Deciding which type or wine to drink with certain meals can be an arduous task, so much that some people choose other drinks over wine. When I first started to enjoy drinking wine, I found it very helpful to write notes about how specific varietals tasted with different types of food. By recording the type of wine with the flavors of the meal, after a short while I became comfortable ordering wine for a table of friends.
When done correctly, food and wine pairing makes a meal taste so much better and is also more memorable. On the other hand, there are many bad food/wine combinations that can cause some to refrain from tasting certain varietals. All you need to do is try a big California Cabernet Sauvignon with a Caesar salad or a steamed lobster with a Zinfandel to understand just how poorly some pairings can taste.
However, a Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a grilled rib-eye that has been seasoned with only virgin olive oil, fresh chopped garlic, kosher salt and pepper can be a match made in heaven. Cabernet Sauvignon and roasted steak is one of the more classic food/wine pairing combinations, but not every Cabernet contains the tannins that are sufficient enough to cut through the fat of the red meat and cause the wine to taste smoother in the mouth.
Upon learning that Cheryl Indelicato, the proprietor of HandCraft Wines from California, suggests that a grilled rib-eye is the perfect complement to her 2011 HandCraft Cabernet Sauvignon -- I couldn't wait fire up the grill and check out this pairing. Within the first
few bites of this meal, I was impressed that this Cabernet Sauvignon which retails for under $13.00 had the backbone to stand up against such a fatty cut of meat like a rib eye steak. This wine contains dark fruit flavors and has a hint of black pepper on the finish.
Indelicato, a third generation winery proprietor whose grandfather left Sicily in the early 1900s to move to the United States, honors her Italian heritage by adding a small amount of Sangiovese to soften the tannins of the Cabernet Sauvignon and it also adds fruit flavors to the final blend. HandCraft also produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Petite Sirah wines which also retail for less than $13 a bottle.
If you want to experiment with food/wine pairings, try topping this same rib-eye with Bearnaise butter and pair a Pinot Noir.
You might be surprised that the rich berry flavors of this varietal match nicely against the richness of the Bearnaise butter, yet will not be overpowered by the beef.
Or try a balsamic glaze drizzled over the grilled rib-eye after it has been sliced and then taste it against a Petite Sirah, which typically contains peppery red fruit flavors and has significant tannins that will enhance the drizzled balsamic glaze.
While food and wine pairing may appear to be difficult, with proper experimentation it can also be very rewarding.
The next time you are at a party where a variety of foods are being served and there is a choice of wines, try different wines with various foods to determine for yourself just how you will pair your next meal with wine.
Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.