out among red wines because of its amazingly high acidity, and this is why it is a winner in the food-pairing arena. Barbera has the unique property of being able to stand up to pairings with tomato sauce. I reccomend Barbara to go with your Italian dishes including sausage and meatballs. For a wholly interesting experience, pair it with a heavy cream sauce.

Gamay is the last on my list. Gamay is a strange grape and not very common. It is what Beaujolais is made from. Of course, it is also what Beaujolais Nouveau is made from and that should be avoided. Beaujolais Nouveau is a quick-ferment method using carbonic acid which produces a bland, character-less wine. It is targeted for the American audience for the Thanksgiving celebration. Don't bother.

Now cru-Beaujolais is another story. The gamay grape is a soft, acidic and light red. It is considered the most versitile red wine as it can pair with nearly anything at all. It can even be paired with quiche and omlets. Try it with a sandwich or a salad. And certainly have a glass or 2 with dinner.


Most of the information in this litle article I got from drinking an ass-load of wine. But some of the more technical parts I got from a book called "The Wine Avenger". It's a great book, not pretentious and describes ways to find great wines at great prices and dispells a great many myths surrounding wine. I highly recommend it if you have any interest at all in wine.