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Robin Garr

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WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Robin Garr » Sun Aug 13, 2006 11:35 pm

Worst wine-food matches

<I>Wine Advisor</i> reader Miriam P. got in touch the other day with a cheeky suggestion that rang the bell at the top of my idea-meter: "Food and wine pairings are an evergreen subject," she wrote, "and most experts will say that it's more about personal taste than an objective correct answer. In fact, your Web site even says that there are very few incorrect choices. So <I>that</i> might be the way to approach the topic: what are the absolute wrong choices? Seems like that would be a fairly short list and, therefore, a more practical guideline."

Great topic! I'm not sure that a don't-do-this list should be the <i>only</i> way to approach your decision about what wine to have (or not to have) with dinner tonight, but perhaps by examining some of the wine-and-food combinations that most people consider unsuccessful, we can pick up some general principles to guide us in the quest.

<B>Scrod and Shiraz</B> - The delicate, light character of scrod, cod, sole and other white fish calls for a crisp and subtle white wine to match. The inky, dark and monolithic character of a big Barossa Shiraz would wipe out the fish, overwhelming the food with all the subtlety of spots of red paint spattered on a white dress shirt.

<B>Venison and Vinho Verde</B> - Representing the exact opposite equation, this pairing between a robust, strong-flavored game meat and an exceptionally light and frothy wine is likely to fail because the meat is too powerful for the wine, which might not actively quarrel with the dinner but certainly wouldn't harmonize.

<B>Chocolate and Chardonnay</B> - Generally speaking, sweet desserts and wine make an iffy match, because even wines that seem sweet on their own will show their tart and sour side when you compare them with something sweeter. Dark chocolate goes well with strong, sweet red wines like Banyuls from the Pyrenees or Tawny Port. It's hard to imagine anyone washing down a Hershey's Kiss with a big, bold Chardonnay, though: The flavors are so different that it would be like reaching into a box of candies and pulling out a chocolate-covered fried cheese curd.

<B>Mackerel and Merlot</B> - In constrast with the Shiraz that smashed the sole, this knockout battle pits strong, oily fish against a fruit-forward red, a joust of fighting flavors that most people would find unappealing; if the Merlot boasts an astringently tannic backbone, the battle could be as disgusting as tag-team mud-wrestling.

I could go on, but I think the underlying principle is becoming clear: Matching wine and food involves a dance between balance and contrast: Balancing flavors of similar strength and intensity so neither beverage nor fare outshouts the other; seeking pleasurable contrasts of aromas and flavors that intuitively fit. Most people like chocolate-covered coconut; few of us care for chocolate-covered catfish. Let your own taste buds be your guide, with a dash or two of common sense, and you'll find, as I said in the first place, that <i>most</i> food and wine combinations work just fine.
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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Paul B. » Mon Aug 14, 2006 12:50 am

The absolute worst mismatch I ever experienced was having a glass of cheap Portuguese Baga with canned smoked herring. The double-metallic blast was revolting to the 'n'th exponent.
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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Robin Garr » Mon Aug 14, 2006 8:13 am

Paul B. wrote:The absolute worst mismatch I ever experienced was having a glass of cheap Portuguese Baga with canned smoked herring. The double-metallic blast was revolting to the 'n'th exponent.


That one would clearly fall into the "Mackerel and Merlot" category, Paul.
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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Howie Hart » Mon Aug 14, 2006 8:38 am

Years ago (mid-70's) I was invited to a "Fondue" party, where for dessert, the hosts served Widmer's Lake Niagara with a chocolate fondue. :(
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Bob Ross

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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Bob Ross » Mon Aug 14, 2006 8:58 am

I must have a perverted sense of taste, Robin -- I thought every one of those combinations had merit or at least might be interesting to try.

About the only wine/food combination I've found doesn't work is wine with peanuts -- there seems to be a compound in peanuts that destroys the taste of wine.

Thanks for posting this poll. Bob
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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by James Roscoe » Mon Aug 14, 2006 9:08 am

Bob Ross wrote:I must have a perverted sense of taste, Robin -- I thought every one of those combinations had merit or at least might be interesting to try.

About the only wine/food combination I've found doesn't work is wine with peanuts -- there seems to be a compound in peanuts that destroys the taste of wine.

Thanks for posting this poll. Bob


Bob,
I would try a sparkling wine. Something very dry, most likley a brut, to go with peanuts. I would probably avoid champagne and go with something domestic, another French sparkler, or a cava. I think peanuts would work well there.
Cheers!
James
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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by OW Holmes » Mon Aug 14, 2006 10:03 am

Robin Garr wrote:Worst wine-food matches
<B>Mackerel and Merlot</B> - In constrast with the Shiraz that smashed the sole, this knockout battle pits strong, oily fish against a fruit-forward red, a joust of fighting flavors that most people would find unappealing; if the Merlot boasts an astringently tannic backbone, the battle could be as disgusting as tag-team mud-wrestling.


