Fun insight into pairing wines to a menu

Again, I believe we as an industry need to spend more time talking about pairing wine & food.  There is never one answer, so dialogue to me just helps imagine the possibilities.  Here is a menu that was just sent to me.  Here is how I approached this challenge.

Another facet of this dinner which should be mentioned & considered is that this is an upscale dinner at an upscale venue.

Well, here goes……….

Spinach Pappardelle–with cider braised pork belly, butternut squash puree, Flathead cherry reduction & a hazelnut-parmesan crisp

So, the first aspects I would notice, wine pairing wise, cider braising, the butternut squash puree & the cherry reduction adds sweetness to the dish.  Therefore, eventhough there is pork belly, my knee jerk reaction would be to look to German “brown” bottle Riesling, at least spätlese quality & probably with some age.   The real key is to find one which has less than 10% alcohol.  The wine’s slight sweetness will help mitigate the dish’s sweetness & if we do one such as from Weingut Gunderloch, the wine’s innate stoniness (from the red slate soils), especially more noticeable with some bottle age, will help accent & uplift the dish’s real savoriness.  Plus, by serving an aged one, the once apparent sweetness will have changed into a more tactile, viscous kind of mouthfeel AND therefore seem less sweet.  Now, the challenge here really is, will the attendees dig have a Riesling with a star chef’s food & during the colder Winter months?  Probably not.  They probably are expecting a red wine.  So….let’s look down that wine road & see if we can come up with something workable.  One thing for sure, we need to minimize the tannin & alcohol levels in the paired wines because of the dish’s sweetness.  I would also hope that we could adjust some of the dish’s components, such as adding some kind of stock to the cider braising liquid, perhaps either char, smoke or grill the butternut squash before pureeing it & add some red wine and/or stock to the cherry reduction.  So, I am sure some would think of an Italian red wine of some sorts.  In most cases, however, I believe the acidity & tannins would be too hard.  Consider instead a Carignane based red, such as the Maxime Magnon “La Démarrante” from Hautes Corbières in southern France.  I think the wine’s wonderful perfume & aromatics would first of all add to the pairing.  Secondly, I am sure Magnon uses some carbonic maceration to make it this wine, which in addition to adding a different dimension to the aromatics, it also enhances the lively, delicious fruit without taking away from the terroir or integrity AND keeping the tannins & alcohol lower.  Lastly, the wine’s innate stoniness would also connect with the earthy, stony qualities of the dish.

Vegetable Consommé–with nutmeg dumpling, carrot, leek, cauliflower & sliced radish

I know some people would immediately say rosé .  If you take this route, then I would recommend a lighter, more ethereal style, like My Essential Rosé from Master Sommelier Richard Betts.  (as an update, the rosé we actually went with the 2015 Eric Chevalier Pinot Noir Rosé, from France’s Loire Valley, which worked wonderfully).  Soups serve hot, can accentuate the tannins.  If this were a meat based soup, that might be different.  The route to consider is doing a light, wonderfully aromatic white wine such as the Birichino Malvasia Bianca.  If this is the case, I would ask to garnish the soup with some kind of light herb nuance.  You will see how the perfume of the Malvasia & the herb connect & create a wonderful synergy.

Certified Angus Beef, Prime New York Stripwith baby carrot, duck fat roasted Sunset fingerling potato, chimichurri & cherry bomb radish

Not only does this dish sound delicious, it is also one that could work a wide range of red wines.  Choose your foil–New World Zinfandel, Cabernet, Petite Sirah, Merlot, Syrah/Shiraz, Malbec, Cabernet Franc & a host of Old World red wines from places such as Bordeaux, Bandol, Piemonte, Tuscany, Priorat & Cahors just to name a few.  Because at our VINO restaurant, our chimichurri is bay leaf driven, my first choice would be a slightly aged Old World Syrah based red.  The one that immediately comes to mind is the 2005 Clape Cornas.  While Thierry Allemand is generally recognized as the current generation headliner from the Cornas appellation, I really love the wildly rustic, soulful renditions from Clape & Verset.  And, it really is that gamey/feral/green peppercorn/andouille sausage nuances which is why it was selected in this instance.  Furthermore, the 2005 still has a very youthful, virile core & structure which can readily handle this dish, yet with development & a rounder edge because of the 11 years of bottle age.  I had also considered the 2005 Domaine Grange des Pères from southern France as another viable option.  A blend of Syrah & Mourvedre with smaller amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon & Counoise, I look at this wine as a wild, rustic thoroughbred with lots to say, but in a much more civil, classy manner than Cornas.  As with the Cornas, we look at the 2005, because it still has mojo to its core, but with much more harmony because of the 11 years of bottle age.

Dulcey Moussewith salted caramel sauce, dark chocolate flourless cake & feulletine crunch

Our first choice was the 2012 Domaine La Tour Vieille Banyuls “Rimage”–a fortified, old vine Grenache (10% Carignane) grown  down in southern France, roughly 2 kilometers from the Spanish border.  This wine was seemingly crafted for desserts like this.  We suggest you serve it well chilled.


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