Matches made in wine and food heaven

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What’s better than a great glass of wine? A great glass of wine paired with the perfect food.

When paired well, a wine will enhance a food and vice versa; but finding that perfect marriage isn’t always easy. That’s why I was really excited for my latest course at SDSU – Dynamic Food and Wine Pairing.

Not a bad way to start the day...

Not a bad way to start the day…

The class was about 6 hours on a Saturday, but it flew by as a group of about 20 students learned, tasted and sipped.

I think one of the biggest ideas I came away with is that pairing isn’t as simple as Food A matching Grape A. A lot of factors have to go into pairing, but a meal can also be adjusted to make it a better match for a given wine.

For example, I’ve often heard that white wine goes with poultry while red wine goes with red meat – easy enough, right? But think about how many different ways there are to prepare those proteins. How something is prepared, the spices used, the sauces it is served with – these should all play a part in wine selection. Or if you have a wine in mind, you can prepare your dish accordingly.

Here are a handful of the pairings we tried or discussed that either tasted delicious * or sound intriguing:

• Brachetto and blue cheese- This sparkling red is a sweet and fun wine. I’m a big fan of anything sweet with the sharp bite of a good blue cheese (typically I drizzle honey on mine). I’m looking forward to trying this decadent-sounding combination.

• Dry Champagne and potato chips* – No joke! This was our first nibble and sip of the day and it was heavenly. The crisp, acidic bubbly was mellowed by the sharp salt and rich fat of the chips. Each begging for more of the other.

• Off-dry Riesling and ginger covered in dark chocolate*- Another interesting combo the ginger and chocolate brought out some bright lemon characteristics in the lightly sweet wine.

• Select whites and artichokes – I LOVE artichokes and they happen to be a difficult item to pair with – oaked whites and many reds will not work. If the artichoke is prepared with a vinaigrette reach for a tart, citrusy white. I’ll be using this as an excuse to pick up some Grenache Blanc or Picpoul de Pinet and artichokes stat!

• Sparkling Muscat and pear tart* – One of the cardinal rules we learned for pairing a dessert was that the wine should be sweeter than the dessert. This beautiful example brought out the creaminess of the dessert and made the wine seem less intense in its sweetness.

While I’m not a big cook but any stretch of the imagination, these concepts are definitely going to help me with one aspect of serving a meal. Especially when putting together one of my go-to meals: cheese, crackers and wine.

What are some of your favorite food and wine pairings? Share them in the comments below.

Learn more about SDSU College of Extended Studies Business of Wine certificate program here – next up for me is a three-week intensive on California wines followed by three weeks on French wines! Double cheers!

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