Unfortunately, when it comes to matching wine and food, there are a few foods that belong on the less glamorous list of misfits – foods notorious for awkward encounters with wine.
It isn’t that these foods don’t play well with others. Its more that they’re looking for a very specific set of characteristics in a mate.
Foods containing a lot of salt have a tendency to accentuate the taste of alcohol in wine. The salt can be from table salt or other ingredients such as soy sauce or anchovies. Because of their high acidity Champagne and sparkling wines can take on the saltiness in most foods. No need to look further to validate this rule than the classic pairing of Champagne and caviar.
- NV Sumarroca Brut Cava, Spain (about $17 retail)
- NV Pierre Peters Blanc de Blanc Champagne, France (about $56 retail)
Spicy foods tend to overpower the wine, often leading to people opting for beer. Beer is a popular match for these dueling dishes because it works to put the fire out on some of the hot spice. But wines such as Gewurztraminer and off-dry Rieslings offer cooling fresh acidity that doesn’t wither in the heat.
- 2011 Wente Vineyards Riverbank Riesling, California (about $13 retail)
- 2011 Snoqualmie Naked Riesling, Washington (about $15 retail)
Salads get a bad rap when it comes to wine pairing. Most likely the blame lies not with the salad but with the vinegar-based dressing. The traditional rule for fine dining was to not serve a salad with wine if the dressing contained vinegar or citrus. But if the salad is dressed with a simple drizzle of olive oil or a light vinaigrette, pairings are possible. To be safe, steer clear of heavy vinaigrettes.
- 2011 Cellar No. 8 Chardonnay, California (about $12 retail)
- 2011 Frey Vineyards Chardonnay, California (about $18 retail)
Ice cream and sorbet present special challenges, as almost any food that numbs your mouth will impair the taste of wine. On this pairing it is generally recommended that you will create a better match by pouring the wine on top of the ice cream. Because this is such a tricky pairing, Im offering only one suggestion.
- 2010 Osborne Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Spain (about $25 retail)