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     A Road Map to Great Food and Wine Pairings
       excerpetd from Wine Lover's Cookbook: Great Meals for the Perfect Glass of Wine

    Chapter One

    A Road Map to Great Food and Wine Pairings


    The pairing of food and wine is a complex and highly inexact science. It is fraught with outmoded rules and a propensity for generalizations. Much of what has guided the understanding in the past emerges from the traditions of regional dishes that are eaten with regional wines, such as tomato-based pastas with Chianti (primarily Sangiovese) or beef bourguignonne with French Burgundy (Pinot Noir).

    This world has been turned absolutely upside down in the past fifteen to twenty years due to the rapid globalization of both food and wine. In the United States, in particular, we have absorbed the traditions of other food cultures—European, Asian, and Latin—and we have found ourselves in a quandary from a wine standpoint. Our varied, new cuisine includes Asian ingredients, such as cilantro, star anise, shiitake mushrooms, and pickled ginger, intermingling with classic European, Latin, and native ingredients.

    The old wine rules simply weren't created with this diverse, cross-cultural culinary palette in mind. These changes have forced us to broaden the way we look at pairing food and wine, to be more open and experimental.


    There are a few basic tenets that I apply to the food and wine pairing process: I first consider the body of the wine that I'm going to serve. What is the texture or "mouthfeel" (weight and feel in the mouth) of the wine and what types of foods will most enhance it? While most wine tasting revolves around the aroma,bouquet, and flavor of the wine, I can't emphasize enough how important "mouthfeel" is to successful food pairings.

    Secondly, I consider the flavor of the wine. I think about the inherent fruit character that comes from the grape variety itself, as well as the flavors that are developed from aging the wine in oak barrels, if there's been any barrel aging. Zinfandel, for example, has a vibrant berry character that often meshes with a hint of spice from barrel aging. Chardonnay, in and of itself, contains apple, pear, and citrus notes; it's the barrel fermentation, malolactic fermentation (a process that converts harder acids to softer ones), and the aging process that contributes additional flavors to the wine, such as toast, vanilla, butter, and spice.

    In addition to considering the body and flavor in both the food and the wine, I try to be aware of the level of intensity of each. Successful combinations come from creating relatively similar levels of intensity in both the food and the wine. An example would be a light, delicate white wine paired with fillet of sole with lemon-butter sauce, or a robust, heavy red with osso buco.

    Lastly, I assess the basic taste of the wine. There are four basic tastes from which to choose: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. (In fact, research dating back to 1909 in Japan has asserted that there is a fifth basic taste called umami, which refers to a savory taste, but this has never been uniformly accepted.)

    Pairings work best when the basic taste (sweet, sour, bitter, salty) of both the food and the wine are relatively similar. This means making sure that a sauce doesn't get sweeter than the wine (see Mustard- and Sourdough-Coated Venison with Currant Sauce on page 195) or that the acid in the wine is sufficient to match the acidity found in a particular dish (see Mixed Greens with Thyme-Scented Goat Cheese Cakes and Balsamic-Dijon Vinaigrette on page 40). Occasionally, a contrast of basic tastes, such as a slightly sweet wine to offset saltiness in a dish (see Baked Ham with Spicy Apricot-Orange Glaze on page 91) will work quite effectively.

    Sweetness, in the case of wine, is a reflection of its residual sugar. Any wine above about 0.6 percent residual sugar has some apparent sweetness, although most wines don't start tasting sweet to many people until they reach about 1.5 percent residual sugar. These wines are often referred to as "off-dry," and are typically Riesling, Gewürztraminer, or Pinot Gris/Grigio. Sweet versions (above 5 percent) of all of these varietals are also produced. The problem is that residual sugar is not always indicated on the front or back label, so it can make selection a little tricky. See the Riesling section (page 68) for an explanation of how to select German-style Rieslings based on their nomenclature.

