Those of you familiar with my posts know that I am fascinated by wine and food pairings. Not any old pairing. I am referring to the rare experience that some are fortunate enough to have when the right wine and the right food are enjoyed together. Recently, I decided to do a bit of an experiment to understand more about how and when this can happen. I selected a really nice red wine, one that I thought would go with just about anything, and prepared two dishes that I believed to be red wine friendly. The results were logical but I was still surprised.
First, the wine. A Cabernet from a great winery that Bruce and I visited in Napa a few years ago. It has been collecting dust in the cellar for some time and it was ready to open. The winery, Shafer, is nestled back in the Stag’s Leap section of Napa off the Silverado Trail.
I have read that if you are not sure what to pair a particular dish with then just get the wine you like and the food you like and mangia! While in many cases that will be fine, I wanted to understand how this lovely Cab would complement two of my favorite dishes. We tasted the wine first and as expected it was smooth, full bodied and delicious. It needed some air so I put it in the decanter but we did not wait more than a few seconds to enjoy the wine. I prepared two entrees for my experiment; a roast beef seasoned with fresh herbs, shallots, garlic and mustard and a vegetable lasagna. Both are commonly classified as red wine foods and I wanted to know if both of these foods paired magically with the wine. The answer was NO!
My husband has a gluten allergy so this was a vegetable lasagna without noodles but it turned out great. The wine went nicely with it, but the creaminess of the ricotta and mozzarella really needed a more acidic wine. Like an Italian wine. The next course was the roast beef, which also came out perfectly (that is code for I did not overcook it). In this instance, the wine and the beef complemented one another so nicely. This is a steak wine so it makes sense. The earthiness of the thyme and rosemary in the rub complemented the same quality in the wine. This was the pairing I was looking for.
So, what did I learn? The same thing that I learned with my Argentina & Malbec lesson. When looking for a great pairing, selecting dishes and recipes from the same region the wine was made will very likely lead to a lovely meal. That does not mean a wine you like from Australia won’t pair nicely with Spanish Tapas, but if you really want to find the magic in synergy, seek out wines and foods that originate from the same climate and culture.