Wine is made from fruit, and unless its flavors are completely obliterated by oak nuances, it tastes, at least in part, like fruit.
This seemingly obvious observation is very important to remember when pairing wine with food.
“Not surprisingly,” writes author/educator Karen McNeil, “dishes with fruit in them or a fruit component to them — pork with sauteed apples, roasted chicken with apricot glaze, duck with figs, and so forth — often pair beautifully with very fruit-driven wines that have super-fruity aromas. Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Viognier and Riesling are in this camp.”
When one knows the ingredients of a specific dish, selecting a wine to drink with it is a fairly easy proposition — especially if you don’t get hung up on a bunch of other people’s rules. Generally speaking, we try to match the wine to the dominant flavor in the dish.
While McNeil likely would choose one of the aforementioned fruit-driven wines to go with pork and sauteed apples, if you were to slice up that chicken and bake it with a thick white sauce in a pot pie, the better wine choice would be Chardonnay.
As Asian, Latin and Mediterranean fare becomes more popular in the United States, we’re seeing lots of dishes that involve citrus fruit flavors. Some say citrus-flavored food demands a high-acid wine, but others opine that a buttery Chardonnay or an off-dry Riesling can enhance the overall dining experience by lending additional flavors and textures.
Dealing with citrus-infused fare is one of many topics covered in a book called “What to Drink With What You Eat.” Here are some of their specific suggestions…
- Grapefruit — Champagne or sparkling wine, ice wine, Orange Muscat or Pouilly-Fume.
- Orange — German Riesling, Semillon, Champagne or sparkling wine, Orange Muscat, Sauternes or Sherry.
We should always drink what we like with any given dish, but these recommended pairings definitely are worth exploring.