Thursday, November 20, 2008

Food & Wine Pairing #1

Jason Talks Food & Wine Pairing
November 2008

Welcome to the inaugural installment of a food and wine pairing series I am starting. Through this series I hope to offer pairing tips, personal insights and promote some exploration by my faithful readers. Please feel free to respond to the posts with questions and I hope that I will be able to provide useful answers.

With the Thanksgiving holiday almost here, many of us are furiously planning the dinner menu or choosing what to bring to share with family and friends. In this installment I am going to offer some tips to generate conversation over the big meal.

What wines go well with turkey dinner? This question has a wide range of answers and none of them are universal.

One basic principle in pairing wine with food is that bold foods need bold wines. When either the food or the wine is drastically understated in comparison to the other, the lesser of the pair can easily suffer a knockout.

If your turkey has subtle flavors, butter and sage as an example, a medium bodied Chardonnay with some oak might go very well. If your turkey has a spicy or thick glaze with lots of pepper and/or fruit flavors that same Chardonnay would be lost. In the latter case a Zinfandel or Pinot Noir might stand up to the flavors without going overboard. Keep in mind the boldness of the side dishes as well. With a healthy mix of flavors that is typical on the Thanksgiving table no one wine will pair well with every dish, but medium bodied whites and reds will be the all-around best choices. You might also try Viognier, Riesling or Merlot.

You may come across buzz about Beaujolais Nouveau at Thanksgiving. Beaujolais Nouveau is one of the earliest of the French wines released from the current year’s harvest and typically hits the stores in North America around the 15th of November each year. A mellow, fruity and approachable red wine, Beaujolais Nouveau pairs well with many flavors. That coupled with the timely release means it shows up on many Thanksgiving tables. I have paired this wine with Thanksgiving dinner for a couple years in a row with positive results, but for the last two years I wasn’t that impressed with the wine itself. The 2005 vintage was my favorite of the last 5 years and the 2008 vintage will be tasted independently of the Thanksgiving holiday for me this year.

If you live in the northeastern United States you might not realize the next domestic wine revolution is underway. With so many unique wine varieties available your options have never been so vast. Many of these wines, which are made from grapes that tolerate the colder climate, offer flavors and aromas that pair well with the distinctive seasonal tastes of New England. Choosing some local wines to put on the Thanksgiving table can be a worthwhile adventure and a wonderful reflection of the traditions we honor at this time of year.

Wine List for our 2008 Thanksgiving

2008 Ancient Fire Chardonnay (no oak) – this is the starter with the salad, cheese and crackers.
2005 George Deboeuf Beaujolais Villages – I expect this will pair well with the turkey and the sides.
2007 Candia Vineyard Diamond – this slightly sweet and fruity cold weather grape wine should help the transition to dessert.

Some of this information might seem non-committal and circular and if you were thinking this you were paying attention. The best wine and food pairing are the ones you try and like. The person to your right, whose elbows keeping jabbing into your side, might disagree entirely with your take on a pairing. As a host your goal is to provide options that are balanced and do not create strong negative reactions for a broad range of tastes. Not getting it right once only means you have to come back and try again.



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