Foolproof food and wine pairing

Last fall, a winemaker in a Los Olivos tasting room gave me the best food and wine pairing advice I’ve ever heard: Drink what you like with food that you love.

Señorita Vino believes that no one should feel confined by rules when it comes to food and vino. However, there are a few no-nos to remember. Certain types of fish will taste metallic when combined with a full-bodied red wine, and a too-sugary cupcake, flan or pastel will make a sweet dessert wine taste bland. Last but not least, unless you want a five-alarm fire in your mouth, avoid pairing spicy food with high-alcohol wines.

Wine cork wisdom.

Okay, got all that? If not, don’t worry, because I am about to introduce you to the smartest food and wine pairing tool ever invented: The wine label. Specifically, the label on a bottle of Entwine, a collaboration between the Food Network and California’s Wente Vineyards. Each bottle of Entwine features pairing suggestions on the back label, which I put to the test with the intrepid Señor Jim last weekend.

Preparing to test-drive label pairing suggestions.

[EL FULL DISCLOSURE: Wente Vineyards sent me one bottle each of their Entwine wines. Muchas gracias, Wente! The opinions (and pairing taste test) are entirely my own. But I’m willing to share].

Food and wine pairing doesn’t get any easier.

On the menu: A cheese and olive plate, cumin chicken in a creamy cilantro yogurt sauce, breaded veal scaloppina with prosciutto, and seared sea bass in a red wine reduction with shiitake mushrooms and mashed potatoes.

Because we had Manchego and Romano cheeses and a jar of savory kalamata olives on hand, we decided to start with the Pinot Grigio, a crisp white wine. The label suggested pairing it with salty cheese, hors d’oeuvres or guacamole, among other delicacies.  The natural acidity of the wine worked with the richness of the cheeses. Too easy!

Next, we paired the Chardonnay with the chicken in cilantro yogurt sauce. Some of the recommended combinations on the label included roast chicken, cream sauces, grilled cheese sandwiches, potato chips and shellfish. No guesswork here, and the buttery taste of the Chardonnay was a nice match with the cilantro sauce.

Cumin chicken and yogurt cilantro sauce paired well with Entwine Chardonnay.

We chose the more complex dinners to test the red wine pairing tips. The breaded veal and prosciutto seemed a fairly close match to the Merlot label recommendations of salami, grilled pork and meatloaf. No complaints from Señor Jim, whose sensitivity to tannins (remember, tannins give wine an astringent, mouth-puckering feeling and come from grape skins and seeds or oak barrels) was not triggered by the less tannic Merlot.

Merlot is a great match for prosciutto-wrapped veal.

I saved the Cabernet Sauvignon to prove my earlier point about rules made to be broken. My sea bass was happily floating in a reduction of Sangoivese, an Italian red wine. Two meaty shiitake mushrooms and some garlicky mashed potatoes kept it company. The Entwine Cabernet Sauvignon is aged in oak and, generally speaking, is not considered a good match for fish.

At this point, any wine snobs who sneaked under the Señorita Vino Snob-Free Wine Zone radar are twitching and muttering, “Oh, no she DIDN’T!”

Reader, I did.

Now, the wine label recommendations did include potatoes and sautéed mushrooms, and there happened to be a velvety red wine sauce slathered all over my fish. So while I broke the ‘no-fish-with-bold-red-wine’ rule, I bent the ‘match-the-sauce-with-the-wine’ rule to satisfy my insatiable curiosidad.

It worked for me. May not work for others, but that’s the beauty of the vino world. Sometimes what’s good for the goose is also good for the fish, the veal and the chicken.

[Psst…still there? You can buy Wente’s Entwine line of wines online (dontcha love that assonance?), or you can find them at your local supermarket. Here in L.A., Entwine is sold at Albertson’s and Total Wine and Spirits, among others. And the price is nice at about $12 a bottle. Salud, and happy pairing!]

8 thoughts on “Foolproof food and wine pairing

  1. The last 2 dishes look so yummy. Cumin chicken and yogurt cilantro, gonna have to try this combo

  2. I’m such a wine newbie that I LOVE that line. Pair wine with the food that you like. I love that you shared with us the types of food that you paired your wine with. And at $12 a bottle, it’s not that bad! Thanks for sharing.

  3. My favorite Pinot Grigio, great post very good pairings, congrats!

  4. Awesome pairings indeed! 🙂 I’ve just returned to my love of red wine, so I will have to check them out.

  5. This was all in one sitting right? 🙂 thanks for the great pairing experiment and report. I am a true believer in pairing what you like and breaking the wine rules if need be.

    1. Yeah, this girlish figure is going by the wayside with all the wine consumption 😉 Glad you enjoyed the experiment!

  6. I love this one.

    Mango jim

    From my HTC Amaze 4G on T-Mobile. The first nationwide 4G network

  7. what beautiful plates to show off that amazing food!

    >________________________________ > From: “”Seorita Vino”” >To: >Sent: Friday, September 14, 2012 8:21 AM >Subject: [New post] Foolproof food and wine pairing > > > >Pamela posted: “Last fall, a winemaker in a Los Olivos tasting room gave me the best food and wine pairing advice I’ve ever heard: Drink what you like with food that you love. Seorita Vino believes that no one should feel confined by rules when it comes to food and ” >

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