Matching Food and Wine 3 Simple Rules

Matching Food and Wine 3 Simple Rules

There are reams of articles and book meticulously preaching the art of matching food with the right wine. I’ve read most of them but at the end of the day these three simple strategies work for me.

1.Match the wine with the country and the region it came from.

With hundreds of years of tradition-how can you go wrong?

A meaty tomato based pizza?-Sicilian Red…

A fatty grilled Ribeye?-Californian Cabernet or Zinfandel…..

Weiner Schnitzel?-an Austrian Gruner Veltliner or Reisling

Warm Goat’s cheese salad?-a steely Sancerre from the Loire.

2.Determine what the strongest flavour element is in the dish and either Attempt to match it or contrast it.

Whatever the recipe-meat, poultry or fish it is the sauce or marinade that you are actually trying to complement. Big flavours demand big reds

Delicate flavours call for lighter whites

3.For dishes with Spicy and Complex Flavours :

(Thai, Szechuan, Curries etc.) If there is not an accompanying wine culture that is a part of a culinary tradition I say “let it go”- that belies a simple truth- wine isn’t perhaps an appropriate beverage partner for that style of cuisine. Often “off dry” Rieslings, Viognier or Gewurztraminer are the standard wine recommendations to pair with these more exotic flavours. 

But I find that they are a bit of an arranged marriage. 

Try these matches: with Japanese Food - Sake with Serious Curry-Beer- 

or Lassi-(a non-alcoholic yogurt based beverage) (alcohol doesn’t really work with Curries) with Chinese/ Asian dishes-Beer preferably Toboggan.

Barbecue ( Grilled Meat Fish or Chicken) a chilled Beaujolais or Gamay.

McManis Cabernet WTF

McManis Cabernet WTF

It is time to address the Elephant in the room. McManis California Cabernet.

Woe to the restaurant in London Ontario who dares to omit this beast of a wine from their wine list. So …What’s The Fuss? McManis Cabernet is like a big lollipop. Without getting too carried away with that sucker analogy…as Woody Allen once said (after running away with his adopted daughter) “the heart wants what it wants” and London wants McManis.

Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Bordeaux where it is usually mixed with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. These grapes are fermented separately and blended after every harvest to create some of the most expensive and brilliant red wines in the world. The wines are taunt, supple, complex and very expensive. Sometimes they take decades to reach their peak. The terroirs (soil and climate) of Bordeaux and California are like night and day.  California has a much warmer climate which produces riper grapes whose bigger sugar counts (brix) produce bigger alcohol levels and more explosive wines. McManis therefore is a prime example of a voluptuous, more fruit driven wine-and therefore a real crowd pleaser- especially to those who have an adolescent palate. At the end of the day though if McManis turns your crank all the more power to you….at least you are drinking and enjoying decent wine. 

We all like to laugh….some like slapstick…some like satire.

Interesting though, these days, many winemakers in Napa are attempting to dial it down and capture the essence and character of Bordeaux Cabernet blends. And there is also a parallel push by many young winemakers in Bordeaux to adopt a more American style. If you would like to experience this attempt at a meeting in the middle try this excellent wine for roughly the same price as 

McManis Cabernet Sauvignon 

Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon LCBO # 468157

 It is a well-structured fragrant red from Sonoma. Ripe cassis, and black cherry, dark chocolate with a dried fruit finish.

 

Vermentino

Vermentino

Branu Vermentino di Gallura

Vur-Men-Teeno

Well, this may be the new “it” grape folks”. There has been a buzz about this Mediterranean variety for some time but I have not been successful in finding a sample that lived up to the advance hype until now. Branu comes from Gallura a northern province of Sardinia. Gallura is also renowned for its cork production so you are not going to find a screwcap on these bottles. It is a lovely white on the light side-recalling flavours of pears, peaches, lime, and citrus with a clean mineral finish. This floral white with a hint of roasted almonds is most similar to Sauvignon Blanc and surprisingly tastes a lot like a gin and tonic. In France (where as Steve Martin once said “they have a different word for everything”) Vermentino is called Rolle. Rolle is an important component of many of the best Rose wines in the south of France. Vermentino does not deliver a blockbuster kind of experience but for me the wine tastes like where it comes from-a crisp lively white from close to the sea. And not surprisingly it pairs best with fresh seafood. Vintages at the LCBO # 455246   $21.95.

My House White

My House White

I am often asked what I drink at home.

What’s my value driven everyday sip at the end of a challenging day ?

A Chardonnay…Pinot Grigio…. Riesling -love them all but the bottle I keep coming back to is my beloved French white Cotes du Rhone blend from Guigal. The blend of grapes varies from vintage to vintage but the wine is always an exotic treat. The mainstay grape varieties for white wines from the Rhone are in the mix (Grenache, Marsanne and Roussanne.) But a whopping 65% of the blend comes from Viognier.

(That’s like discovering your jar of “deluxe mixed nuts” purchase contains 65% cashews)

The wine itself tastes like pears, tangerines, apricots and orange blossoms. It finishes though with a crisp extra dry mineral finish.

I would match it with glazed ham, sticky ribs and even a mild chicken curry or Pad Thai.

