Valentine’s Day is all about spending time with your special someone. We notarize the idea of splurging our significant others with chocolates, flowers, wine, and cheese, and stress ourselves out to make sure Valentine’s Day is the most romantic day of the year. I think this concept is fully bogus, to be completely honest. We lose the magic, we stress ourselves and aggravate our credit card for some commercialized ideal. So why don’t we just take a step back, relax and just enjoy ourselves?
This tasting was created to show how to pair wines with food, to allow you to make a special pairing at home, to bring the romance back into date night.
How to Pair Wine with Food
I always look at pairing as if I was creating a meal; what flavour would work together, and what components do I need to balance out the dish?
When it comes to creating the perfect pair, we look at the elements of the dish vs the elements of the wine. Here is a basic guide of what to look for:
The general rule is to have a higher level of sweetness in the wine than in the food. Sweetness in food increases the perception of bitterness, astringency, acidity, and alcohol whilst decreasing the perception of body, sweetness, and fruitiness in the wine.
Acidity is generally a good thing with a pairing, especially if you have a very high acidity wine where it brings everything into balance. But if you pair a somewhat acidic dish with a low acidity wine, the wine will show as flat, flabby and lifeless.
Salt is GOOD! Just like cooking, salt helps enhance the flavour, and it also helps increase the perception of the body while decreasing the perception of acidity and astringency.
Spice isn’t great for wine. It increases the acidity, bitterness, astringency and creates more of a burning sensation from the alcohol. Having wine with lower alcohol levels and a touch of sweetness will be best for anything with a punch of heat.
Bitterness in food will increase the perceived bitterness in wine. This part is subjective. If you’re one of those people that drinks your coffee black, you’ll probably love it. If you’re a person that loves their coffee with all the additions, maybe skip it.
Treat similar to bitterness. Umami basically brings out the worst in wine and will increase the bitterness in most wines. Trick to use when pairing umami-rich foods with wine? Add salt! Salt helps enhance the wine and somewhat counteracts the effects of umami.
Ok, so there you have it! These notes will help you pair anything with everything. But if you’re still in a pickle about what to pick, just shoot me an email! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Menu for the Evening
Before we really get going on this evenings menu, I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to Crystal for making this evening possible! If you haven’t visited her, and the friendly staff at Peasant Cheese, make sure to do so!
Marie Courtin Resonance Extra Brut 2013 – Piave, Popcorn Chicken, Crisps
I was very excited about this pairing. Champagne is my wine of choice, and even though it is seen as a more classy beverage, it is truly fun to pair with something less classy. Salt works really well with Champagne. Considering Champagne is produced from under-ripe grapes, there is less flavour intensity that other wines and salt helps bring out those nuances we all wish to see. Because champagne is also highly acidic, it works well with anything fatty. This is why a lot of people go for bloomy rind cheese and a glass of champagne because they both complement each other; the acidity helps break down the fattiness of a bloomy rind cheese, and the fattiness helps calm the acidity of the wine.
The Marie Courtin Resonance is 100% Pinot Noir. It is a brilliant, energetic wine endowed with gorgeous richness and depth. Succulent apricots, peaches, flowers, and crushed rocks are some of the many nuances that take shape in the glass. Chalky notes linger on the precise, beautifully articulated, eternal finish.
Piave pairs well with this wine because of its salty character. Named after the Piave River in Northern Italy, this cheese is hard, with a dense texture, and somewhat resembles a youthful Parmigiano Reggiano. It is a perfect cheese for any cheese board.
Why popcorn chicken and crisps? The popcorn chicken comes from one of my favourite pairings: Champagne and Fried Chicken. This works because of the fattiness and the saltiness counteract the acidity and thus becoming a beautifully orchestrated treat. Crisps (or chips) are a given, everyone loves crisps and I thought it would be fun to throw something less classy in here.
Walter Hansel Meadows Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 – Peasant’s Famous Truffle Popcorn
California Chardonnay and Popcorn is a match made in heaven. It’s part of the evening where we stick to the basics (almost), pairing two items that have similar flavours. Pairing items like this is an easy way to look like you know what you’re doing, and it’s a safe way to know the pairing will work out. We decided to zest things up a bit (considering it is valentines).
The Hansel Meadows Vineyard Chardonnay is an oaky, buttery style of Chardonnay, and this working well with some popcorn! Meadows Vineyard is in the northern part of the Hansel estate and at their lowest elevation as it is a meadow next to Santa Rosa Creek. Again, this is dry-farmed and planted with 100% Hanzell clones. Yields are always low and this Chardonnay offers up a light-gold colour, concentrated notes of honeysuckle, baked apple pie, cinnamon and plenty of spice in a medium to full-bodied, refreshing, zesty style.
