A huge mystique has grown up around the concept of the right wine with the right food. Pronouncements of inviolable rules abound, like “red wine with red meat, white wine with fish”, “the only feasible match for asparagus is sauvignon blanc” and “champagne goes with ice-cream”. However, I have never yet met such a generic rule that can’t be broken.
Recently we went to visit some good friends for the weekend. Rather than have a conventional meal on Saturday, we decided to have a wine and food tasting evening. Lots of small dishes of accompaniments, ranging from the obvious to the bizarre, and an eclectically wide range of wines.
There was an immediate wine disaster when a bottle of 2017 California oaked chardonnay from a much-advertised brand revealed itself to be a rich brown color and totally undrinkable. It’s a pity that it had a typical dark glass bottle – it’s impossible to spot the problems before opening the bottle. Never mind, we still had an interesting range of wines. The whites included an Austrian gruner veltliner, an Argentine Alamos torrontes, and a Californian Joel Gott sauvignon blanc. On the red front, a Dahlonega Plateau AVA field blend, and from California we tried a Chamisal (Edna Valley) pinot noir and an old vines zinfandel (Deerfield Ranch in Sonoma). To wrap up, an unctuous botrytized dessert wine, a Bonnezeaux chenin blanc from France.
To eat, there were about thirty dishes, hot and cold, to try. Lots of cheeses, from mild soft via aged Gouda to strong blue Roquefort. Fruits of all descriptions, salamis and other preserved meats, nuts of all sorts, various olives, the list went on and on. And of course the cooked courses.
After trying each wine with obvious food pairings, we found plenty of good (and bad) matches between the wines and food. And then a new idea occurred to us. Of all the different foods tasted, which would match with the widest range and number of wines.
There were two clear winners:
- Norwegian “brunost” – a cow/goat cheese with a distinctive sweet caramel back taste. Soft and smooth, it blended with both strong reds and dessert wines. I guess that a combination of smooth mouth feel and caramel flavors works wonders.
- Pork rinds puffed up with a spicy salty coating. Crunchy mouth feel and umami flavors (and marginally healthier than a bag of potato chips) – it had universal appeal.
So, two unlikely choices, but somehow revealing. I am not sure that I will be toasting my next bag of pork rinds with a glass of Chateau Margaux. But I do feel sure that Cavender Creek wines will go well with these unlikely options.