It’s a Vintages Essential LCBO # 290296. $19.95

It is not dirt cheap but it delivers a unique complex and sophisticated taste experience.

A Spring Gem from the Loire Valley

A Spring Gem from the Loire Valley

If this Blog were to have a Mission Statement (well it does now) it would be to share little wine discoveries past and present. Sometimes when you veer off the beaten path of your wine comfort zone you find a little gem. Safe to say when we think of the classic wine regions of France Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Cotes du Rhone are foremost in our thoughts. But the unofficial Vin de Pays wines that French consumers are drawn to say in the bistros of Paris are more than likely to come from the Loire Valley. Why? Because the Loire is home to some of France’s best well-made value wines red and white. Yes the Loire is renowned for some iconic whites that are on the expensive side such as (Sancerre, Pouilly Fume-made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes and Savenierres made from Chenin Blanc grapes. For the value conscious consumer look for reds from Bourgueil and Chinon-made from Cabernet Franc grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon’s more visceral cousin).

But the bottle that kick started this piece was at terrific little wine from a sub region of a sub region in the Loire called Saumur. It is made from Chenin Blanc grapes and has lovely nuances of quince, chamomile, honey, cream and citrus.

Nice fruit with a crisp dry finish.

It is called Moulins de Turquant about $18.00 in the Vintages section of the LCBO. It’s a real authentic taste of France from an off the beaten path part of France.

 

Zinfandel

Zinfandel

This piece was inspired by an amusing interchange in the bar last night.

Two ladies were teasing one of my line cooks who was enjoying a glass of white Zinfandel after work. I felt compelled to come to his defence.

And consequently I heard myself giving everyone around the bar an impromptu “Zinfandel lesson.”

Zinfandel up until 1998 was the most widely planted grape variety in California. Zinfandel is a red grape which if you ferment it briefly (2 or 3 days) produces a pink, fruity wine. If the fermentation is short the pigmentation from the skins is minimal and the sugar from the pulp is not totally converted to alcohol. In the past decades Zinfandel vinified to its full potential has become a serious full bodied red –a powerful rival to the grape (Cabernet Sauvignon) that overtook it in overall plantings in the Golden State. Zinfandel is a formidable wine-redolent of blackberries, anise, peppers with a distinctive raisiny finish.

In the late 90’s oenologists at Berkley confirmed what many winemakers had suspected for decades. Zinfandel was actually a clone of a grape variety that originated in “the Boot” of southern Italy (Apulia). Many of California’s pioneering winemakers 

(Gallo, Mondavi, Sebastiani for example) 

were of Italian descent….so the mystery of how “Primitivo” vine stocks from half way around the world ended up beingrenamed Zinfandel and planted in the rolling hills of California was in fact …

No mystery at all.

We carry Beringer white Zinfandel

An esteemed label and a great product. (So there ladies!)

Riesling in Winter

 

So last week I picked up a bottle of Riesling from Alsace in Northern France.

It was from a good house (Willm)-no relation and it was on special for less than $15.

Riesling is made in a wide gamut of styles –from excruciatingly sweet (Ice Wine) to bone dry (Alsace).In the middle, you will find off-dry fruity incarnations most famously represented by wines made along the Rhine and Moselle rivers in Germany.

Many of us in our university days kicked off our wine drinking history with accessible sweetish wines such as Black Tower and Liebfraumilch

Niagara has some great Rieslings as well. Here at Fellini's we carry a terrific off-dry version from Angel’s Gate. Niagara’s Cave Spring Cellars makes a superb “Alsatian style” version called Dolomite. These wines have a full bodied viscosity similar to a barrel-aged cool climate chardonnay. There is a pear and petrol perfume on the nose which is strangely intoxicating.

Alsatian Riesling pairs nicely with the regions’ most iconic dish-Choucroute Garnie. Over the centuries Alsace was off and on a part of Germany and this dish (composed of various sausages, potatoes and rich juicy cuts of pork on a bed of sauerkraut) has strong German roots. Here’s a delicious shortcut version of how to make it!

 

http://www.presidentschoice.ca/en_CA/videos/videolisting/choucroute-garnie.html

Viognier

Fellini's Wine

It is a sign of the times when an obscure grape variety like Viognier can attract global attention from winemakers and savvy wine drinkers.This esoteric grape is grown in a tiny parcel of vineyards in the Northern Rhone Valley just south of Burgundy. I tasted the two most famous labels from the region during my travels as a young man. I swear I can still recall the intense notes of peaches, mangoes and apricots followed by a distinctive racy minerality.

Viognier’s most famous French labels are Condrieu and Chateau Grillet.These wines were very expensive 40 years ago and remain a pricey purchase to this day- but entirely worth it. ($60.00)Remarkably for an idiosyncratic grape its distinctive flavour profile transfers famously to the terroirs of other countries.

The wine just becomes more voluptuous in warmer growing regions.Californian Viogniers (Calera or Fess Parker) are terrific at $25. Viognier from Australia and Chile offer stellar offerings in the $15 range At Fellinis we offer the Cono Sur Brand from Chile.Viognier like Riesling and Gewurztraminer is an excellent choice to pair with spicy Indian or Chinese Cuisine.