We fix our spanish mackerel by lightly blackening it and pan searing it in olive oil. Leaving aside the astringent tannic merlots, I doubt I would be offended by the match of a fruity Merlot to Spanish Macs prepared that way. (But, on the other hand, why? I don't own any merlot except for a few right bankers.)
-OW
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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Robin Garr » Mon Aug 14, 2006 10:20 am

OW Holmes wrote:We fix our spanish mackerel by lightly blackening it and pan searing it in olive oil. Leaving aside the astringent tannic merlots, I doubt I would be offended by the match of a fruity Merlot to Spanish Macs prepared that way. (But, on the other hand, why? I don't own any merlot except for a few right bankers.)


The column was a bit tongue-in-cheek, O.W., and I hope I was discreet enough (particularly in the Venison/Vinho Verde combo) to point out that even the "bad" combinations might find favor in some quarters.

I'd note, though, that Spanish mackerel, as tasty as it is, is mackerel in name only, biologically speaking; and true mackerel is a much, much stronger fish. At least in my experience, I would have an awfully hard time making happy with a dry red.
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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Bob Ross » Mon Aug 14, 2006 10:20 am

James, the peanut thing comes from Johnson:

Avoid peanuts; they destroy wine flavors.
Hugh Johnson, Pocket Encyclopedia of Wine, 1998 edition.

I just realized I read that soon after getting interested in wine, and haven't had wine and peanuts since. :-)

I'll try your suggestions and see if I agree with Johnson. Thanks.
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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Aug 14, 2006 10:30 am

On that special Burns night, at a local UK pub, they offered.......

Scotch, gud!
Beer, frothy!
Mission Hill (BC) Sauv Blanc, yugh!

"Do you have a Shiraz".
"What country is that, sir?"
"Australia".
"We only have the white one".

Interesting evening eh.

**** oooops, was a pub here in Edmonton, not the UK!!
Last edited by Bob Parsons Alberta on Mon Aug 14, 2006 10:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Howie Hart » Mon Aug 14, 2006 10:50 am

Robin Garr wrote:The column was a bit tongue-in-cheek...

How about coq au vin with white zin? :x
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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Gary Barlettano » Mon Aug 14, 2006 11:34 am

Retsina and a Fluffernutter Sandwich?
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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by wnissen » Mon Aug 14, 2006 12:38 pm

How about cabernet and kung pao?

To my palate, the most unpleasant match is sweet and spicy sauces with big dry reds. I find it physically unpleasant, every grain of tannin screeches across my toungue, and the alcohol tastes like cough syrup. Just harsh all around.

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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Rahsaan » Mon Aug 14, 2006 12:57 pm

A friend of mine likes sour wine (the cheapest chablis or sauvignon blanc he keeps around the house) with ice cream and desserts in general. I've cooked dinner for him on several occasions and attempted to serve PX with dessert but he was always reaching back and wondering if there was any more of that Tart Stuff left.

To each his own. But it always seemed completely wrongheaded to me.

(And I am FAR from a purist on these matters, as I match all kinds of stuff with all kinds of stuff)
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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Otto » Mon Aug 14, 2006 1:05 pm

One pairing that I rather like but which I understand will never get popular is a fiery curry with a young Nebbiolo. I just love the way the juicy power of the curry gets intensified by the tannic and acidic Nebbiolo. I guess the intensity of heat will be too much for most. I can imagine that for many this would be the most offensive match of all.

-Otto- (wondering if he has any palate left after enjoying this recently....)
I don't drink wine because of religious reasons ... only for other reasons.
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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Paul B. » Mon Aug 14, 2006 1:20 pm

Rahsaan, I kind of understand where he's coming from.

I don't enjoy sweets at all, but if I ever eat cake or other such things, I immediately have an apple or some other sour fruit after the dessert - basically to cleanse my teeth. Sometimes a plain cup of green tea is what I reach for instead.
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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Rahsaan » Mon Aug 14, 2006 1:24 pm

Sourness after the dessert is one thing, and I too believe in the palate's ability to recooperate.

But taste a nice tart Sancerre on its own and then with a mouthful of ice cream, and tell me the latter is not a bit misguided?
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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Paul B. » Mon Aug 14, 2006 1:32 pm

Yes - you're right. Why spoil the Sancerre with ice cream?

Makes sense now!
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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Dale Williams » Mon Aug 14, 2006 2:01 pm

How about fresh goat cheese and a ripe tannic young red?
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Thomas

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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Thomas » Mon Aug 14, 2006 3:52 pm

Gary Barlettano wrote:Retsina and a Fluffernutter Sandwich?


Retsina doesn't even pair well with air... ;)

Bob, I remember years ago eating peanuts with Spanna. I remember doing it, but I don't remember whether or not I liked it. I was young then...
Last edited by Thomas on Mon Aug 14, 2006 4:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: WineAdvisor: Worst wine-food matches

by Dave Erickson » Mon Aug 14, 2006 4:41 pm

This is a subset of "chocolate and chardonnay," I suppose, but it comes up frequently: Champagne and chocolate. It seems to be many people's idea of a romantic pairing, but it really doesn't work. Brachetto d'Aqui, on the other hand, is a fine chocolate pairing.

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