Wine is Just Fine, But When Pairing, Sometimes Unlikely Partners Make Great Matches!
by John Dunham and Alison Blackman
One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong. Can you tell which thing is not like the others, by the time I finish my song?
So go the lyrics to the classic song from Sesame Street written by Joe Raposo, Jon Stone and Bruce Hart. The song was often used in sketches where four things were compared to each other and one of which was different from the other three.
One of these things is also a good way to think about pairing wine
There are general pairing rules for wine, but the first rule of wine pairing should really be that every palate is different, and one should drink wine that they like.
Just because I am not a fan of California Chardonnay does not mean that other people may not find it to be wonderful. Simply put every wine is different, every person is different and every food is different so what an expert may think is a good pairing is not always the case.
That said, if you are selecting wines for a group, or are offering an opinion to someone else, there are specific things that you should keep in mind for pairing.
Light foods should be matched with lighter wines, and heavy foods with big, powerful wines.
Stews generally go best with heavier wines like Cabernet, Zinfandel or Rioja, while a salad would balance best with something like a Pinot Grigio, a Tocai Friulano, or a Provence Rose.
A second rule is to generally balance the richness in foods with tannins or acids in the wine.
Fatty foods (e.g. beef, or cheese) balance well with red wines with more tannins. The astringent nature of the tannins helps to cut through the fat.
Likewise, a more acidic white wine will help balance fattier light dishes like fried fish.
For example, Indian, Thai or Mexican foods will pair better with white wines with a sweeter profile like Riesling or Sauternes. The wine can be dry (for example a good dry Riesling has very little sugar) but it’s best to have a sweeter profile to the varietal.
Acidic foods should be matched with more acidic wines.
Seafoods match better with more acidic white wines like Sauvignon Blanc or Alberino.
Higher acid red wines (which generally match well with tomato based foods) include Rioja, and many Italian varietals such as Barbera, Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, or Valpolicella. On the other hand, creamier foods would pair with creamier wines.
Wines often match very well with foods that come from the same region. Italian foods generally pair well with Italian wines, Spanish foods with Spanish wines, etc.
In the case of French wines this can be more difficult as the large variety of regions and huge number of cuisines can be overwhelming. Often things that would not normally pair by the rules can be wonderful.
The French Cheese Board and Vins Du Provence Host a Tasting:
At an event sponsored by the French Cheese Board (FCB) and Vins de Provence hosted at the FCBs pop up store on Spring St. in New York City, a variety of different cheeses were paired with rose wines.
The Provence region is famous for its Rose wines. While there are eight major wine producing regions in Provence and hundreds of different Rose’s produce, they are almost consistently produced from the Mourvèdre grape, which is generally blended with Grenache and Cinsault.
Check the Color
Rose from Provence usually has a pink to salmon color, and the nose will almost always feature a distinct strawberry nose with hints of citrus, and a palate featuring strawberry and a lot of minerality. When it comes to Rose from this region, generally think of strawberries covered in a blend of salt and herbs.
The Rose Wine Flavor Profile
With this flavor profile – and the fact that Provence is not really known for cheese – one would usually stay away from such pairings, remember creamier foods with creamier wines, and Provençal rose wine is not creamy. But the folks at the French Cheese Board and Ms. Allison Slute from Vins de Provence produced some remarkable pairings.
The cheese and wine pairings
Brillat Savarin Cheese and a Cremant sparkling wine (actually from Burgandy) callesd Celange (Cremant de Bourgogne Rosé Luxe Brut NV.: $30).
Brillat Savarin is a triple crème soft ripened bloomy rind cow’s milk cheese with a fat content of at least 75 percent that features buttery creamy notes with a hint of nuts and truffles.
The wine was salmon in color with a fresh nose with hints of strawberry. On the palate the wine featured good acid and minerality. It was fresh and fruity featuring apple notes. Paired the wine and cheese worked well together with the wine bringing out the nuttiness of the cheese.
In fact, the acidity of the wine did not contrast as one would thing with the creamy characteristics of the cheese, but rather used this to enhance the fruitiness of the wine itself.
Comté with Chateau Coussin Sainte Victoire Rose 2015: $20).
Comté is produced in the Jura Mountains, a region of Eastern France. Made from raw cow’s milk the cheese is ripened for a minimum of 4 months to 18 or 24 months, and is considered one of the finest cheeses in the world. The cheese
Comté is produced in the Jura Mountains, a region of Eastern France. Made from raw cow’s milk the cheese is ripened for a minimum of 4 months to 18 or 24 months, and is considered one of the finest cheeses in the world. The cheese ws very flavorful with some minerality and a lot of nutty notes.
You may recognize this cheese as it is often used in fondue and the famous French sandwich Croque Monsieur.
The rose was clear in color with just hints of pink (it is made from direct press grapes so there is no time at all on the skin). The nose was a bit lemony and the palate was super light. There was some strawberry but basically just the minerality of the wine shown through.
Paired with the rich cheese however, the wine opened up. The truly light watery taste helped enhance the nutty notes in the cheese and there was a bucolic feeling that came out of the pairing – like being on the farm (though in a very pleasant way).
Munster cheese with Mirabeau Classic Rose (2015: $12).
Based on its name, I always thought that Munster came from Germany, but in fact it is a soft washed rind cheese made from milk produced by cows living in the regions between Alsace, Lorraine and Franche-Comté in France. Munster cheese has a rind that is responsible for a strong, penetrating aroma and tangy taste, that I personally had some ammonia to it.
Munster cheese has a rind that is responsible for a strong, penetrating aroma and tangy taste, that I personally had some ammonia to it.
The wine was a light salmon color with a true Provancial nose of strawberry. The palate was strawberry and mineral with some cardamom spice on the finish. The pairing was incredible (I wrote WOW, like the WOW signal form SETI). The rind opened up the berries straight across the palate, and together the two were like eating a plate of strawberries.
This pairing was a traditional salty to salty pair and it truly showed.
Délice de Poitou with Château St Maur Cru Classe (2015: $45).
Moving up through the cheeses by strength we pairedDélice de Poitou is a small ovular goat’s milk cheese sprinkled with salted vegetable ash, which gives the cheese a dark grey rind encasing a white pate. It is a mild goats cheese, with a citrus taste.
The ash coating it brings forth, floral notes as the cheese ages and dries a little.
As to the wine, Chateau St. Maur was a very light salmon color. The nose was not what would be expected, rather it ha a lot of minerality and some funky notes, but on the palate, the wine was strawberries, minerals and some topicals on the finish.
Paired the wine lightened the strength of the cheese, and the strawberry jumped to the forefront.
Fourme d’Ambert with Château de Pourcieux Rosé (2015 $15).
The last cheese we paired was a blue cheese. This cheese is produced in the Auvergne region, and its production dates back to Roman times. It is made from cow’s milk which gives it it’s creaminess and mildness. The wine was salmon to orange in color and has a rugged
The wine was salmon to orange in color and has a rugged locker room nose, but on the palate you’ll find the classic strawberry and minerals with some citurs on the finish.
While blue cheeses generally pair best with sweet wines, this Pourcieux was an excellent complement. It jump started the butteryness of the cheese while knocking out the saltiness. It was a very nice pairing even though one was not like the other.