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Serve the Expensive Wine, Cook With a Cheaper Wine? by Lisa Mecray Rogers

Like fairytales? Not when it comes to wine or chocolate…

Our next set of fairytales are about food preparation and pairings as it relates to wine and chocolate. Just when you think you have a good handle on something, surprise! Time to dispel these common tales so you can expand your enjoyment of wine and chocolate at home, out at a restaurant or at your own dinner party.

Serve the expensive wine, cook with a cheaper wine?

Oh no…. Following this fairytale will result in your dish tasting like the cheap wine! Even though it may pain you to pour a $50+ wine into the saucepot, you should compromise a bit and use a decent, though perhaps not the high-dollar wine in the sauce.

Searching for the perfect pairing? Although there are advocates that believe perfect pairings are a big delusion, there are truly guidelines that will help improve your experience. It’s great to know that there is the opportunity to create some really amazing pairings rather than trying to find the proven perfect match. The single most important variable in the success of wine and food pairing lies completely out of the control of every wine expert and chef. And that variable is you, your guests and anyone else due to the fact you bring different taste buds to the table.

Red with meat, white with fish?

Believing this fairytale will deny you of some delicious wine and food combinations! Wine and food pairings have almost more to do with seasonings, sauces and flavors than the core ingredient itself like meat or fish. What matters most is the dominant flavor of the dish and the structural components of wine that offer the best pairing guidance. In a pairing scenario, wine is really acting as a condiment to food. Try to think about it this way when planning your meal! Don’t think in colors, red or white.

It’s unfair to reject red wines from pairing with seafood or other light dishes. It’s not the “red” that matters, it’s the presence of tannin (that slight bite you can get from some reds) that you need to know when deciding which red to serve with your dish. Not all red wines have the same amount of tannin. Try a Pinot Noir with grilled salmon next time. With a tuna steak in a sauce of olives, garlic, capers and tomatoes, try a Pinot Noir, a Chianti (Sangiovese) or Merlot. A red Zinfandel or Beaujolais is amazing with roasted chicken.

It’s also unfair to reject white wines with meats, like steak, veal and pork. If a rib-eye steak has a blue cheese, mushroom and cream sauce, try an oaked white Burgundy or Chardonnay. Even hot dogs can go well with a glass of Rosé. But if ever in doubt, Champagne goes with everything!

Wine doesn’t go with Asian cuisine?

Turn the page on this! Even though it’s not necessarily traditional to drink wine with Asian dishes, that doesn’t mean they can’t go great together! Spicy, salty, sweet, sour, can be quite overwhelming what wine to choose.

White wines, in general pair very well! A dry Riesling, dry Gewurztraminer, dry Rosé, Viognier, and even Champagne are almost always on spot. They tend to be crisp and have a touch of sweetness that can work well if there is a delicate light flavor or even with a stronger spicy dish. For the intensely flavored and extremely spicy dishes, the sweeter, more fruity and aromatic white wines, like German style Rieslings, can be a great match.

Although heavy, robust and tannic red wine may overpower some Asian dishes, even those dishes with grilled meats, a softer red wine can be quite amazing. Try a Pinot Noir, Syrah or a red from the Rhone Valley (France) like Gigondas and Chateauneuf de Pape. Try it, you’ll like it!

Wine pairings with sushi are amazing too. Stay tuned for this in another segment so we can really get into the different types of fish and rolls!

Chocolate and dessert should be paired with a dessert wine?

Total nonsense. Please no “sweet dessert, sweeter wine” tale. Dessert wines are called that because they ARE dessert. Not that they should be should be served with dessert! That’s way too much sweet going on. In fact, sweet wines go best with non-sweet dishes. Think about the classic pairings of Sauternes and Roquefort cheese or a Sherry with smoked salmon. Sweet wines can also be a great complement to salty dishes. For example, Sherry and Muscat go well with oysters, olives and nuts. And a rich, sweet dessert can easily be balanced by a wine that is off-dry, moderate in alcohol and brimming with crisp acidity.

When it comes to chocolate and wine pairings, it can be a bit complicated. It will require some research on your part to find combinations that bring out the positive in both partners in the match. An unsuccessful match may leave your guests with a dry mouth or a coated tongue from the wine and the chocolate and may taste dull and lackluster. There is quite a difference of opinion concerning the wisdom of pairing wine with chocolate but as a person working with both on a daily basis, I believe that when you know how to do it properly, it is truly the most decadent, delicious and fun experience! Since there isn’t a short easy answer to how to pair wine and chocolate, stay tuned for another installment that will speak specifically on this topic.

Ready to expand your horizons? Start experimenting and have fun doing it!

~Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.


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