Over the past year of this column’s publication, I have discussed many food and wine pairings that are based on traditions and benchmarks within their respective culture. Today, I would like to open your eyes to what these traditions and benchmarks are based upon, and how you can easily walk into a wine merchant’s store and pick out a bottle of wine that suits your needs.
Years ago, the idea of wine with food was that you had to drink red wines with red meat, and white wines with seafood and poultry. This couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to proper food and wine pairing. The stigma of this matter is that many people still follow these skewed guidelines, and are simply missing out on a world of fabulous food and wine pairings.
First, let’s consider white wines. They do indeed pair beautifully with seafood and poultry, along with a number of red meats as well. Take white Burgundy for example. The wine is generally made from mostly Chardonnay, and spends some time in oak casks (with the exception of Chablis, which is usually fermented in stainless steel vats), giving it a complexity to stand up to red meat. Not just any red meat though. A fat laden ribeye steak from a mature cow would overpower a white Burgundy, but a cut from the tenderloin or eye round would be just fine, and quite pleasurable. This is due to the minimal amount of intramuscular fat, which makes the latter cuts of meat less powerful, and a good pair with white Burgundy.
Here’s the philosophy … white Burgundy in good vintages produces an ample amount of acidity, and along with the extraction of tannins from both the grape skins and oak casks, the wine will have enough body to stand up to red meat. The same goes for many other white varietals, such as Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc fermented in oak casks, white Rioja, and white Rhone wines. The key to these wines to be able to be paired with heavier foods is the fermentation in oak casks. Take a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc that has been fermented in stainless steel vats and try to pair it with any red meat; it just wouldn’t work. There are a few exceptions, which are the semi-dry white wines of Alsace and Germany, such as Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, and Gew