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Pair foods and wines easily with a few tweaks

Pair foods and wines easily with a few tweaks

One of my favorite opportunities is teaching others about wine. In the past few weeks our wine and food pairing classes have given me reason to revisit some common dilemmas people seem to have when choosing a food and wine combination.

Despite what some think, we generally don’t need to fuss over what wine to serve with a certain food. This can be one of the most trouble-free parts of a dining experience. There’s no need to mix, heat, bake, chop or even select a serving piece. There’s no preparation time or even cleanup. All you need to do is pull the cork, pour a glass and enjoy.

It should be reassuring to know there are very few such parings that create catastrophic and unpalatable mistakes. And even those few foods traditionally considered difficult to serve with wine can be easily adjusted to find a winning match. Here are a few:

  • Runny egg yolks — When I wrote a column about this 10 years ago I did not consider pairing wine with a runny egg yolk to be a common dilemma. But, with many cooks adding egg-topped dishes to their menus it has become a common question. Just yolk and wine on their own will likely be an unpalatable match. The coating of runny egg yolk on the palate paired with the wine’s acidity and tannins is disastrous. It’s the other flavors of the dish that will make this pairing work. Consider a sparkling wine or light-bodied white wine.
  • Artichokes — The old rules tell us this vegetable has no place with wine. The culprit is a substance in artichokes called cyanine that can make wine taste sweet or metallic. You can overcome this by dressing the artichoke with either lemon vinaigrette or squeezing fresh lemon juice over the top. This allows one to match the vegetable with either a rustic earthy white or a young crisp white. Avoid red wines, which can bring out a strong metallic taste in the artichoke.
  • Vinegar — The smell and taste of vinegar in wine is considered a fault so one would not want to enhance that flavor. If vinegar is mixed with olive oil, it will not have much of a conflict with the wine.
  • Oily Fish — Oily fishes such as smoked and nonsmoked mackerel are not off limits for wines but need to be paired with fairly neutral white wines. These wines do not compete with the oily texture and flavor of the fish.


  • 2017 Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio, Italy (about $12 retail)


  • 2016 A to Z Pinot Gris, Oregon (about $17 retail)
Let guests choose from several wines

Let guests choose from several wines

Thanksgiving is one of the holidays for which I usually spend a great deal of time selecting the wines. The holiday offers a plethora of food choices, which makes wine selection the ultimate challenge. It has to please everyone and fit with everything at a traditional turkey dinner.

This year I am embracing an idea I was given many years ago by a fellow wine writer: After 25 years of attempting to be the hero at the family Thanksgiving dinner with the perfect pairing, he finally got smart and started leaving the choice to the guests.

This Thanksgiving I’m offering my family and friends an opportunity to appease their palates on their own. Rather than selecting the wines for each guest before the meal, I will place several different wines on the table, each a good pairing option in different styles and colors. And let my guests try the wines based on their preference, with the opportunity to explore different foods and flavors.

If you worry that certain wines will be emptied first, buy several backup bottles but have fun and make it casual declaring the first bottle emptied to be the best pairing of the meal. Also, don’t be concerned with passing a bottle around the table. Since most of us already pass around the food casually on Thanksgiving, why not pass the wine?

With this idea in mind, I have selected wines that are confirmed matches with the array of flavors from turkey and cranberry sauce to sweet potatoes.

Dry white wines with refreshing acidity — sauvignon blanc, dry Riesling, pinot gris, chardonnay, chenin blanc, viognier and albarino — are ideal to pair with almost any menu item.

Off-dry wines such as Gewurztraminer and Off Dry Riesling as good options as well. But avoid wines with cloying sweetness.

For a Thanksgiving food friendly red, pick one low in tannins to not overwhelm the array of flavors. Pinot noir, gamay and merlot are good bets.


  • 2015 Cline Viognier, California (about $14 retail)
  • 2015 Charles and Charles Riesling, Washington (about $15 retail)
  • 20115 Louis Jadot Beaujolais Village Gamay, France (about $16 retail)


  • 2015¬†Stoller Dundee Hills Chardonnay, Oregon (about $22 retail)
  • 2013 Hugel Gewurztraminer, France (about $29 retail)
  • 2015 Anne Amie Cuvee A Pinot Noir, Oregon (about $25 retail)