Wednesday, August 20, 2014

PAIRING: Acid is Our Friend!

Uniquely, different wines engage foods distinctly

A Dinner Party Food & Wine Pairing can strike fear into any well intending host. Selecting wines for an engagement containing plates I had not seen before, the August Supper menu of seven(7) courses was going to be a challenge for pairing.  The described food creations were intended to offer a broad range of flavors and textures, and only one of the dishes I was fortunate to have tasted previously, but at a foreign Michelin star restaurant. Knowing that a proper pairing will not only contrast or complement the flavors offered on the dish, it will actually 'enhance', I considered the food and selected a range of fine wines.  Fortunately, those wines with good strength of acid are our friends.

As long as the perceived acid was stronger than what is prominent on the dish, I figured we have a chance to complement or contrast strong flavors.  For a muse of Gazpacho Blanco, I chose a lively, dry Prosecco made from the grape Glera of the Veneto region near Trieste.  With its austere dryness and notes of dried yellow fruits and biscuits, the Adami Garbe'l  had a tart zest that refreshed and seemed to bring out the melon/cucumber flavors of the chilled summer soup. That was followed by the only dish I had previously enjoyed, a Chicken Liver Pate' dusted with Pistachios and dressed with a Cherry-Balsamic smear. Earthy flavors of the livers would dominate, and also coat the tongue, but the smear was a sweet counterpoint. I chose a wonderful red fruit mousse of Cremant Brut Rose' of Pinot Noir from quality producer, Lucien Albrecht of Alsace. Aromas of watermelon and strawberry gave way to a refreshingly tart, bright flavor notes of white strawberry that clensed the palate and danced with the richness of the Pate' while introducing the sweet counterpoint of the smear. It was a very happy time in the mouth!
Both of these bottles of bubbles used their prominent acidity to wash the palate, while they also allowed the fresh flavors of the soup to amplify and its tongue coating richness of the Pate' to be thinned in the mouth.  What followed was also to be mufti-faceted. Seared Sea Scallops(mild) with Green Raisin Salsa nested on Watercress and Pears would introduce a sweet heat to be countered by the bitter-sweet of the greens & fruit nest. A chilled 2011 Rene Mure Pinot Gris Signature presented itself with generous, fresh aromas of acacia and stone fruits, a hint of stony-minerality.  Bone dry, its lively acidic zest was a deliciously refreshing foil to the salsa, and allowed the sweet pear flavors to be perceived more prominently.  The spike of heat was there, but surfaced between sweet impressions in the mouth offered by the pear and then the raisins.
Acid strength varies within the citrus family.

Good acid strength cuts the mouth-coating flavors and texture of fat, as well as refreshing the palate. It can reduce the tart impact of acidic foods, such as vinegars, and soften the cloyingly sweet perceptions of sugars in the mouth. Expecting a rich and earthy profile combined with beefy, mouth-coating sinewy flavors, the entree of Beef Short Ribs with Truffle-Celery Root Puree did not disappoint. It challenged the pairing of a deep, evolving richness of a prized 1980 Chateau Palmer Bordeaux Rouge. This beautiful aged Third Growth wine from prestigious Margaux with its black jam and forest floor nose was terrifically soft and yet complex on the palate; but its declining structure allowed the beef dish to muscle it around the mouth.  Equal to the task was a 2006 La Sirena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, as its firm structure and bracing acidity were still quite prominent as a framework for its stewed dark fruit and spice.  Both of these beautiful red wines, terrific on their own, engaged the same dish distinctly, each bringing something different to the flavor party.

To finish after a light Butter Lettuce Salade of Seedless Grapes, diced Red Onion & Pepper Goat Cheese, we delighted in a light presentation of Me'Me's Beach Cake with Fresh Strawberries & White Nectarines. The Beach Cake was compact, but featherweight, filled with dried fruits and topped with whipped creme. A smothering of pick of the season fruits and the biscuit qualities of the cake found a wonderful partner in a vintage dated honeysuckled Sauternes from Chateau de La Chartreuse.  It demonstrated easily how good acidity in the wine can keep the cloyingly overly-sweet perceptions for dessert wines in balance, allowing its textured stone fruit flavors to gracefully sail through.

For more food & wine pairing recommendations, visit, and as always, we should have fun with food and wine.  It really helps to work with liked wines or foods that you are familiar with, and to remember always that acid is our friend!