Matchmaking becomes a great pleasure when its object is a marriage between food and wine! Once complementary flavors are brought together, the two combine and become infinitely more delicious than either could provide alone. I have put together a simple guide to help you get prepared for the Holiday festivities or simply learn more about pairing wine with food. My intention is to follow this up with some great simple recipes you can easily create in your own kitchen.
Traditionally, certain wines accompany certain dishes—Chablis and oysters go together like bread and butter, dry white wines taste best before red ones, the great ones taste better when they follow lesser ones of similar type; sweet wines are not at all good with meat, sausages go great with young Beaujolais or Sangiovese.
To offer wine is the most charming gesture of hospitality. The types of wine you serve will vary depending upon the occasion, the meal you plan to serve, the location and time of year. A light Rose` which goes so well with a sandwich on a warm day would be out of place with a big steak on a cold winter’s night.
Some foods clash resoundingly with some wines: curry will kill a Cabernet; but a white wine with a distinctive flavor (a Viognier, for example) can hold its own against the spicy taste. So can a Syrah with its distinctive taste, balance curry and other highly spiced dishes.
Dry white wines are generally associated with seafood, so are Champagne, Reisling and Muscadet. They also pair very well with shell fish, and chicken. As a general rule, it should be remembered that dry white wines are light and delicate in flavor and should be accompanied by food in the category. Rich heavy dishes will usually overpower them.
Sweet wines are delicious with sweet fruits and puddings, however, should be avoided at the start of a meal because the sugary content kills the taste buds and spoils the appetite.
Red wines are almost exclusively dry and range from lightness to full-bodied each with its own distinctive taste derived from differences in “terroir” and grape variety. The heavier the food, the heavier the wine you will want to drink. Fowl, veal and other light meats are excellent with light red wines but full-bodied reds such as Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon need heartier company like game and rich pasta sauce. Red wine is often served with cheese, but it should be mild cheese, especially if the wine is aged and delicate. Cheese can kill wine just as easily as vinegar!
There are endless combinations of food and wine, and you should try to discover some for yourself, but if you follow these simple rules you can avoid unnecessary mistakes:
Dry white wines taste best before red, and red wines are better when they are served after others of the same type but lesser quality. Generally, you will serve more than one red wine with a fine meal. In this case, stick to wine of one region, for example Bordeaux after Bordeaux, Burgundy after Burgundy, rather than mixing the two. Serve the younger wine or lesser wine first followed by the greater or aged wine. With wines of the same age, serve the lesser first.
Certain foods and flavors simply do not harmonize with wine. Salty foods such as anchovies and vinegary salad dressings are deadly to all wines and should not be served with them. Also, onions, garlic and mustard have a regrettable effect!
Here is a great recipe for the Holidays which is easy and never fails!
Cedar Creek Viognier & Dungeness Crab Chowder- Viognier is a rare white varietal well-known for producing wines with distinct floral aromas and assertive stone fruit flavors like Apricot, Peach and Pear. It is a luxurious wine with lemony acidity that is a perfect counterpoint to the sweet and salty crab and bacon in this dish.
This recipe can be made a day or several days ahead, only gets better, reserve 1 lb crab meat and 1 cup heavy cream (optional) to be added when you are ready to serve! This is a variation of a recipe I tried from Chef Greg Higgins in Portland Oregon, and tastes like a 5-star restaurant every time! I have made with or without the cream and it tastes great both ways.
In a large saucepan, saute ½ cup diced bacon, 3 TB spoons minced garlic, 3 TB spoons minced shallots, 1 tsp grated lemon zest, and 1 tsp chili garlic sauce or Sambal oelek (found in any grocery store Asian food section) in ¼ cup olive oil or butter for approximately 7 minutes over medium heat.
Gradually add ¼ cup all-purpose flour, stirring well, then 1 bottle Cedar Creek Ranch & Vineyards 2016 Viognier. Cover and bring to a low boil. Add 3 cups peeled and ¼ inch diced Yukon Gold potatoes and 2 cups ½ inch diced, very well cleaned leeks, and continue cooking at a low simmer, stirring occasionally until potatoes and leeks are tender, approximately 20-25 minutes. Season the chowder to taste with salt and pepper, whisk in the heavy cream, fold in the Dungeness Crab Meat and serve in shallow bowls. Serves 6.