    Sauternes (made from Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc), sherry, and port are also produced as sweet wines. Some sweet dessert wines can be found in smaller, 375-milliliter bottles since a small taste of this liquid nectar goes a long way, particularly at the end of a meal that has included several other wines.

    The basic taste of sourness as it relates to wine is experienced in the wine's natural acidity. Varietals that are particularly high in acid (Sauvignon/Fumé Blanc, Pinot Gris/Grigio, Sangiovese, and Pinot Noir) can balance more acidic dishes beautifully.

    The basic taste of bitterness in wine is noticed primarily in its tannin structure. Tannin is that searing, back-of-the-tongue jolt that is experienced in many young red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and some Merlot, Zinfandel, and Syrah. This is one of the many reasons that wines are aged in the bottle, both prior to release and in the buyer's cellar. Over time, tannins evolve and soften as red wines go through the bottle-aging process, adding complexity and flavor interest to the wines and making them far more pleasurable to drink.

    Certain foods have tannins as well, most notably walnuts and pecans. These ingredients can help lessen the apparent effect of tannin in young Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel.

    Saltiness is not an element found in wine, therefore it can be largely omitted from consideration. However, dishes that are slightly salty due to their use of anchovies, olives, soy, or Thai fish sauce can complement lighter, fruity wines, such as Gewürztraminer, Riesling, dry rosé, and some Pinot Noir. On the other hand, tannic red wines and oaky whites fare very poorly with salty dishes, which create a noticeable increase in the wines' apparent tannin and oak levels.

    In evaluating these components of body, flavor, intensity, and basic taste, we can choose to find either similar elements in the food and wine pairing or contrasting ones. Successful combinations come from both. A similar match of flavor, for example, would be the Shrimp-Scallop Pâté with Cilantro, Dill, and Pine Nuts (page 34) with Sauvignon/Fumé Blanc. Herbal flavors in the dish match herbal flavors in the wine.

    On the other hand, a pairing of Roast Pork with Holy Mole Sauce (page 174) with a dry rosé (one of the possible marriages with this dish) relies on a contrast of body and intensity between the rich chocolate mole and the light, fruity wine that refreshes and cleanses the palate.

    If this all sounds a little daunting, or perhaps a bit too cerebral for something as fun as drinking wine with delicious food, then we can move on. However, an understanding of why some food and wine pairings harmonize in crescendo while others clang in discordance is very helpful, particularly as you begin to create your own pairings. Maybe Tony Hendra said it best in an amusing Forbes FYI article: "While you can assess certain aspects of a wine's merits in isolation, its apotheosis is at the table.... Wine separated from food is like a boxer who never goes into the ring; you can speculate all you want watching him work out how good he might be, but you'll never know for sure, till the bell sounds for Round One."

    Ultimately, it's personal taste preference that rightfully dictates successful food and wine combinations, not arcane rules.


    So many ingredients are wine friendly (see Bridge Ingredients included in each wine section) that it seems only fair to point the proverbial finger at a few that are not. These ingredients don't mean to be this way, and, in fact, each of these foods is delicious on its own. These "ugly stepsisters" are simply best avoided when exploring successful pairings with wine.


    OK, let's just say it: Asparagus is generally awful with wine. Not impossible, just difficult. It contains phosphorus and mercaptan, two components that twist the flavors in most wines in the wrong direction. If you must drink wine with asparagus, try Pinot Gris/Grigio or Sauvignon/ Fumé Blanc as they have enough acidity to deal with this less-than-perfect wine food.


    The enfant terrible of food and wine pairing, artichokes contain an acid called cynarin, which makes everything taste sweet after eating it. Think of your first sip of milk after eating artichokes. It tasted like someone poured sugar into it. With wine, artichokes simply notch up the apparent sweetness of the wine, and that's not such a good thing most of the time.


    The heat in chiles comes from a substance called capsaicin, which actually can be measured in what are called "Scovil units," named after the man who invented the process.