Willi Haag Juffer Riesling Spatlese 2016 – Beef and Vegetable Samosas
Yes to Samosas! Samosas were perfect for this evening’s pairings. Not only did they pack a punch of heat, but they were easy to eat, and come on, who doesn’t love a good samosa? This was a pairing to show how a touch of sweetness can be used to balance out the spice. Riesling is my go-to for any spicy Indian or Thai dish because it has a floral note that will compliment the floral spices of the dish but can also have a touch of sweetness to help with any heat.
The Willi Haag Riesling has everything you would hope and expect for. It is a touch sweeter but great balance that would help it age if so inclined. Loaded with ripe lemon, clementine fruit, mineral, and beautiful acidity. Enjoy now or lay it down to see its ageing potential!
Coca i Fito Tolo do Xisto Mencia 2016 – Conservas (octopus/mussels)
This pairing was a touch different from the rest. In Spain, they love to each conservas, and so I wanted to test what Calgarians would think of a traditional pairing; Conservas and Mencia. Mencia is pretty unknown in Calgary (which is a shame). Mencia originates in Bierzo, a region close to the Atlantic Coast of Spain. It’s a delicious grape that has great minerality, while also having a touch of spice, fruit, is full-bodied and generally fun. The conservas are different styles of high quality canned seafood. Peasant cheese has an amazing range of them, but we chose to go with octopus and mussels for their richness. The seafood was definitely at the forefront of the palate for this pairing, but the Mencia added quite a nice note.
The name Tolo do Xisto means “mad about slate”. The winemaking process strives to transmit the mineral essence of the area through the different soils along the Sil river banks. A mineral, almost salty wine, is achieved which is aromatic, with good acidity. Penetrating smooth tannins, acidic red fruit, balsamic notes, spices, but above all, it is very delicate with a long finish.
Serradenari Langhe Nebbiolo 2016 – Pork & Beef Meatballs in Pesto Tomato Sauce
Nebbiolo naturally has a high acidity, which makes it easy to pair with anything containing tomatoes. Given I am a huge fan of Italian food, I definitely pushed Crystal into making meatballs in tomato sauce for this pairing. The fattiness of the meatballs and the acidity/tannins of Nebbiolo speak wonders. Unfortunately, the wine didn’t end up showing as well as it should have been, but the pairing was still a favourite!
The family behind Serradenari has owned the prestigious estate since the 19th century; they produced Italy’s first automobile in the 1800s, and this estate was their country escape. Made from the Nebbiolo grape, this ruby-red wine is fresh and easy to drink, with a pretty floral note on the nose.
Chateau Roumieu Sauternes 2015 – Foie Gras
Foie Gras and Sauternes are one of the most classic pairings. The bright acidity of the Sauternes helps cut through the fattiness of the foie gras, whilst both being rich to suit each other’s characters. I honestly can’t stand foie gras, but I can’t deny that this is a fantastic pairing.
It’s amazing to think what a little havoc in the vineyard can create. Sauternes is made from grapes that get shrivelled by an unusual fungus. Not to worry – the grapes are bursting with sweetness and acidity, resulting in this famous sweet wine. Made with 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon. Peach, mango and pineapple flavours in rich texture with hints of chamomile tea and dried herbs. Smoky notes with white pepper spice mingle with balanced acidity in the appealing finish.
KWM 20yr Tawny Port – Stilton, T’a Milano Chocolates
Port and Stilton are a match made in heaven. Stilton is notoriously spicy for blue cheese and has a touch of sweetness which the cheese that lends itself perfectly towards port. Port, being more fruit forward (in some sense) compliments the earthier notes of the stilton, without losing its farmy nuance. Chocolate is also perfect for the port because it compliments the fruit, cocoa, coffee nuances, whilst (typically) being less sweet than the wine. Whenever pairing chocolates with wine, always go for port!
This 20 Year Tawny 25th Anniversary celebration Port comes from Taylor Fladgate’s cellars in Vila Nova di Gaia. The blend was created especially for KWM and the average age of the tawny in the blend is 20 years old. Approved by the Port Wine Institute, as all things Port must be, we are just tickled port to be able to offer this special bottle to all of our loyal customers. The colour is bright and lively amber showing characteristic brown caramel tones on the rim. The nose offers dry white raisins and stewed prunes with brandied cherries and dark chocolate. The taste is lovely and subtle, good acidity, some nice walnut hues, and picks up on the Christmas cake spice theme.
Thank you to everyone who attended this evening!
- Abigail Pavka