No, the website doesn’t exist (I checked to make sure I wasn’t infringing on any legal
copyright). But wouldn’t it be great if it did. Automatically find that great companion to 2002
Swanson Merlot. Or the perfect partner to roasted chicken breast with Morel cream sauce. But
then again since this is simply wine and food pairing, if the matching doesn’t work out there’s
no need to find a divorce lawyer. Just don’t serve the same combo again. But since the holidays
are upon us and you might be expected to provide wines for that festive meal, The Gochiso
Gourmet is here for simple… very simple tips for getting that perfect wine.
When in doubt, go with the basics. Like that basic black dress, white wine is that libation classic
for several reasons. It usually doesn’t offend any dish – even if it might not be the best to pair
with any one dish, red wine drinkers usually will “tolerate” a white wine whereas white wine
drinkers usually don’t touch red wine and most white wines – even very good white wines – won’
t set you back a king’s ransom.
That being the case, I know that you don’t simply want Wine Pairing 101 but want the
Advanced Wine Pairing 499v class. Well, here goes:
1) Champagne is ALWAYS good! As Julien Grinda in “The Deer Hunter” stated, “When a
man says no to champagne, he says no to life”. Because of its palate cleansing acidity and
effervescence, champagne is the perfect partner to anything deep fried (including potato chips)
and also pairs with sushi. Neither food is on the menu? No problem, champagne’s reputation as
the special occasion beverage fits in perfectly with the holidays (though I personally never limit
champagne only for the holidays).
During the holidays, non-vintage (or NV) champagne from Charles Heidsieck and Piper
Heidsieck can usually be found between $25 and $30 and are very high quality products.
Looking to support the US economy or simply want to save a little greenback? Look no further
than Domaine Chandon. The US house of Moet Chandon routinely sells for $20 or less at most
supermarkets and is produced in the traditional “Methode Champenois” process as any fine
2) Light white wines are perfect for most seafood and light poultry dishes. Since the
common denominator of white wines are their inherent lemon/citrus qualities, what’s better
than a squeeze of lemon juice on a broiled or grilled fish filet? Why simple white wines of
course. Think of these wines whenever you would consider a squeeze of lemon juice on any dish
whether its raw oysters, any preparation of fish, scallops, even basic green salads.
Look for Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris), Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis, Albarino, Dry Riesling or Rose
(technically not a white wine but pairs like a white wine). Other than the Albarino or Dry
Riesling, most of these wines can be found at any supermarkets, usually at $20 or less.
3) Richer white wines pair with the same seafood cooked in richer sauces. They also pair
nicely with roasted light meat poultry and pork dishes too. Though these wines can be the
perfect companion to these richer white meat dishes, they also can overwhelm lighter seafood
dishes and usually aren’t bold enough for red meat dishes. Therefore, unless you know that you
host (or you) will be serving these richer dishes, I’d opt for the lighter white wines.
The main wine here is Chardonnay, California Chardonnay to be precise. Big, buttery, oaky, full
bodied white wines. If you come across unoaked Chardonnay, those wines would be in the same
category as the lighter white wines. Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne (or white Rhone blends)
also fit the bill for these richer white wines. As you’re probably aware, California Chardonnay
spans the gap from $10 per bottle all the way up to sky’s-the-limit.
4) Lighter bodied red wines can pair with heavier seafood, both light and dark meat poultry
up to lighter red meat dishes. They don’t carry the same tannin burden as Cabernets and Syrahs
so they won’t clash with seafood but still have enough mouth feel and complexity to marry well
with poultry and darker meats. Most also have enough acid to cleanse the palate for the next
mouthful of food. Many of these wines also have an additional benefit of inherent earthy
qualities than pairs with mushrooms, root vegetables and legumes. In other words, they make
both the entrée and side dish shine.
Look for Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir and more Pinot Noir. Perfect with salmon, poultry, pork, and
side dishes or great just on its own. If you’re anti-Sideways or just don’t care for Pinots, look for
simple Chianti (including those in fiaschi or woven straw baskets), Valpolicella or Bardolino.
Not as versatile as Pinot Noir but very food friendly and affordable.
5) Bold red wines are usually reserved for the boldest of red meats. Because of their mouth
filling character and abundance of tannins, these wines can cleanse the palate of pure butter or
lard (though no first hand experience here) and some can make that steak or lamb roast seem
downright timid. Therefore these wines aren’t recommended unless you know your host is
serving free range game meats or are bold red wine fanatics.
If you do have a bold red wine with several years of bottle aging, they can be the PERFECT
partner to red meats… the Gochiso Gourmet has served these wines on occasion but they DON’
T travel well since the accumulated sediment often shakes free and clouds the perfect wine
during transit. If you are serving a rib roast this season, these wines will get those “oohs” and
“aahs” from your guests.
Look for Cabernet based wines, Syrah, Barolo, Barbaresco and red Rhone wines (Chateauneuf du
Pape, Vacqueyras, etc). The biggest of the reds do cost a pretty penny so you obviously should
know what the host is serving (or serve the appropriate entrée yourself).
A Final Suggestion
If you were just invited to a holiday dinner and have no idea what the host is serving, the best
bet is Champagne or sparkling wine as outlined. The next best bet would be light bodied white
wine or red wine. If you want to make it seem like you put a lot of thought into the selection,
choose a grape varietal like Albarino, Gruner Veltliner, Vermentino or Arneis for a thought
provoking white or Dolcetto, Barbera, Montepulciano or Temperanillo for reds. Though Pinot
Noir is always good.
Just remember that this list is not all inclusive – there are more than five categories of wine.
And I didn’t even mention dessert wines though the 1979 Don PX Pedro Ximenez with dark
chocolate truffles will get you the same “oohs” and “aahs” as any prime rib roast. And just
remember that if your wine pairing fails, you can always blame The Gochiso Gourmet. Like
those other dot.harmony.com advertisements. Some may work, others may fail miserably…
though you only hear about the successes. Imbibe responsibly this holiday season. Happy