    While small amounts of milder chiles, such as jalapeños, Anaheims, and poblanos, are not particularly problematic for wine matching, hotter chiles will wreak havoc with oaky white wines and tannic reds. Oaky wines will taste more oaky. High-alcohol wines will taste hotter, even burning. Tannic wines will seem more bitter. Overall, chiles numb the palate's ability to appreciate the subtleties of wine, particularly older reds. It's a pity, but it's true.

    That does not rule out the possibilities, however, for successful wine pairings with chile-infused food. With spicier dishes, the best bets are fruity whites, such as Riesling, Pinot Gris/Grigio, Sauvignon/Fumé Blanc, and Gewürztraminer, and soft, fruity reds, such as Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Rhône blends, and dry roses. I hate to admit it, but white Zinfandel works well, too.

    As much as I personally adore hot food, you'll find these types of recipes noticeably absent in this book, save for a few personal favorites, such as the Roast Pork with Holy Mole Sauce (page 174) and Clove-Infused Pork-Black Bean Stew with Tomatillo-Roasted Red Pepper Salsa (page 161), which marry well with a Syrah blend and Zinfandel, respectively.


    Eggs are notoriously difficult to match with wine because the yolks coat the palate and make it more difficult to taste wine. When eggs are used as part of quiches or hollandaise sauces, they are less intrusive. All in all, Champagne, Sauvignon/Fumé Blanc, Pinot Gris/ Grigio, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and fruitier styles of Chardonnay stand the best chance of working with eggs, but don't bet your entire meal on it.

    Vinegar and Pickled Foods

    Most vinegar is an enemy to wine, but there are exceptions: Balsamic vinegar, with its sweet, nutty character, can actually contribute complexity to sauces, but it must be used judiciously to avoid overpowering the wine. Other vinegars can rob wine of its fruit, making the wine seem astringent and unpleasant.

    There are several salads in this book, which may come as a surprise due to popular thinking about not matching wines with salads. When matching salad dressings to wine, it's best to keep the ratio of oil to vinegar at least three parts to one. In general, white-wine vinegar works best with white wines and red-wine and balsamic vinegar with reds, but balsamic vinegar can adapt to white wine when used in salads.

    Most pickled foods—save for capers, which I find to be an interesting complement when used sparingly with Sauvignon/Fumé Blanc and Pinot Gris/Grigio—present difficulty in pairing with wine, as well. The same can be said for pickled ginger, an ingredient so delicious that I go out of my way to find ways for it to work with aromatic, fruitier wines (Asian-Style Grilled Salmon with Fennel-Pickled Ginger Relish on page 78).


    Bridge ingredients are those which help connect the food and the wine through their interaction either in flavor, body, intensity, or basic taste (sweet, sour, salty, bitter). In each chapter, bridge ingredients are recommended to help make these connections come to life. Different varietals have different "friendly" ingredients; they can be very helpful in achieving harmony between food and wine.

    It's amazing how slight adjustments of certain bridge ingredients (e.g., Dijon mustard added to a red-wine sauce or fresh herbs added at the last minute to a salsa or relish) can help accentuate the flavors of the dish and encourage greater affinity with the wine that is selected.


    While food and wine pairing is most often discussed in terms of how flavors, body, and basic tastes harmonize, there remains one more element to explore—the cooking method used. While not always obvious, the technique used in cooking a dish will often affect how well (or poorly) it will partner with wine at the table. The following methods of cooking are the ones that seem to heighten food and wine pairings, although it can be argued that deep-frying, poaching, and steaming all have their places, too.


    Besides being my preferred cooking method, grilling offers a great opportunity to partner seafood, poultry, meats, and vegetables with wine. The main reason is that grilling is done quickly with the meat or vegetable in direct contact with its heat source. A tantalizing smoky flavor results, depending on what type of fuel is used (charcoal, mesquite, oak chips, or gas grills with flavorizing bars). This occurs because the juices drip down on the fuel source and cause smoke to be released back up to the meat or vegetable.

