Monday, March 19, 2012


My long-time friend, Durella DeGrasse, is a certified wine professional and alumna of Central Washington University's World Wine Program. She’s a regular contributor to my website where she shares her knowledge and experience with the delicious wines of Washington state and other wine-growing regions of the world. Welcome to Book Blather, Durella

Pairing Wine with Food

When pairing food and wine, the goal is synergy and balance. The wine should not overpower the food, nor should the food overpower the wine. Food and wine pairing is achieved when the flavors and characteristics of both the food and the wine are enhanced, yet each preserves its fundamental integrity and character. And, sometimes we choose wines as much to match the mood as the food. Wine and food don't always have to be technically perfect together to be delicious anyway. Pairing food and wine together well doesn't require "a set of rules" as much as having good instincts. And good instincts can be acquired - drink lots of different kinds of wine with different kinds of dishes and pay attention to the principles that emerge.

  • Pair great with great, humble with humble. A hot turkey sandwich doesn't need a pricey merlot to accompany it. An expensive crown rib roast may just present the perfect moment for opening that powerful, opulent Yakima Valley syrah you've been saving.
  • Match delicate to delicate, robust to robust. A delicate Oregon pinot noir will end up tasting like water if you serve it with a dramatically spiced dish like curry. Dishes with bold, piquant, spicy and hot flavors are perfectly cut out for bold, spicy, big wines. Thus zinfandels are great with many Mexican dishes.
  • Decide if you want to mirror a given flavor or set up a contrast. Chardonnay with lobster in cream sauce is an example of mirroring - both are opulent, rich and creamy. The contrast that would be fascinating is Champagne, which is sleek, crisp and sharply tingling because of the bubbles.
  • Dishes with fruit in them or a fruit component to them - pork with sautéed applies, roasted chicken with apricot glaze, duck with figs - often pair beautifully with very fruit-driven wines that have super fruity aromas. Gewurztraminer, muscat, viognier, and riesling are in this camp.

  • Saltiness in food is a great contrast to acidity in wine - think of a high-acid German riesling with an Asian dish containing soy sauce. Saltiness is also a stunning contrast to sweetness. Try that Asian dish with a Washington riesling that's slightly sweet, and watch the food and the wine pull together in a new way.
  • A high-fat food, something with a lot of animal fat (grilled steak), usually calls out for an equally rich, intense, structured, and concentrated wine. Here's where a well-balanced red wine with tannin such as a good quality cabernet sauvignon or merlot works wonders.
  • With desserts, consider sweetness carefully. The dessert should not be sweeter than the wine. Think about pairing a not-too-sweet fruit or nut tart, with a fairly sweet wine.
These are some fairly simple principles, meant only as a guide. The real excitement is in the experimentation. Don't be afraid to do the unexpected. Wine aids in digestion and helps calm the mind and spirit!

Durella DeGrasseCertified Wine Professional

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