7 Crazy Food & Wine Pairings That Actually Work
I have gone through wine and food pairings several times on these pages and by now you should know that there are a few specific criteria ruling these matches. Wine has the task to animate food without being neither intrusive nor submissive, cleaning your mouth between bites reviving, this way, the desire of the next bite and exalting, when combined correctly, the dish flavors.
But I am a nonconformist by nature and I believe that we should keep our mind always open and that sometimes it can be quite funny and interesting breaking the rules and experimenting new combinations because this can bring to unexpectedly pleasant discoveries.
Well, on the wave of this bold attitude, today I’d like to go even further and shock you with some crazy and ‘outrageous’ or simply unusual wine & food pairings, which can be considered somehow the exceptions that prove the rules!
1. Lambrusco & Salami
Who said Lambrusco is just a dull, light and cheap wine to be found on the bottom shelves of supermarkets? It is light, no doubts about it, bubbly, and sometimes it can be of very low quality, but when well produced it has appealing aromas of violets with notes of fresh red fruit and moderate tannins that allow it to be extremely refreshing and to become a great companion on hot summer days, especially in combination with a charcuterie afternoon snack. Lambrusco has, actually, a very strong bond with its land of origin, Emilia Romagna, the region in northern Italy where ‘mortadell’, Prosciutto di Parma and other very tasty salami and cold meats are produced.
The vinous, fruity and flowery aromas, the freshness and light tannins of this wine, will be a perfect match to counteract the natural fatness of mortadella and the other cold meats without overpowering them and the delicate bubbles will completely cleanse your palate.
My suggestion is… Mionetto Il Lambrusco
About the wine: Lightly carbonated, lightly tart with juicy red fruit flavors. Refreshing and thirst quenching, delicious!
2. Bacon and Eggs & Bordeaux
Bacon and eggs are a classic breakfast preparation (especially in UK, and especially after a long brave night!), but if this breakfast is a late one or if it’s a brunch and you are allowed a glass of wine, what would you match with it? If we were following the rules probably we should go for a light bubbly one; eggs are one of the most difficult foods to match and they struggle with tannins, while bacon needs a bit of astringency to clean the palate.
Well, believe it or not, nothing works better than good Bordeaux. Do you find it preposterous? You haven’t tried it yet! Some of the best food and wine pairing tips are ones you would never think of. And if I would not go as far as a first growth (although nothing prevents you from trying it!), definitely a simple Claret with smooth tannins and a delicate fruity structure will be the perfect candidate for this crazy match!
My suggestion is… Chateau Haut Rian Bordeaux Rouge 2011
About the wine: This typical blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc has forest berries aromas with hints of sweet spices. Tannins are smooth and supple. Not too exuberant and gently elegant.
3. Fries & Champagne
Do not underrate fries; this very poor food can be considered as the ancestor of the contemporary street food movement and has a very honorable history. In the race for the birth of what the Americans call “French fries” are both the Belgians and the French. The former recall their birth to a 1781 manuscript explaining how during the periods when the Meuse was frozen, in the absence of fish to fry, people resigned to fry potatoes cut into long, thin strips.
According to the French, instead, the birth of what is commonly called ‘frites’ coincide with the revolution of 1789. Certainly fries spread in France and Belgium from around 1830, but crossed the ocean much later, brought back by the soldiers after First World War, although they already were one of the favorite dishes of the second American president Thomas Jefferson who had long been ambassador to France. And with such a special pedigree, what else can I suggest, if not Champagne? Bubbles and acidity to clean your palate, and elegance to stand to the deliciousness of this preparation!
My suggestion is… Deutz Brut Classic NV
About the wine: This is the entry wine for one of the most prestigious Champagne houses, and it shows a firm and elegant complexity of fruit and harmonious acidity which will balance perfectly the yummy oiliness of your fries. Honestly this match is made in heaven, believe me!
4. Pizza & Tuscan Red Wine
You may have been told that, in Italy, most often pizza is served with beer, and maybe you have felt the urge of following what seems to be tradition and rule in the motherland of pizza. Nothing wrong with it, I have to say: a good lager better if an artisanal one, is surely a good choice, but even better may be a good glass of nice wine!
Can you think about any reason why wine should not be drunk with pizza? Trust me; there isn’t any!
Let’s stay on a simple margherita; we’d need to match a crispy wine with the natural acidity of tomatoes and we’d need to go soft with tannins that would otherwise clash with the mozzarella freshness. Finally we should choose a wine showing a juicy and fresh fruitiness such as a young Chianti or Morellino di Scansano.
My suggestion is… Toscolo Chianti 2013
About the wine: This is a fruit-driven style Chianti. Young with an intense freshness, tasty with supple tannins and a balanced body. Drink it now …with your pizza.
5. Oysters & Beaujolais
Red wine with oysters, yes, you read it right and more precisely Beaujolais. Lightweight, fresh, with the right minerality and delicate tannins, a Morgon can work perfectly with any type of oyster, although it’d prefer those slightly fatter for your first approach!
My suggestion is… Louis Jadot Morgon Ch. des Jacques 2011
About the wine: This wine opens on a surprising flowery nose and an intense minerality, resulting from the volcanic terroir where it is coming from. In the mouth it is lean and precise with supple tannins and a lingering finish.
6. Venison & Riesling
At this point, you may think I am just trying to stretch this subject too much or to shock for the sake of it. Believe me; I am not, and as crazy as it may sound, venison can work very well with Riesling, so much that there are also a few recipes for Riesling gravy for this meat
Using some sweetish herbs or sauces to dress it and serving the meat rare may help this match in bringing out the sweetness and complexity of flavors of the meat. And if it still sounds one of the most eccentric pairings, if you are brave enough to experiment it, it is going to be one of the most surprisingly satisfactory ones!
My suggestion is… 2005 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Ausles
About the wine: A magnificent combination of delicacy, elegance and refined acidity for this complex wine with layers of sweet floral and generous tropical fruit. Creamy, rich, with a persistent aftertaste and a capacity of ageing for quite a while!
7. Sushi & Sherry
How difficult is to choose the most perfect wine to drink with sushi? Of course, there is a wide choice out there and several possible combinations but, as usual, some matches are much better than others. So, what about trying one of the most underrated wines in the world?
I am talking about sherry, and more precisely its Fino or Manzanilla. These wines, with their distinctive pungency and refined saltiness can enhance the subtle sushi flavors with amazing results.
My suggestion is… Alvear Fino En Rama 2008
About the wine: Bone dry and quite savory, this is a wine with a unique personality and it comes in a vintage version which is already very peculiar for a sherry! Its salty tang is delicately mixed with nutty notes and hints of fruit. On its own as aperitif is great, but with sushi it’s smashing!!
One last thing…
The most interesting part about food and wine matching is that it is an empiric thing totally based on personal taste and you’ll never know unless you try. So it’s best just to try one of my suggestions and let me know what you think.