    This caramelization of sugars and protein through grilling is similar to the process of toasting the inside of oak barrels that are used for aging wines. Most red wines are aged in either French- or American-oak barrels from six months to as long as two years. During this time, the wine picks up subtleties of aroma and flavor from the barrel that are often described as "smoky" or "toasty." Some white wines, Chardonnay in particular, are also aged in oak barrels and display aromas and flavors that result from the process. Chardonnay, barrel-aged Sauvignon/Fumé Blanc, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon all benefit from being paired with grilled dishes, making the connection seem more vivid and dramatic.


    Roasting is a dry-cooking method that browns the exterior of the meat while sealing the juices inside (assuming it's not overcooked). When roasting is done properly, it can have a very positive effect on wine pairing. The juiciness inside the meat, which is primarily protein and fat, helps coat the palate and soften the impression of both full-bodied red and white wines.

    The browning of the outside skin also has a positive effect on wine pairing since this caramelizing process, whether it is accomplished by slow or fast roasting, helps connect the flavor of the meat to the barrel-aged characteristics of the wine.

    Roasting meats, poultry, and certain seafood, such as salmon or sea bass, allows for the use of fresh or dried herbs, which can also help marry the meat to the wine. The flavor of the herbs is infused into the meat, adding depth that is the hallmark of simpler roasted fare.

    Vegetables greatly benefit from roasting, which seals their moisture inside and dramatically intensifies their flavor. This has positive implications for wine pairing as it adds another element to a recipe that can support a pairing with a specific wine.

    One of my favorite roasted ingredients is garlic. The caramelized, nutty character that develops when garlic is roasted (see page 164) seems to be a particularly friendly bridge ingredient to most wines. Because it is not nearly as sharp as raw garlic, I use roasted garlic in many relishes and sauce reductions as a helpful conduit to both red and white wines.


    Sautéing meat, fish, or vegetables in a pan with fat (either butter or oil) also creates intriguing food and wine pairing possibilities. Because fat is being used in direct contact with the meat or fish, it adds a flavor and textural element that can help with some wines in particular.

    Chardonnay, with its oily texture, is one very good example of a wine that can be helped by the sautéing process because it adds some fat (and "mouthfeel") to the dish. Cabernet Sauviguon and Syrah, with their higher tannin levels, will also often benefit from being paired with sautéed dishes containing some fat to help cut through the tannins. However, even delicate seafood (e.g., Zack's Pan-Seared "Spykick" Catfish on page 50) will benefit from quick sautéing that seals flavors and adds just a touch of fat to the fish.

    The other benefit of sautéing is that it allows other ingredients and flavors to come in direct contact with the meat or fish during the cooking process. This allows flavors to become better integrated, which adds immeasurably to the success of the dish and to the wine with which it's being paired.


    Braising is a cooking method that begins with the sealing of juices through a quick browning of the meat followed by the addition of a liquid, typically wine and/or stock. Once liquid is added, the dish simmers slowly under a covered top with all of the ingredients in one pot.

    The obvious benefit of this type of cooking is the integration of flavors, which happens slowly but very surely. Specific flavors and ingredients are not the goal of braising, rather a merging and commingling of flavors and textures that views the whole as greater than the sum of the parts. Braising also allows wine to be used extensively in preparation of the dish, thereby suggesting a direct connection to a specific varietal.

    Richer, more full-flavored whites such as Chardonnay and Viognier, as well as more full-bodied reds such as Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot harmonize beautifully with braised dishes. The fullness and weight of the wine are seemingly mirrored by the braising method (e.g., Braised Pork with Apples, Mushrooms, and Calvados, page 120, with a buttery Chardonnay). This makes good sense to the palate; it accepts both food and wine readily and with pleasure.


