Two Types of Pairings: Match or Contrast

– George Staikos, National Sales Manager, June 2013

Two Types of Wine & Food Pairings: Match or Contrast

There are two approaches to pairing wine with food. You can match the flavor and texture of the food or you can create a contrast. Either way, you will enhance your enjoyment of both the food and the wine.

Matching wine and food is the easier of the two concepts. This was the approach we took during a recent reception at a Hall of Fame Wine and Seafood Pairing that I hosted at 55 Main Restaurant in Flemington. The pairing was ceviche and Prince Edward Island oysters with 2011 Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet from Loire Valley. Crisp and refreshing, this traditionally made Muscadet is the classic match for seafood.

Both of the dishes and the wine exhibited amazing clarity and brightness of flavor, taking each to a greater level of enjoyment. In addition, the steely minerality in the Muscadet matched the subtle brininess in the oysters. It was a great example of the ultimate goal in wine and food pairing: Each made the other better. As we enjoyed a taste of the ceviche followed by a sip of the Muscadet, I said to a friend, “if summer has a taste, this is it.”

Contrasting the attributes of a wine with a food requires a bit more thought about the texture of both the wine and the food. While hosting a Ramey wine dinner at Blue Morel at the Westin Governor Morris Hotel in Morristown, the first course was a tapioca-crusted soft shell crab paired with 2010 Ramey Russian River Valley Chardonnay. The freshness and richness of the crab was at the forefront of the dish while the pan-fried preparation provided a subtle oily and crunchy texture. It was beautifully contrasted by the bright acidity of this elegant barrel fermented Chardonnay from Ramey.

There were two specific things happening on the palate. The complexity of the wine and food were in perfect harmony, while the acidity of the Ramey Chardonnay cut the oiliness of the food, leaving the palate clean. This pairing was further proof that a classically made California Chardonnay with acidity and balance, like the Ramey, works beautifully with seafood.

Match or contrast? It’s your call.

– Originally posted in New Jersey Monthly