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tips & suggestions on pairing wine with food Print

war of the worlds 2

Classic Food and Wine Pairings:
Pinot Noir + Duck Breast

stemmle_warI love duck. It has long been one of my very favorite things.  I love duck breast cooked just under medium with a nice crisp layer on that wonderful fat.  I love duck confit, duck stock, Chinese duck and scallion pancakes, and duck skin cracklins — it's all fantastic!  And while I'm professing love for things, how about pinot noir: I love the sweet and musty Carneros pinots, I love the amazing pinots coming from Oregon (I went to Willamette a few years back), and I have had my share of amazing earthy burgundy as well.  Though I don't consider myself a wine expert, I know enough to know how little I know, and this makes me eager to learn and appreciate.  So when I embarked on this exploration of classic food and wine pairings, I jumped on the duck and Pinot Noir idea and never looked back.

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war of the worlds 1

Classic Food and Wine Pairings:
Sauvignon Blanc + Goat Cheese

stemmle_warFor years, I have been aware of several classic food and wine parings and have used them to my advantage on many occasions ("we have to open this syrah — we're eating lamb!"). I have also had some terrific experiences with amazing food and wine pairings in the past. This is something that restaurants can do very well, but at home, most great pairings were almost accidental — the result of a very successful guess or stroke of luck as opposed to premeditation and comprehensive knowledge.  So I set out to my favorite wine shop to talk shop (well, wine) with the experts.

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contrarian vegetarian

New Food and Wine Pairings:
Vegetarian Fare

Early in my journey of discovering wine, I single-handedly (and perhaps somewhat arrogantly) concluded that it was impossible for a vegetarian to fully appreciate wine as a meat-eater could.  I felt that there was no way for someone who abstained from animal fat to enjoy the rich and powerful red wines I had come to love and establish in my mind, naïvely, as the point of reference for wine in general.  But that was then; my perspective is more nuanced now, as a result of having learned a great deal through tasting and formal study.  And although I still don't believe a vegetarian can fully appreciate the synergy of a full-bodied red wine well-matched with food, I do acknowledge the plethora of wines that actually beautifully complement vegetable or grain dishes.  But there's a catch to pairing vegetarian food.

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emperor's new clothes

New Food and Wine Pairings:
Sweet Wines + Chocolate

I'm a person of strong opinions, which I frequently take pleasure in expressing.  But when it comes to wine, I try to exercise caution with that tendency, because I feel that the appreciation and enjoyment of wine is a very personal experience that should only be sparingly pre-empted or tainted by 'expert' advice.  However, very much like art and design, even among variations of tastes, styles, and approaches, there are still some universal, often fundamental, 'rules,' if you will, about which elements work together and which ones frankly do not.  Red Wine and Chocolate do not work together.

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sweet harmony

New Food and Wine Pairings:
Taste Harmony

Try something.  Try having a glass of lemonade with a chocolate chip cookie.  Did  you hesistate at the very idea?   Now, I'm guessing you probably don't even have to go through this charade to wonder how this could even remotely be considered a good idea.  And if you don't have that reaction, then by all means, try it.  Now once you're past that little exercise (either virtually or in real life), push aside the glass of lemonade, and pour yourself a glass of milk and drink that with your chocolate chip cookie.  Ahhhh… a little more appetizing?  A bit more palatable? Of course, but you knew that, already.  Okay, long story short: lemonade and chocolate (or cookies) do not go together.  Why?   Well, I could probably go on and on, pontificating on the reasons, touching on principles of food chemistry and taste physiology, but honestly, none of that is necessary and might even be considered overkill.  Quite simply, certain tastes together are just not compatible in our mouths.

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