Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Perfect Pairing

I pair wine with food all the time, and am usually happy when the food and wine don't clash, or when the wine picks up a few elements in the food (or vice versa) that make for interesting flavor compatibilities or contrasts. But sometimes you find a pairing so perfect that you are just blown away by the synergy created between the food and the wine. I just found a pairing so perfect that I'm still trying to figure out what happened a few days later.

The pairing started with a bin end that I picked up in my small coastal town's independent grocery store. It was on a massive reduction, so I decided to try it. The 2004 Block 13 Sauvignon Blanc is a non-estate label from the legendary Gundlach Bundschu winery. ($8.99 in a bin end here on the coast; available from other merchants for between $14 and $20) It was unlike any other sauvignon blanc I've had, with aromas of key lime pie, ginger, and mandarin orange. Hmmm. What could I make that would go wit that? The flavors on the palate continued to develop along spicy, tropical lines with citrus fruits, a distinctive note of ginger, and juicy passionfruit. Despite all the tropical elements of the wine, it was very fresh and zingy. For under $10 this was a sauvignon blanc with excellent QPR (and even for $14-20 this would be a very good QPR choice). Still, the flavor and aroma profile of the wine was going to make it a challenge to find a recipe to go with it. Or so I thought.

I needed to find something light and zesty, with tropical fruit and spice. Surfing through, I found the perfect dish in a salmon and "forbidden rice" salad with loads of ginger and lime, and big chunks of mango. As soon as I read the ingredients I knew that this would work with the wine, but I had no idea that it would achieve pairing perfection. It did. And it was healthy, low-calorie, and good for you. Who could ask for more?

Pairing wines is always a trial and error process, and it takes experience and quite a bit of luck to get it right. Have you had a perfect pairing lately? If so, let us know what it was in the comments.


Orion Slayer said...

You sound like an artist, both in your description of the pairing of the wine with the food and your ability to pair the two! It reminds me of the scene in the Ratatouille movie where Remy is describing the scenergy between two flavors and they illustrate it with swirling colors and music. I wish my palate was like that!

My local BevMo used to carry that wine. I didn't go for it when it went on the clearance shelf and now I'm sad I didn't. Lesson learned!

Unknown said...

One of my best pairings this year was a Lucien Albrecht Pinot Gris 2006 with a chilled tomato soup and tomato/basil risotto made with marscapone cheese. In a word, YUM!

Dr. Debs said...

Funny you say that, Orion Slayer. I felt a little like an artist painting with ginger, mango, and lime. Maybe it was my recent viewing of Ratatouille that did it?

And d2, I've been experimenting with fresh tomatoes and white wine this summer and I'm excited by the results, too. Haven't had a pinot gris with tomatoes yet, though. What a great idea! I'm stealing that menu, by the way.

Anonymous said...

You make me almost want to try that despite my residual issues with ginger. The pairing really does sound like a great match. I think it works best when picking up flavors in a wine to mirror those in the food. One of my best was marinating salmon in lychees and mascarpone cheese (d2, there seems to be a trend) and serving with a Gewurztraminer. Pure magic.