With the proliferation of available
wines in recent years, it makes sense
to revisit the concept of wine and food
pairing. The best “food wines”—wheth-
er the liquid is dry or sweet; still or spar-
kling; white, pink, orange or red—share
certain characteristics:
n
Significant acidity
n
Tannin that is neither flabby
nor astringent (for reds)
n
Reasonable and integrated alcohol
n
Pure flavors
n
No to moderate oak use
These attributes render wines more
flexible with food pairings. Addition-
ally, these factors must work together.
Overall balance is a critical component.
Over-use of oak is the number one dis-
qualifier. A lavishly oaked Chardonnay
or Sangiovese may make for interest-
ing sipping, but often not for good food
matching.
Furthermore, some wine styles may
make good “food wines” but be fairly re-
stricted in their pairings. Amarone for
example, complements a raisiny des-
sert or a blue cheese, and that’s about it.
Muscadet works with seafood like oys-
ters, clams and sole. Period.
The wines detailed below, while not
exhaustive, represent some of the most
consistently successful “food wines,”
highlighting not only their key char-
acteristics, but also the rationale that
makes specific pairings work.
SPARKLING
Brut Champagne
(France)
Best Food Wine Style:
Light body,
marked acidity, fine persistent bubbles,
layers of complexity.
Aromas & Flavors:
Yellow apples, red
berries (when black grapes used), chalk,
brioche, toasted hazelnuts.
Top Food Matches:
Popcorn, baked
oysters, smoked salmon, caviar.
Reliable Brands:
Bollinger, Charles
Heidsieck, Krug, Taittinger.
Why This Works:
Ultimate “food wine,”
given the double, palate-cleansing ef-
fects of racy acidity and CO
2
.
Dry Lambrusco
(Emilia-Romagna, Italy)
Best Food Wine Style:
Purple-red in
color, medium- to full-bodied, refreshing
acidity, dry, faintly bitter, lightly tannic,
exuberant and medium-sized bubbles,
medium-low alcohol.
Aromas & Flavors:
Forest berries, violets,
pencil lead, roasted coffee beans.
I
t’s only natural: As long as people have had questions about wine,
people have had questions about what wines go with what foods.
Perhaps as an exercise in verbal shorthand, wine professionals have
come to define some wines as “food wines,” denoting that some types of
wine are more tailored to enhance food than others.
BY Christy Canterbury MW
What is a Good
‘FoodWine’
Anyway?
Photographs courtesy of Alsace
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