What better way to celebrate the longest night than feasting with friends. I love planning these annual wine tastings and usually learn something new as a result of the research and preparation that goes into hosting. Then I get to discover even more when people bring fantastic new wines to my table with such delicious food pairings. This year was outstanding for new insights.
The theme was Progressive Wine Pairings, built around concepts presented by Jerry Comfort's Progressive Food Pairing Seminar I attended in November.
Before we got started with the meal, we played with the 5 tastes on a plate to see how food altered the taste of the wine. A taste of a sweet apple changed the character of the wine for the worse. Sour lemon enhanced the flavour. Bitter radicchio made a nice contrast. What happened with umami mushroom was interesting - a lovely match at first with an aftertaste of bitter. Throwing salt into the mix balanced the different tastes - it took the bitter edge off the umami, it added new dimension to the sour lemon.
Direct demonstration of some newly discovered pairing fundamentals: avoid serving food sweeter than wine; sour food is wine-friendly; a little bit of salt works magic; 'balanced' food will complement just about any wine.
I chose the Beringer wines for the 'five tastes' pairing because Comfort is their rep. These wonderful wines are less than $20 a bottle:
- Beringer, Founder's Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 2010
- Beringer, Founder's Estate, Chardonnay, California, 2010
Off-dry and Light Styles of Wine
Fontella, Chianti, Italy, 2011
Leon Beyer, Gewurtztraminer, Alsace, 2010
Caroline made a delicious, spicy shrimp Thai dish (recipe in comments below). The Gewurtztraminer was fantastic pairing. Chianti worked okay, but I suspect a Zinfandel would have been even more pleasing.
Crisp, Light Intensity Wines
Louis Jadot, Bourgogne, Chardonnay, France, 2010
Monte Antica, Toscana, Red Wine, Italy 2008
Nicki paired artichoke dip with the chardonnay and Grace paired smoked salmon and trout with the chianti. Both matches were delicious, and they worked equally well with either the white or the red.
Strong-Intensity Whites/Light-to-Medium-Intensity Reds
Kim Crawford, Marlborough, Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, 2012
Santa Digna, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile, 2011
Wendy chose cream cheese and salmon, Annika had pita chips with feta lemon dip. True to the theory, both red and white matched well with either of the foods. At least one red wine drinker was being won over by the whites.
Leira, Albarino, Spain, 2011
Liberty School, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, 2009
Kaarina chose spicy Thai shrimp with mint raita for the white and Louise had an amazing platter of cheeses, bread and olives. All so good!
Strong Tannin Red
Terre del Barolo, Barolo, Italy, 2006
At the seminar, Comfort made the point that strong tannin reds demand a thoughtful pairing. The wrong choice can destroy the taste of the wine. Liz brought a perfect food companion: thinly shaved beef on a slice of baguette, spread with dijon and horseradish; topped with carmelized onion and a dollop of aioli. Amazing!
Royal DeMaria, Vidal Icewine, Ontario, Canada, 1998
Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro, Spanish
Virginia paired ice wine with a delicious baked apple and cranberry fruit crisp (recipe in the comments section below) and Nicolette had chocolate with moscatel.
A perfect finish to our solstice feast!