Maybe the proudest day of my wine-fan life was when I took a bottle of dry gewürztraminer to a pig roast and was stunned to receive a round of applause.
The honeysuckle aromas, the tart flavors of grapefruit and lychee, and 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, white with white, sweet with spice — were transcended in a glorious epiphany.
Wine fans tend to be foodies as well, so it makes our day/week/year when we come across — by studied inspiration or simple accident — that perfect pairing of food and wine.
This is all supremely subjective, in my mind. My philosophy is you should drink what you like, never minding the so-called rules. But I also love to hear other wine fans’ peak food-wine matching moments, so I can try them for myself.
So here are some of my favorite food-wine pairings, in no particular order. I want to see if you can top them.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Raw oysters with bone-dry white wine. They say it was a brave woman or man who first pried open an oyster 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.
4. Spicy Thai curry with succulent 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.
5. 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).
6. 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.
7. Cheeseburgers with malbec. The cheeseburger, in all its humble richness, 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.
8. Macaroni and 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, letting even more of the pasta slide down the hatch.
9. Whitefish en papillote with pinot gris. 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.
What are your favorite food-wine pairings? Email them to me and I will share with others.
▪ 2012 Dry Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, California (88 percent cabernet sauvignon, 4 percent petit verdot, 3 percent malbec, 3 percent merlot, 2 percent cabernet franc): aromas of flowers and spice, flavors of cassis and mocha, full-bodied, powerful, ripe tannins, long finish; $25.
▪ 2014 Kim Crawford Pinot Gris, Marlborough, New Zealand (100 percent pinot gris): light, crisp and delicate, with aromas and flavors of golden apples, tangerines and spice; $19.
▪ 2014 “Essensia,” Orange Muscat Sweet Dessert Wine, by Andrew Quady, Madera, California (orange muscat): orange blossom aromas and flavors, spicy and sweet, full-bodied; $22.
▪ 2012 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG (100 percent sangiovese): deep ruby hue, aromas and flavors of black raspberries, spice and earth, resolved tannins, long finish; $15.
▪ 2012 Korbel “Natural Champagne,” Russian River Valley, California (pinot noir, chardonnay): light and dry, with lots of tiny bubbles, aromas and flavors of lemons and limes; $15.
▪ 2014 Starborough Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand (100 percent sauvignon blanc): light, bright and crisp, with aromas and flavors of grapefruit and fresh-cut grass; $15.
▪ 2013 Trapiche “Broquel” Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (100 percent malbec): dark violet hue, aromas and flavors of black plums, espresso and minerals, lush fruit; $18.
▪ 2014 Wild Horse Viognier, Central Coast, California (85 percent viognier, 15 percent grenache blanc): lush and rich and fruity, with aromas and flavors of ripe apricots and minerals; $17.
▪ 2013 Vecchia Modena “Premium,” Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC, by Cleto Chiarli e Figli, Emilia Romagna (100 percent lambrusco): lightly sweet, lightly fizzy, with aromas and flavors of strawberries and raspberries; $15.
Fred Tasker: email@example.com