Wine Pairings Should Always Be Fun!

Paul J. Henderson, The Times Published: Friday, December 19, 2008

Guidelines yes, rules–never 

When it comes to the rules that govern what wine should be served with what food at a get-together there really aren’t any.

Guidelines, sure, but the only rule is to have fun and mix it up, according to the guys with the good noses and palates at Bravo Restaurant in Chilliwack.

“Don’t be afraid to mix it up,” says Louie De Jaeger, co-owner, along with Damian Du Plessis, of Bravo.

“We always try new things,” Du Plessis adds. “The main thing is to have fun experimenting and trying.”

That being said, there are a few guidelines to get you started whether it’s a cocktail party or a full-on holiday dinner feast.

The old idea that lighter wine goes with lighter food and heavier wine goes with heavier food is a good starting point. What also applies if you are going to drink more than one wine—and De Jaeger and Du Plessis always think you should–is that you should drink lighter wines first and move on to heavier ones so as not to overwhelm the palate too early on.

If guests are coming over, De Jaeger and Du Plessis suggest a good way to start things off is with a nice light white wine, even something bubbly. Prosecco is a delicious, light Italian sparkling wine that is not only perfect for to hand a guest as they walk in the door, but also lends itself to having fun.

“You can play around with it and add juice, a raspberry, fruit puree,” De Jaeger says. This would give you a variation on the Bellini, a popular Italian cocktail, which is simply Prosecco and peach puree.

On to hors d’oeuvres and munchies and it’s time to change things up. If you have seafood–shrimps maybe or a nice seared scallop–try a nice, light, crisp Pinot gris such as the one the Bravo boys are fans of right now from the Okanagan’s Wild Goose Vineyards.

If you’re going a little spicy, say with a chicken wing, Du Plessis suggests a way to complement the flavours might be with a Riesling or a Gewurtzraminer.

Another great grape that will be new to most palates outside of Austria, but one that goes great with food, is Gruner Veltliner. This wine has a white pepper finish and has the particular attribute of going well with typically tricky to pair with foods such as asparagus or artichokes.

When you start to get into richer food, the wines should match. Still sticking with whites, if you have a salmon or a chicken with a butter sauce a chardonnay will help to cut through the richness with its aci dity.

Mention of chardonnay brings up an important point to De Jaeger and Du Plessis and that is even within one grape there is often great variety. But this only emphasizes their main point: sample and experiment.

When it comes to a traditional turkey Christmas dinner, try a pinot noir or many different whites such as a gamay would work. The gamay has a bit of sage in it and goes well with gravy and stuffing, according to De Jaeger. Or, again, try a chardonnay or a bigger riesling, but this all depends on your tastes, so mix it up.

In that traditional Thanksgiving meal there may not be much space for reds but the way into red wines is to offer a cheese or chocolate course. The red meats are where you require the bigger, red wines with tannins. Tannins are what give you that dry pucker when you sip a cabernet sauvignon, and they need protein to calm them down.

At the end of your meal or your evening that’s when it’s time to break out the ice wine. But an incredible option for those who don’t want to spend the $60-and-up on an ice wine can try a late harvest riesling and get a great alternative.

Overall when it comes to pairing wine with food it is not only good to experiment, but it’s good to find an expert. Have a menu idea in your head, head on down to your local B.C. Liquor or private specialty store and ask questions. Find an expert. Find someone with your tastes and get them to give you tips, such as, if you liked this, you might like…

Also keep in mind that you don’t need to spend $30 and $40 on bottles of wine. These days wineries, both local and imported, are doing great things even in the $10 range.

Just have fun, mix it up, and start finding for yourself what wine goes with what food in your mouth, and only good things will happen.

Copyright © 2007 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.Friday, December 19, 2008