Thursday, January 30, 2014

Food and wine pairings

We go six years back into our Way Back machine. Again with the anxious notes on wine pairing.We hadn't yet come across the advice that "most wine goes with most food."

The meal: sweet Italian turkey sausage with peppers and garlic; rice; buttered peas.

Saute an onion, a red pepper, and a green pepper in a little olive oil and perhaps a little butter. When the vegetables are soft, remove them from the pan and add 9-10 links of sweet Italian turkey sausage. Begin to brown them a little. When they have taken on some color, pile the vegetables back into the pan, add a drizzle -- perhaps 1/4 cup -- of wine (any kind, really), and a chopped garlic clove. Then add 4 or 5 Roma tomatoes, halved. Throw in some snippets of fresh basil and some thyme and salt and pepper. Cover the pan, and let it all simmer for an hour while you cook up some rice and boiled peas.

The wines (there were four):

Gagliole Rosso 2002, an Italian red from the Chianti region of Italy;
Sandholdt Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, from Soledad, California
Marietta Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Alexander Valley, California
St. Gabriel Riesling 2006, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany

When it came time to sample the wines and decide which matched best, I was rooting for the St. Gabriel Riesling to "win." I like the low-alcohol sweetness of a Riesling, and I have read more than one authority say that Rieslings tend to be the most versatile of all wines with food. The sweetness in particular, they claim, is excellent for "cutting" spicy tastes. The Italian Gagliole Rosso, I expected, would come in "second," because Italian wines are reputed to be also ideal with food -- their dryness and acidity are meant to wash things down, not stand alone.

These two wines, the Riesling and the Gagliole, were pleasant enough and seemed to keep their character next to the meal -- they didn't take on different flavors as the two Cabernet Sauvignons seemed to do. But the Riesling was a little too fruity and syrupy, and the Rosso just light and tart. The Marietta Cabernet only grew hotter with each sip (its alcohol level is 14.9%, quite high).

To my surprise, the best match was the Sandholdt Cabernet Sauvignon. After five minutes in the glass, it took on flavors of licorice, taffy, and caramel that turned out to be delicious with spicy sausage, peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Its alcohol level is 13.5%, the same as the Italian red, and so it carried no afterburn.
(To which, my future self -- November, 2009 -- can't help replying, "Oh really?")


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