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A guide to pairing food and wine
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A guide to pairing food and wine

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During these times of COVID-19, I hope this finds you safe and healthy. There are some incredible restaurants offering takeout in our communities. I thought it would be nice to share some food and wine pairing tips to help you navigate your selections.

How do I pair food and wine together?

While we always encourage you to drink what you like, when it comes to enjoying wine and food together the big thing you want to do is avoid disaster. Generally speaking, do your best to do the following:

Match the weight of the wine to the weight of the food: This will help prevent you from worrying if you should follow the old standard of having a red wine with red meat or white wines with fish when you prefer to drink something else. By working with the weight of food, this is why an oaked Chardonnay can be just fine with a pan-seared steak, and a Beaujolais can taste great with a delicate white fish. The body and mouthfeel of a wine should be in alignment with the food first and foremost.

Avoid tannic, high-alcohol red wines with spicy foods: Wines made from grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, or Nebbiolo will only amplify the heat and make for an unpleasant experience on your palate. Unoaked white wines with noticeable acid like Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc will complement spicy cuisines (think of what limes do for salsa), while the touch of sweetness from an off-dry Riesling or powerful exotic fruitiness of a Gewurztraminer will provide contrast.

Your wine should be sweeter than your dessert: Our obsession with dry wines means that we tend to overlook sweet wines when the moment calls for it. If your wine does not have the right amount of residual sugar to stand up to the dessert you are enjoying, the wine will taste harsh and thin. Sweet red wines will work with deeper flavors, while sweet whites marry with delicate fruity desserts. Try Ruby Port with a chocolaty dessert, or an aged Tawny Port with a caramel-based dessert. An ice wine or a Tokaj from Hungary is tremendous with a fruit tart. We also recommend getting adventurous by pouring a little PX Sherry over vanilla ice cream ... you will be glad you did!

Match regional cuisines to wines: It may seem like too easy of a solution, but the truth is that food and wine from designated regions were meant to go together. Argentina’s affinity for flame-grilled beef calls for the plush texture and fruitiness of its star grape of Malbec (the same can be said for an alfresco barbecue in California with Zinfandel). The coastal French region of Muscadet is an easy partner with oysters. A Pacific Northwest salmon and Oregon Pinot Noir is a magical pairing. You might also think a sauerbraten would overpower a German Riesling, but grab a Kabinett Riesling and watch how the flavors work together!

Think pink with fresh herbs and vegetables:These types of foods can be tricky when featured in a dish. Green veggies can make red wines harsh while white wines can get lost in the strength of certain herbs or bitter greens. Look toward some rose wines which will give you the requisite fruitiness and acidity needed to bring these foods together. If a salad with dressing is involved, try a Spanish rose made from Garnacha that will provide additional texture to offset the vinegar and sharpness of a salad dressing.

Once again, continued health and safety to you and your families during this time.

With gratitude,

Michael Bray


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