By The Glass
Some wines taste better with food
I've recently read several articles on the perils and challenges of matching food with wine. It is true -- nailing down "must do's" is hard because pairings are highly dependent on personal tastes. At the same time, there is no doubt wines can greatly enhance a meal, adding to the gaiety and in enjoyment.
During a recent visit to France, I found it fascinating to sit on someone's patio sampling simply prepared, Provençal country foods, served with regional wines. There was no talk about the wine's grape mix or what was in the main dish's sauce. Nothing geekish at all.
I rediscovered how food and wine are a way of life there, and I am hoping one day it can be more like that here. Here are a few examples of what I mean.
While sitting at a simple cafe in Alsace, France, my wife, Cheryle, and I watched as waves of the town's business people sauntered in for lunch. Every one of them had wine. This is very different from our American experience of seeing iced tea on every table.
We ordered three glasses -- one white, one dry rosé and one regional pinot noir. Before the food arrived, we found both the white and the rosé nondescript and disappointing. The pinot, on the other hand, was pretty, highly refined, seamless and delicious.
We also ordered the town's specialty, boiled country sausage, served with a dollop of grain mustard and a small mountain of freshly made sauerkraut.
Once the food came, we did not drink any more rosé or pinot. They clashed with the food. Instead, we were completely taken by the white wine, as it worked wondrously with the food.
The wine was an Alsatian sylvaner -- dry, completely refreshing and delicious, with no hard edges whatsoever. It also had nuances of mint and basil, which is what made it so good with the food.
The experience made me flash back to the 1990s, when one of France's truly great winemakers, Andre Ostertag, who is from Alsace, told me that while his riesling and pinot gris won awards and acclaim, "it is my sylvaner ($21 a bottle) that I serve at the dinner table."
One of my all-time favorite combinations is a really good Niçoise salad with a glass of well-chilled dry rosé. It is one of those transcendent pairings that makes the whole concept of having wine with food real and attainable.
On this trip we found tasty Niçoise salads everywhere -- in a tiny bistro in a narrow Parisian alley, in a two-star Alsatian fine-dining restaurant, at a bevy of cafes along the Mediterranean coast. Dry rosés were served in every restaurant.
One of the best examples of this kind of dry rosé, available in Hawaii, is the Domaine Fontsainte Corbieres Gris de Gris ($13). This delicious, bright, refreshing rosé from southern France is well worth seeking out. In addition to Niçoise salad, you'll be surprised at the range of foods this wine pairs well with.
You can create your own versions of these pairings, using the wide range of sausages available in Hawaii, or fresh ahi and local greens. Make a match with wines like these and have some real fun.
Chuck Furuya is a master sommelier and a partner in the Sansei restaurants. This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org