Once again, I hosted a wine tasting that was offered up as an auction item at Thing 1’s school. And since I’m not really cut out for the PTO, wine pairing it was! I’m seriously like a mad scientist when choosing the wines and pairing them with potential foods. The world of wine is vast and it is always more difficult than I anticipate choosing just 7 wines from 7 different countries and pair with 7 bites. I’ve tweaked the format a bit in each year as I offered budget-friendly wines the first time out, added in more moderately priced wines last year, and added a couple of splurges this time around. Who knows what next year will bring. But until then, here’s the 2018 edition.
Wine: Ridgeview Cavendish Brut Sparkling, England 2013 ($30)
Food: Truffle Parmesan Popcorn
Why the Pairing: Sparkling wine and salty, fatty foods is a match made in heaven. The acidity in the wine cuts through the fat and salt to act as a palate cleanser making you go back for more. This is why we love fried chicken and champagne.
FYI: If you hadn’t heard, England is now in the wine game. Its northern latitude means that it must produce cool-climate varieties such as Chardonnay & Pinot Noir. Many years ago, it would have been too cool to have (good) grape production there but given increasing global temps, the impossible is now possible. Much of the wine produced is sparkling, and many have begun to rival their neighbors in Champagne.
Wine: Mayu Pedro Ximenez, Elqui Valley, Chile 2015 ($14)
Food: Goat Cheese, Walnut & Honey Crostini
Why the Pairing: Unlike some versions, this PX has racy acidity, but it is also balanced by some floral and green fruit notes. The fatty acids in the goat cheese match the acidity in the wine with neither component overpowering the other. The honey acts to tone down the acidity in both but is also made to appear lighter by interacting with the acidity.
FYI: I first tried this at a wine tasting at the urging of one of the reps and I have been suggesting it to people ever since! Pedro Ximenez has long been used in the production of Sherry and Brandy but it is increasingly being used to make some nice still wines. Given that the grape is low acid, it takes a place like Chile, with the high altitude of the Andes to create one with a good amount of acid. The grapes for this one was grown at 6,320 ft. from 73-year-old vines.
Of all the pairings, this was definitely the crowd favorite. A wine pairing wine!
Wine: Pieropan Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy 2016 ($21)
Food: Arancini with Orange & Thyme Vinaigrette
Why the Pairing: Soave tends to be dry, zesty, and light-bodied much like a Sauvignon Blanc but with almond and tropical & stone fruit flavors. Because of its higher acidity and lower alcohol, it is one of the most food-friendly wines around. It’s hard to go wrong salads, seafood, fish, poultry, or light pastas. High acid white wines are great with fried food (remember our sparkling wine?) so arancini fits the bill. The rich risotto on its own also pairs nicely with Soave.
FYI: Soave is an Italian wine made primarily with the Garganega grape, though a bit of other permitted grapes may be blended in. This one is 85% Garganega & 15% Trebbiano. Garganega is an ancient variety and is considered one of the great white wines of Italy. This one is labeled “Classico” as the grapes are grown in the historic and prime area (in the hills) of the region. When looking for quality Soave, stick with Classico wines from respected producers such as Pieropan, Inama, or Gini.
Wine: Château La Clémence, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France 2005 ($90)
Food: Black Truffle & Mushroom Flatbread
Why the Pairing: Merlot is an easy paring wine partner since it falls in the middle of the red wine spectrum. It tends to be more fruit forward and “softer” and “fleshier” than Cabernet Sauvignon. Because of its profile, it can pair with a wide range of foods including lighter meat dishes. Right Bank Bordeaux exhibit more earthy flavors compared to other Merlot.
FYI: Pomerol is on the “Right Bank” of Bordeaux which emphasizes Merlot in its blends. Cabernet Franc is often a blending partner to these wines. I always say that if I can only have one wine “on the island,” I’ll take the wine of Pomerol (and/or St. Emilion). Given a score of 92 points by Robert Parker, this seriously rocked my world when I had it a couple of years ago. From a 2005 vintage, it’s still young with the earliest you should drink being 2012 all the way up to 2030. Pomerol is home to one of the most sought-after wines in the world – Chateau Petrus – which starts around $3,000 for futures and around $4,000 retail. I do accept gifts!
Wine: Schild Estate Moorooroo Shiraz, Barossa, Australia 2008 ($95)
Food: BBQ Ribs
Why the Pairing: Australian Shiraz is a big, bold, and lush full-bodied wine with intense ripe fruit. Such a bold wine will not be overpowered by the equally bold, smoky, and intense flavors of grilled, smoky meat.
FYI: So like just about everything else, Syrah (the old-world name) originated in France. It’s the powerhouse behind the wines of France’s Northern Rhone Valley. And that’s where the similarities end. While the Northern Rhone produces Syrah that is powerful, tannic, acidic, and earthy, Australian Shiraz typically brings bolder fruit and spice, as well as lower tannins and acid. Embraced as the national grape of Australia, Syrah/Shiraz was very much transformed into a new and unique style. The term “Shiraz” is used in hotter climates such as Australia and South Africa.
Wine: Blue Valley Petit Verdot, Virginia, USA 2015 ($40)
Food: Lamb Sliders with Feta, Red Onion, and Cumin Mayo
Why the Pairing: Like our friend Shiraz, Petit Verdot is big and bold in every way – alcohol, fruit, body, tannin, acidity – you name it. All that boldness needs some food with structure and rich flavor. The higher the tannin level in a wine, the more it can withstand foods with higher fat levels. Its why we like a marbled steak with Cabernet.
FYI: Blended into oblivion in Bordeaux (a tad bit added for color), Petit Verdot has started to come into its own in various places. In addition to CA and WA, the state of Virginia has really begun to embrace Petit Verdot as a varietal wine. Some can hit you in the face, but others can be downright ethereal. Oak aging helps soften the tannins and the tannins from this one was helped along by 16 months in oak.
Wine: Jackson-Triggs Reserve Vidal Icewine, Niagara, Canada 2014 ($23)
Food: Wine-Soaked Apricots & Pecans w/ Aged Parmesan-Reggiano & Toasted Almond Macaron
Why the Pairing: The acidity and minerality found in Icewine gives it the ability to pair with everything from fois gras to Asian food to crème brulée. Strong cheese such a blue or aged cheese can stand up to the wine’s intense flavors while salty foods provide a nice contrast to sweet.
FYI: I’m always sad when people tell me they don’t like “sweet wine.” French Sauternes and German Auslese or Beerenauslese Riesling are some of the most beloved and long-lived wines in the world. What sets these wines apart from other sweet wines is acid. The balance of sweetness and acidity is what prevents the wine from being cloying and syrupy and lends to depth of flavor and complexity. Icewine exhibits the same balance between sweetness and acidity. The wine is made by pressing grapes that were frozen on the vine which leads to juice that is quite concentrated with rich and intense flavors.
At the end of the day, you should drink what you enjoy, but it’s always fun when the wine and food bring out the best in each other. Because every so often, you get one of those truly sublime parings that makes it all worth the effort. And that makes for a wine pairing win.