Is there such a thing as the perfect glass of wine?
If you ask the experts in the food and wine industry, they’ll say the answer all depends on what you’re eating.
The old adage red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat and fish is partially true, but don’t rule out a wine type simply because of its colour, say the folks at the LCBO.
The challenge is to find the type of wine that complements what you’re eating.
Mark Gregorini, co-owner of Ristorante Verdicchio in Greater Sudbury’s South End, has built his business, and his wine cellar, based on this principle.
“Why limit yourself to a few different wines,” he said, as he weaves his way through one of his three wine cellars.
“If you open up your mind to new options, you might enjoy your meal even more.”
Gregorini started collecting wines shortly after he and his mother, Willie, opened the restaurant in 1994. He started his cellar with 16 bottles of wine and has grown it over the last 12 years to a staggering 7,000.
“I noticed more people were asking to try different wines,” he said.
“So I decided to import unique wines from France, California and Italy. But it wasn’t long before I decided to import wines solely from Italy. There’s so much in Italy to choose from.”
Focusing on Italian wines, enables the Gregorini family to highlight the restaurant’s menu of Italian food, which includes homemade capicollo, prosciutto, homemade pastas, veal, Alberta beef and lamb.
“Italian food is not complicated. We try to concentrate on the main flavours in the dish and we like to pair an appropriate Italian wine with that,” he explained. Many of Verdicchio’s customers are quite knowledgeable and inquisitive about pairing food with wine, so Gregorini delights in being able to offer his handpicked selections. His list has between 800 and 850 varieties of wine to choose from.
But there are some customers who aren’t aware of the flavourful potential that exists when a particular food is paired with the right wine. However, once they try it, they’re hooked.
For the last four years, Gregorini has tailored his menus to include wine pairings from his wines-by-the-glass list.
“Customers really enjoy it,” he said.
“It gives them an opportunity to try wines they haven’t tried before.”
There are some basic principles one can follow when it comes to pairing food with wine. For example, the blood of certain meats are complemented by the tannins in wines, while the oily nature of some fish can be balanced by a wine that is more acidic.
Gregorini said, “The question you have to ask yourself is: what are you making and what ingredients are you using? And how does it best match up with the character of the wine?”
According to the LCBO, foods like beef and lamb go best with wines that have full, rich flavours. A delicate white wine matches well with the delicate flavours of fish and shellfish.
A powerful red wine might not be the best choice for two reasons: it completely masks the flavour of the food, and it can create a chemical reaction that leaves a metallic taste in one’s mouth. If a person prefers to drink a red wine with fish, look for low tannin wines like Beaujolais or Valpolicella.
“You don’t want the wine to overpower the food or the food to overpower the wine,” Gregorini said.
His decision to focus on pairing Italian wine with Italian food makes perfect gastronomic sense. Even the LCBO states “most wines complement the foods of similar regions. Barolo and Barbaresco complement earthy Italian dishes with wild mushrooms, wild boar and truffles. Beaujolais is perfect for Burgundian farm sausage and Riesling is wonderful with Wienerschnitzel.”
Consider some of their simple guidelines:
• Match wine with the strongest flavouring ingredients in the dish.
• Fatty or salty dishes need dry wines with crisp acidity.
• Cream or butter-sauce based dishes need wines with similar body.
• Make sure your dessert wine is sweeter than the dessert.
Pairing specific foods with different wines has truly gone mainstream. This year the Food Network launched a television program titled “This Food, That Wine.” The show features two enthusiastic hosts who educate viewers about the finer points of matching up vintages with victuals. Through the Food Network’s website, people can access a comprehensive wine-pairing tool that matches up everything from meat, vegetables and desserts to red, white and sparkling wines.