The goal of food and wine pairing is to choose a
wine that makes the food taste better and vice versa. But is it possible to choose a wine
that makes the food taste worse, or the wine taste bad - and like really bad? The answer is
yes. There are a few foods that pose some serious challenges for wine pairing ... but it can
be done! Here are our tips to tackling tough food and wine pairings.
Artichokes are a tricky little food. They contain a chemical, cynarine, which can play serious
tricks on the palate. It actually messes with the taste receptors on your tongue, and can make
water or dry wines taste sweet. Suddenly that crisp, dry Sancerre you were enjoying on its own
tastes completely different, and usually not for the better.
Pick a wine with a little bit of sweetness to start with. It might taste slightly sweeter
because of the artichokes, but it won't change the flavor of the wine so
Asparagus is another tough vegetable for wine pairing
- and it's another chemical that's responsible. In this case, methanethiol, which is actually also the component that causes that other funny thing
to happen after you eat asparagus. It's a sulfur compound that brings out very marked vegetal
notes in a lot of wines. And frankly vegetal is not a descriptor that ever comes up when
we're giving a positive review to a wine.
Solution: Choose a crisp, dry white that
doesn't have any herbal or 'green' notes to start. We like dry sparkling Prosecco or
Sancerre. A little added green note won't be as noticeable against the wine's acidity, and
since it's not being doubled by a natural veggie flavor the wine already
#3) Challenge: Walnuts / Walnut
Walnuts and walnut oil are both very, very high in tannin. Their crunch and
toastiness plus this bit of bitterness are why we love them, but it can wreak havoc with
wine. Try a tannic wine like Cabernet and add walnuts on top of that, and both
suddenly will taste unpleasantly bitter and astringent. Yuck!
Solution: Avoid wines with a lot of tannin - either reds or whites. Most
heavier reds will be higher in tannin, or whites with long aging in oak which can also add
tannin. Good choices include Cru Beaujolais or unoaked/lightly oaked Chardonnay.
#4) Challenge: Vinegar
The etymology of the word vinegar is from the French, vin aigre, or sour wine. When
good wines go bad, they can turn into vinegar - so not too surprising then that they don't help
showcase a wine's charms. Tart and acerbic, vinegar can make a wine seem like it has started to
Solution: High-acid wines have a fighting chance to stand up to the
notable acidity in the vinegar. Generally, this is going to point you to whites, especially
in a crisp style like Sauvignon Blanc or Vinho Verde.
Tell us about challenges or successes you've had pairing wines with tough foods like these:
Starts with this Question: Red, White or Rose?
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