It’s Time for Panini…and Wine

The weekend is almost here…unless you work a four-day week, in which case it’s already here…unless your four-day work begins on Friday, in which case…

Oh, never mind.

Weekend or weekday, everyone loves an easy-to-make dish for dinner, and it doesn’t get much easier than panini.

Matching wine with a panini is akin to matching wine with a sandwich. It would be helpful—no, essential—to know what kind of panini or what kind of sandwich.

“Panini” actually is plural for the Italian word “panino.” In Italy, it’s the term used for a sandwich that’s made with other than simple sliced bread, such as a ciabatta roll or baguette. In America, “panini” often is used as a singular word to describe a pressed and toasted sandwich—what most Italians would call a “tosto.”

Given the confusion over the terminology, adding wine pairing to the equation has the potential to create a culinary quagmire. So, for our purposes, we’ll use the American adaptation, and cite examples from the panini menu of that ubiquitous (and popular) bakery chain, Panera Bread.

    1. Panera’s Cuban Chicken Panini features all-natural, antibiotic-free chicken; smoked, lean ham; sweet and spicy pickle chips; Swiss cheese, chipotle mayo, and sun-dried tomato ale mustard on Focaccia.That’s a whole lot of flavor going on in the mouth, including quite a bit of saltiness and a bit of a spice kick. This calls for a refreshing wine with good acidity—either a well-chilled dry rosé made from a combination of Grenache, Syrah and/or Mourvedre grapes, or a Blanc de Noir sparkling wine.
    2. Panera’s Steak and White Cheddar Panini is made with seared top sirloin, caramelized onions, Vermont white cheddar cheese and horseradish spread on a French baguette.The horseradish spread is the wild card in this sandwich recipe, and it needs a fruit-forward, peppery California (red) Zinfandel for companionship. Hold the horseradish, and you can pour a top-flight Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, or an Argentine Malbec, and enjoy a delightful pairing.
    3. Finally, let’s see if we can find a pairing partner for Panera’s Tomato and Mozzarella Panini, which features fresh mozzarella, roasted and fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and all-natural sun-dried tomato pesto on ciabatta.With such straightforward flavors—no single ingredient that will overpower the others or one’s tastebuds—opt for a straightforward wine. That means an “unoaked,” fruit-forward Chardonnay or, if you prefer red, a soft Nero d’Avola.

Tomorrow: a recipe for a tasty Super Panini.

Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes
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