Maybe the proudest day of my wine fan life was when I took a bottle of dry gewurztraminer to a pig roast and was stunned to receive a round of applause.
The honeysuckle aromas, the tart flavors of grapefruit and lychee, the alcoholic heft interacted perfectly with the sweet fatness of the pork to create a whole that was gloriously greater than the sum of its parts.
You’ve been there, right? You can close your eyes and picture that moment – in a restaurant, at your dining room table, around your barbecue grill – when it all came together and you achieved a little moment of nirvana. The usual rules – red wine with red meat, etc. – were transcended in a glorious epiphany.
My philosophy is you should drink what you like. But I also love to hear other wine fans’ peak food/wine matching moments, so I can try them for myself.
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So here are some of my favorite food/wine pairings, in no particular order.
▪ Brie with white dessert wine. The sweetness and crisp acids of the wine are great with the creamy, salty cheese. It can be a wallet-busting French sauternes blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon or a more moderate California orange muscat. Pure decadence.
▪ Fried chicken with sparkling wine. This might seem to be a Princess-and-the-Pauper juxtaposition. But the wine’s scrubbing bubbles deftly scour the chicken’s fat from your palate, refreshing it for the next bite. It doesn’t have to be expensive. A Spanish cava or Italian prosecco will do fine.
▪ Raw oysters and bone dry white wine. They say it was a brave woman or man who first pried one open and slurped it. And it was a wise one who first paired the briny morsel with a light, dry, puckery white wine such as a French muscadet or a New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Slurp, smile, repeat.
▪ Spicy Thai curry with succulent white viognier. My favorite Thai dish is chicken with spicy red curry paste, ginger, lemongrass and creamy coconut milk. With it I like the lush, low-acid honeysuckle and peach flavors of viognier. The spicier the better.
▪ Grilled New York strip steak with a muscular California cabernet sauvignon. The fat in a well-marbled steak is cut by the puckery tannins, astringent acids and high alcohol of the wine. It’ll put hair on your chest (yes, yours, too).
▪ Wild boar with Chianti classico. This was a peak culinary moment of my life. In Italy’s Tuscany region, hunters stalk wild boars to stop them from rooting out valuable crops. They roast them and serve them with robust, spicy, black raspberry flavored Chianti classico, based on the sangiovese grape. In South Florida, boars are hunted in the Everglades.
▪ Cheeseburgers with malbec. The cheeseburger is the quintessential American casual meal served around that other American institution, the backyard grill. A lush malbec, loaded with black cherry and dark chocolate flavors, brings out the best in the cheddar-topped meat. Even better with grilled onions.
▪ Macaroni ’n’ cheese with Italian lambrusco. Mac ’n’ cheese is the ultimate comfort food. So rich and creamy you hardly need to chew. With it I like the lightly sweet, softly bubbly red Italian wine called lambrusco. Its bubbles cut through the creaminess.
▪ Whitefish en papillote. Delicate white fish topped with herbs and veggies, wrapped in foil or parchment paper and roasted, produces subtle flavors that are sublime with an equally delicate and perfumed pinot gris. Elegant dinner fare.