the pleasures of pairing wine & food

Many of us, it goes without saying, love to experience delicious meals. Others savor the intricacies of delectable wine. And, there's a wonderful pleasure to be had by combining the two into magical combinations that enhance each other and bring your culinary experience to a higher level. But some feel that wine and food pairing is an intimidating task. We want to dispel that thought.

There's no need to look for a magical black box of expertise. Sure, if you like, you can get into the deep complexities of perfect pairings. But you can certainly dip your toes into the water (or wine, as it would be) by considering a few basic principles to successful pairings. First, match the weight and texture of the food to the weight and texture of the wine. A light bodied fish would work best with a light bodied wine, for example. Next balance the intensity of the flavors in the food and the wine. A strongly flavored meal would do best with a rich fruity wine, for instance. Then you will also want to consider balancing the five basic tastes, which are sweet, sour, salt, butter and umami (the taste sensation found in savory foods like mushrooms, tomatoes, soy sauce, aged cheeses and meats). You may choose to match flavors, using like with like - sweet with sweet, peppery meal with peppery wine. Or you may want to counterpoint flavors, such as pairing a spicy dish with a softer fruity wine to tame the spice. When you consider the food to pair with, consider the dish as a whole. Identify its predominant flavors and textures and then let those guide you in selecting an appropriate wine.

As with most things in the world of taste - do what you find appealing. All the pairing charts in the world matter little compared to what you find a tasty combination.

Here are a few examples to let you see how it can work. We'll have plenty of additional suggestions for you in the future, and, of course, we'd love to hear some of your own.

Moroccan Flank Steak and Spanish Blended Wine

Spanish blends come in a variety of forms, but if you‚ are looking to experience something unique, choose a blend that prominently features Tempranillo. Spain's "noble grape"‚ creates a full-bodied red wine that can be consumed young. 

A good example of a blended Tempranillo is Osborne Solaz 2004, a blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. It comes from the Tierra de Castilla region of Spain. While the nose is subtle, there is much to be excited about with this wine. Cherries and berries fill your palate, accompanied by woodsy, earthy undertones. The finish is full of smooth, silky tannins and a crisp, peppery snap on the tip of your tongue.

If you can't find this one, selecte another Tempranillo blended with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Grenache.

To compliment this wine, we suggest a Moroccan Spiced Flank Steak. The rustic texture of the steak and rich combination of North African spices brings out the complex flavors of a Spanish wine blend.

Grilled Moroccan Spiced Flank Steak

This flank steak is loaded up with great Moroccan spices. The marinade will keep it tender, but you want to grill this steak hot and fast.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

4 pounds flank steak
1 medium onion
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced fresh ginger
3 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cooking sherry
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Directions:

Mix all marinade ingredients together and marinate steaks in a shallow baking dish for 4 hours (or overnight) covered with plastic in the refrigerator. Remove steaks from marinade and reserve the liquid. Grill steaks to desired doneness (about 5 minutes on each side). Heat the marinade in saucepan for 10 minutes. Cut steaks diagonally into thin slices. Pour marinade over steaks and serve.

Earth Conscious Meets Flavor Fabulous

Indian cuisine has the ability to transform standard farmer's market fare into something truly spectacular. If you're feeling adventurous, try some exotic Indian dishes you are curious about.  Or, stick with some familiar favorites like spicy Samosas alongside Vegetable Uthappam, Iddly, and a variety of Southern Indian sauces. Pairing succulent vegetarian options with earth-friendly wines can make for a unique and fulfilling experience. Bio-sustainable and organic wine options are increasing all the time. Two fine French blends, Capion 1 C 2007, an old-world style Chardonnay, and Domaine Des Florets Giondas 2006, a rich Grenache blend are great options for pairing with this sort of Indian fare.  Both vineyards are renown for their superbly crafted wines as well as their use of bio-sustainable agricultural techniques, which they have practiced for many generations.

Sipping Shiraz

What's in a name?  Shiraz or Syrah? 

If you like to drink red wines, you may have encountered Syrah, Shiraz or both. You also may be wondering, what's the difference? Both names refer to the same dark-skinned red grape varietal that grows well in warm climates around the world. The way the name is spelled tends to be indicative of the place from which the wine originates.

While there has been some attempt to use the name Syrah to denote those wines originating in Europe, this rule of thumb is unevenly applied. The Shiraz name, used primarily to identify the wine as coming from Australia, is also found in South Africa and Canada. Some wineries make both a Syrah and a Shiraz; in this situation, the spelling is more often than not an indicator of the wine's style. Syrah yields more spice and finesse, while Shiraz insinuates a concentrated, fruit-forward wine.

First planted in the Rhone region of South Eastern France, Syrah has aromas that range from violets to berries (usually dark as opposed to red), chocolate, espresso and black pepper. The flavors of Syrah can vary dramatically based on the climate and soils in which it is grown, as well as the viticulture practices used by the vineyard. Most Shiraz can benefit from giving the wine a chance to open up, perhaps for an  hour or two before pouring.  There is no one way to describe all the possibilities of this full flavored red.  It's better to explore them all!

Here's a good Shiraz to try: Kay Brothers Hillside Shiraz, 2004 McLaren Vale, Southeastern Australia

This is a traditional big Shiraz, but incredibly well-balanced. Ruby in color, with the scent of blackberries, cigar, and black pepper. Fruit forward combination of spicy dark cherry, pepper, blackberry, chocolate, ripe plum and vanillin oak. The balanced acidity and fruit and oak tannins have all combined to make a rich satisfying wine, with full depth and length of palate. It would pair beautifully with slow braised lamb shanks.