    The Wine Lover Cooks with Wine
    The Wine Lover Cooks with Wine The long-awaited follow-up to the best-selling Wine Lover's Cookbook, The Wine Lover Cooks with Wine sets its sights on wine as an ingredient. Whether used to delicately poach fresh fish or braise a hearty stew, wine adds complexity and intensity to food -- not to mention flavor. In his usual engaging style, Goldstein explores a range of wine and reveals how each is used best in cooking. From classic Marsala Chicken to savory pork tenderloin topped with a zinfandel-based roasted-plum jam, each tantalizing recipe illustrates to dazzling effect the benefits -- and pleasures -- of cooking with wine. Complete with enticing photographs of both the food and the wine, this cookbook is an inspiring resource for wine lovers looking to think outside of the glass.

    Noritake 8-oz. Palais Black Wine Glass
    Noritake 8-oz. Palais Black Wine Glass Since 1904, Noritake has been bringing beauty and quality to dinner tables around the world. Superior artistry and craftsmanship, attention to detail and uncompromising commitment to quality have made Noritake an international trademark. Today, Noritake tableware is so popular that their products can be found in hotels, restaurants and airlines throughout the world. Now you too can welcome the beauty of Noritake into your home with their lovely tableware products. Palais Black by Noritake is a solid black crystal stemware design. It is perfect for all of your entertaining needs.

    Bodum Set of 2 So Long Stemless Red Wine Glasses
    Bodum Set of 2 So Long Stemless Red Wine Glasses A new style of glass for enjoying your favorite red wine. From Bodum, this wine glass is entitled "So Long". From now on, it's "good-bye" to the formal stem and "hello" to a new style of glass for casually sipping your red wine. The set includes two glasses, each one with an 17-oz. capacity. Dishwasher-safe.

    Bodum Set of 2 So Long Stemless White Wine Glasses
    Bodum Set of 2 So Long Stemless White Wine Glasses w from Bodum, it's the wine glass entitled "So Long". From now on, it's "good-bye" to the formal stem and "hello" to a new style of glass for casually sipping your white wine. The set includes two glasses, each one with an 8-oz. capacity. Dishwasher-safe.

    Waring Wine Chiller
    Waring Wine Chiller Features include a streamline body, LCD backlit screen, and thermo-electric Peltier module. During cooling the MCU library is an internal database of 26 types of wine CPU control for constant temperature. Accommodates wine bottles up to 3.5 in. diameter.

    Eva Solo 6-bottle Wine Rack, Black and Stainless Steel
    Eva Solo 6-bottle Wine Rack, Black and Stainless Steel This Wine Rack can hold up to six wine bottles and is adjustable. It is comprised of 7 plastic components and 24 metal wires for the mounting of a strong and stable wine rack, which can easily be enlarged or shrunken in size. Multiple kits of this wine rack can also be combined to form tall, horizontal, or cubic wine racks according to your imagination. An excellent way to display your finest wines in front of company or just a fun way to store the bottles at home.

    Bormioli 55-oz. Nadia Riserva Wine Decanter
    Bormioli 55-oz. Nadia Riserva Wine Decanter This beautiful, classic Wine Decanter is designed to complement the Riserva stemware collection. 55-oz. Hand-washing recommended. Imported from Italy.

    Riedel 34.5-oz. Merlot Wine Decanter
    Riedel 34.5-oz. Merlot Wine Decanter Experts agree, decanting wine is the best way to ensure clarity in old wines and give young wines a chance to bloom. Made especially for Merlots, this decanter from Riedel combines functionality with form. Measures 9.5-in. tall and holds up to 34.5-oz. Made in Germany.

    Picnic at Ascot Barware Collection Connoisseur Wine Set, Mahogany
    Picnic at Ascot Barware Collection Connoisseur Wine Set, Mahogany It comes in a sleek mahogany case and has all the essential tools that a wine-lover needs. It includes an ergonomically designed corkscrew that will allow you to remove corks like a professional. Additional accessories include a foil cutter, two bottle stoppers, wine pourer, replacement worm, wine thermometer and drip ring. Picnic at Ascot has facilitated easy and stylish transport of delicious food to both casual and special occasions after bringing the tradition of an elegant English country picnic to the United States in 1992. Award-winning designs and expert craftsmanship seplus lifetime warrantee.




