Last fall, at a conference for food writers, wine writer and editor Bruce Schoenfeld said something that really stuck with me. He said, "The goal when pairing wine is not to be absolutely right. The goal is to just not be wrong." In other words, you don't want to do something crazy, like pair Cabernet with spicy chicken curry, but most of the time, wine and food combinations are simply pleasantly suited or just not doing each other harm. But when wine and food really go together, those rare perfect pairings of food and wine can explode together in an intense flavor experience like no others. Here's another wine writer's opinions on some of these most sublime pairings.
A piece by Ray Isle at Food & Wine a few years ago explores this question of how much food and wine really can complement each other. He says:
I find that in the vast majority of pairings, the wine and the food don't affect each other much; they coexist peacefully, if unexcitingly. In a modest percentage of matches, the wine and the food accentuate the flavors in one another, and both taste better as a result; however, an equal percentage, I'd say, are the reverse.
But every now and then wine and food complement each other spectacularly. I think of a strawberry panna cotta I had last summer with a glass of not-too-sweet Moscato, the strawberry and floral flavors playing back and forth in a shockingly delicious way.
Isle offers a few of his own picks for wines and foods that come together in a special way, including:
Melon and prosciutto and dry Muscat. The perfumy, grapey character of the Muscat--Terre di Orazio's bottling is particularly good--complements the melon, while the saltiness of the prosciutto makes a nice counterpoint to the wine's ebullient fruitiness.
Black truffles and old Burgundy or white truffles and old Barolo. Truffles have a wild, musky, earthy depth that goes very well with the aromas and flavors--gaminess, spice notes, earth, dried fruits and, well, truffles--that these wines acquire over time.
Read on for more of his piece and his picks:
An Expert's Pairing Advice at Food & Wine
Your turn! What food and wine pairings have made you gasp? Any really amazing pairings that complemented both the food and the wine?
More on Pairing Wine with Food
• Yes, You Can Drink Wine With Birthday Cake. Here's How!
• Wine and Soup: Easy Pairing Tips
• Wine and Cheese: Why Pairings Don't Really Matter
• Wines for Hot and Spicy Foods
• A Sip and a Cone: 5 Luscious Wine and Ice Cream Pairings
• A Safe Bet: Sherry and Cheese. Together.