This is one that I bring up all the time in Buenos Aires wine tastings….purely because, a.) I’m a big fatty and I like food and b.) I love the way food can develop or change the characteristic of a wine on your palate and not always with the things that you think will work the best. So, of course the question is
“Red wines with red meats. White wine with white meat and fish. “
Today, in this modern day and age, the focus is on freedom of choice and personal enjoyment of textures and flavours, not facts related to certain formulas about food and wine pairings, thank goodness! But yes, there are some general guidelines that can be applied to harmonise characteristics in certain wines and foods.
The key is to balance the intensities of flavour and the body of the wine in comparison to the weight of the food; to not let the wine overpower the food or vice versa. If you bear this in mind then you can start to break this old time rule down into the ground.
For example, a Pinot Noir is a red wine, thus by all means if you follow the reds for red rule then you should be eating a nice big bit of juicy Argentine steak. Well, think again. Pinot Noir is a grape that generally tends to be rather light bodied (in the grand scheme of reds) due to it’s thin skins, so rather than a red meat why not try a lighter meaty fish, like a tuna steak, thus the matching the body of the wine and the weight of the dish more closely. What you want to avoid here is any oily fish or foods in general. Fish oils tend to react negatively with red wines and form metallic flavours with sharp harsh edges. So the advice is to pay attention to how you cook your food too….if you were to fry the Tuna steak it would become greasier and work against the wine, however, grilling the meat would leave it dry and supple, just like your wine!
In the white category you can mix it up too. An oaked Chardonnay would have enough body and substance to stand up to lamb, perhaps with a sprig of rosemary to the side it the wine is showing some floral notes…or a nut or butter based sauce to highlight any nutty or buttery characteristics from the oak.
Other general rules include considering the flavour characteristic and trying to match or contrast flavours of the wine versus flavours on your plate. For example a lovely Argentine Torrontes such as Familia Blanco’s Mairena shows wonderful aromatic qualities of flowers, and herbaceous notes, much like those found in spicy Thai food. This combination literally makes me dool every time I think about it! Plus Torrontes from Argentina has beautiful high, dry, dancing acidity which cuts through spice beautifully. On the other hand a sweet wine, cosheca tardia or late -harvest style Torrontes is a dream made in heaven when contrasting salty food like Roquefort cheese or balance any tartness in certain dishes like tomato based sauces in pastas. Watch out for high alcohol in wine and try to avoid spicy food…you might find that your mouth is on fire after chewing on a combination of the two! But like I said at the beginning of this lengthy ramble, eat and drink whatever the heck you want! Be merry!
So the final conclusion to this list of myths and facts: “Red wines with red meats. White wine with white meat and fish. “…of course it is a myth! Phew.
A final note, as I was writing away and looking at certain notes I came across this recipe for a Chardonnay based sauce that I think sounds devine….I haven’t tried it but I certainly will this evening. Fork in one had, and a big glass of oak chardonnay in the other. Great stuff!
Fettuccine in chardonnay, black pepper, and cashew nut sauce with asparagus, red bell pepper and spinach
2 cups raw cashew nuts
2 cups chardonnay
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
Juice of a large lemon (~ 3 tbsp)
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 lb fettuccine cooked per package instructions
2 cups baby spinach
1 bunch asparagus bottom tips peeled
½ red bell pepper cut into fine strips
Pre-heat oven to 400F. Bring a slated pot of water to boil.
Barely cover the cashew with water in a small bowl and microwave for 2 minutes before remove and let to rest. Blend cashew nuts and water in food processor until the nuts have turned into a smooth and glossy paste.
Put the wine in a saucepan and bring to near boil over a medium heat, turn temperature to low and simmer for approximately 10 minutes. Add cashew nut paste, lemon juice, black pepper, salt and whisk to combine, taste and adjust flavors. It should be creamy, tangy and a bit peppery. Add more warm water if it is too thick.
Place asparagus and red bell pepper on two different baking trays, drizzle with olive oil and a light layer of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for approximately 8 minutes. Remove from oven and keep warm.
Meanwhile cook pasta following cooking instructions from package, put spinach leaves in toward the last 30 seconds. Drain.
Transfer pasta with spinach to a bowl. Toss with half of the sauce, scatter asparagus spears and red pepper slices over and serve.