Most blogs I’ve read, including mine thus far, review successful pairings of food and wine. Today, I am taking a new approach, success and failure. This time it took 3 attempts to get it right. Sure, I could’ve read the wine maker’s notes or researched the grape first then picked a food pairing. But, I’m an Aquarius (aka: rebellious tendencies and when channelled appropriately can be fun, not destructive). I like to challenge myself sometimes, not all the time. 🙂
Onward———– and at the end of this page you’ll find a general guide to pairing food and wine.
Here’s the wine: 2013 Librandi Ciro White Wine, Southern Italy, Grape is Greco. Alcohol level: 12.5%. and I paid $12 a bottle. (45 grapes to go for wine century club and those of you who follow my journey of tasting 100 grape varietals)
Winemaker’s notes: Food pairings: Excellent as an apéritif, and with fish or vegetable starters. It matches well with egg-based dishes, fish soup; crustaceans (either roasted or with sauces) and it enhances all grilled fish dishes, especially swordfish.
Greco wines are some of the most popular white wines to consume in Southern Italy during autumn months, when the grapes are in full harvest. Greco Bianco (or simply Greco) is an ancient, light-skinned grape variety. As its name implies, Greco originated in Greece and was transplanted by Greeks to southern Italy around 600 B.C. The grape flourishes in southern Italy due to the area’s volcanic soil and favorable meteorological conditions, which bring out Greco’s intriguing aromatic flavor. Armed with excellent acidity and a fresh, clean flavor profile, Greco wines are best consumed young. The simple island wines of Capri are predominantly Greco.
This wine is made from 100% Greco Bianco. After a soft pressing, the must is fermented in stainless steel tanks to keep its freshness. Refined briefly in tanks and bottle for a few months for extra finesse, Cirò Bianco is ready to be enjoyed upon release. The name Greco relates to both white (Greco bianco) and black (Greco nero) grape varieties. While there is more land area dedicated to Greco nero, the Greco bianco is the grape most commonly referred to by the shorthand “Greco”.
After World War II, the fate of Greco was in peril. The wartime devastation of vineyards as well as the mass migration of Italian vine growers from agriculture to urban industries in the cities and abroad, ushered in a period of general decline for viticulture in the region. As plantings declined and vineyards were ripped up, many varieties were on the verge of extinction. The efforts of family winemakers and heritage winemaking projects such as the Villa dei Misteri project headed by Piero Mastroberardino, helped sustain the existence of the Greco vine in southern Italy.
Greco bianco wines are noted for their aromatic qualities similar to Viognier. Greco pairs well with delicate fish such as sole and catfish, especially when served in a light lemon sauce. It is wonderful with savory foods and can go well also with baked, roasted or fried fish. Another flavorful combination is Greco with a light appetizer or salad. Non-vinegar-based dressings work best to bring out the full flavor of the wine.
Aromas of peaches and citrus fruits complement undertones of herbs and flowers, some fresh green foliage notes. On the palate, zesty acidity and a long finish showcase this wine’s hints of toasted almonds and macadamia nuts.
Here are my experiences of the 3 pairings… “3rd time’s a charm”
#1 pairing with pasta – ziti cooked with lots of garlic, broccoli, butter and chicken. The dish remained delicious and the wine did not diminish the taste of the food. The food overpowered the wine, making the finish of the wine much shorter and the complexity of the wine disappeared.
#2 pairing with sliced carrots (recipe seen in earlier blog on Pecorino wine) dressed with a vinaigrette of apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, parsley, white pepper and lastly salt infused with floral (petals of rose, lavender, calendula, and cornflower). This pairing was ok, not bad, not wow. The finish of the wine was longer than in the first attempt at pairing. The almond aromas of the wine did shine through. The herbal flavors of the wine paired well with the oregano and parsley. Although not intentional, the pairing of the floral salt with the floral notes of the wine was clear and complimentary.
#3 pairing with homemade salmon cakes : flaked pink salmon (which is a very light flavor) mixed with panko bread crumbs, egg, floral salt (as described in #2), pepper, cooked shallots and parsley. Once cooked, salmon cakes were drenched with freshly squeezed lemon juice. I served the cakes with sautéed green cabbage. This pairing allowed each participant to shine. The salmon was front and center, the wine complimented with its bouquet of citrus and herbs. The cabbage being light and green agreed with the green notes in the wine.
Food and wine pairing guidelines I learned in the WSET training at Napa Valley Academy:
The best pairings take advantage of the effects of food on wine and the effects of wine on food so that each offer more taste pleasure. People have different sensitivities to flavor and aroma components, meaning one person may be more sensitive to a particular flavor such as bitterness, sweet, sour, etc. The foods below don’t literally change the wine but rather they change your perception of bitter, acid, sweet, fruity and the body or mouth feel of wine.
Sweetness in Food: This will increase bitterness of wine, decrease the fruitiness of wine, increase acidity of wine, decrease the sweetness of wine and the body of wine. Pair with a wine with at least as much sweetness as the food or the wine will seem more bitter.
Umami in Food: considered a savory taste and is often seen with other tastes (with saltiness in MSG). Taste a raw button mushroom and you’ll taste umami. It increases bitterness of wine, increases acidity of wine, decreases body of wine, decreases sweetness and the fruitiness of wine. Many foods considered difficult to pair with wine contain higher levels of umami, like eggs, mushrooms, asparagus, some ripe, soft cheeses. Pair with a more fruity wine. Stay away from more tannic wine because the bitterness will be emphasized. Merlot, a more fruity with medium tannin and medium to fuller body, is a classic pairing with mushrooms. A favorite is sparkling wine with Chinese food (known for the MSG).
Acidity in Food: Increases body of wine, increases sweetness of wine and the fruitiness of wine, decreases acidity of wine. Pair with a high acid wine or the wine may taste flabby. Acidic foods might be salad with a vinaigrette dressing.
Salt in Food: Increases body of the wine, decreases bitterness and the acidity of wine. Pair with high acid wine or wine may seem flabby. For example, pair Sauvignon Blanc (high acidity) with salty food will make the wine seem less acidic. One of my personal favorites is Chinese food paired with sparkling wine, generally considered to have high acidity.
Bitterness in Food: Increases bitterness of wine. Pair with low tannin red wines or white wines. Bitter foods might be charred steak or roasted red pepper and of course bitter greens. Try a spicy Syrah, pairs well with grilled meat, spicy meats or cured meats.
Chili heat in Food: Increases bitterness in wine, increases acidity in wine, decreases body, sweetness and the fruitiness of wine. Pair with low tannin red or a white wine. Try a wine that’s very fruity because once paired with this food, the fruitiness will decrease. A failed pairing would be Cabernet Sauvignon which is a high tannin, high acidity wine. Using these principles, the chile heat would make the wine more bitter and more acidic, and ruin an otherwise beautiful wine.
A few more considerations: It’s typically best if the flavor intensity of the food and wine match, as you read in the pairing experiments above, one could overpower the other. Acidic wines pair great with fatty or oily foods as the wine cuts through the fat. Many people enjoy pairing sweet wine with salty foods, like a port with blue cheese but this is a subjective experience.
Lastly, the more structural components (meaning tannin, high acidity, high alcohol, complex or layered flavors) in a wine, the more possible taste interactions occur. Depending on the pairing, this may mean an exceptional experience or a displeasing experience. Simple unoaked wines with little sugar won’t change much with food. Therefore the food and wine pairing may not be particularly interesting.