    1 Spicy, salty, smoked, and highly seasoned dishes are best paired with wines that are fruity and lower in alcohol such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris/ Grigio, dry rosés, and Pinot Noir. Avoid oaky and more tannic wines.

    2 Richer, fattier foods pair best with heavier, full-bodied wines such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Syrah.

    3 When pairing sweeter foods with wine, try to keep the sweetness in the dish less than the apparent sweetness of the wine. If necessary, sweetness in the dish can be curbed with a touch of citrus juice or vinegar.

    4 Higher-acid foods, such as goat cheese, tomatoes, and citrus fruits, pair most effectively with higher-acid wines such as Sauvignon/Fumé Blanc, some Rieslings, Pinot Gris/Grigio, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir. If the wine seems too tart for the dish, add a touch of lemon juice or vinegar to the dish.

    5 In a meal progression where multiple wines will be served, serve lighter wines before more full-bodied ones. Serve dry wines before sweet ones, unless a dish with some sweetness is served early in the meal, in which case it should be matched with a wine of like sweetness. Serve lower-alcohol wines (Riesling, Sauvignon/Fumé Blanc, and Pinot Gris/Grigio) before higher-alcohol ones (Chardonnay, Viognier, Gewürztraminer, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah).

    6 Help connect dishes to the specific wine you're serving by tasting a small amount of the wine as you're finishing a sauce or side dish so that the recipe can be "tweaked" to maximum effect. If the wine seems too tannic or bitter for the dish, a sprinkling of citrus zest or nuts can be added to the dish, for example.

    7 When using wine in marinades or sauces, use a decent-quality wine. If possible, this should be the same varietal as will be matched with the dish, but it need not be the same exact wine if you wish to drink a better wine than the one with which you're cooking.

    8 Grilling, roasting, sautéing, and braising are preferred cooking methods when matching dishes with most wines. Poaching and steaming are more delicate cooking methods that work best with more delicate wines such as Pinot Gris/Grigio and some Riesling. Smoking food works most effectively with lighter, fruitier wines—Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel.

    9 Food and wine pairing is about synergy the food should not overpower the wine, nor should the wine overpower the food.

    10 Great food and wine combinations come from finding similarities and contrasts of flavor, body (texture), intensity, and basic taste. This is a highly subjective, inexact endeavor. Taste, and trust your own instincts.


    Wine Lover's Cookbook Wine Lover's Cookbook It's time to pull the cork on that special bottle of wine. The food you serve with it will play a crucial role in your enjoyment of the wine, helping to bring out its very best qualities. In this breakthrough book, wine expert and award-winning cookbook author Sid Goldstein takes the mystery out of pairing food with wine. Offering clear, lively descriptions of more than a dozen of the most popular varieties, from crowd-pleasers such as Merlot and Chardonnay to up-and -comers like Viognier and Syrah. Each chapter begins with a flavor portrait of the featured wine, including typical aromas, styles, flavor characteristics, and primary source regions, followed by an easy-to-read list of base and bridge ingredients that help connect the wine with the food.

    Then, of course, there are the recipes— A delicious compendium of simple and elegantly stylish dishes created to balance or contrast with each wine. Been saving a great bottle of cabernet sauvignon? Make a toast over New York steaks with Gorgonzola-walnut "butter". Curious to try a glass of Viognier? Surprise your guests with crunchy little wontons stuffed with smoked oysters and cream cheese. Bring the evening to a sweet conclusion with a glass to late-harvest Riesling and a serving of peach and banana bread pudding From Champagne to Zinfandel, The Wine Lover's Cookbook makes any meal an occasion for a perfect glass of wine.


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