Dining at your neighborhood’s trendiest restaurant can be a magnificent culinary adventure. Keep in mind that unconventional doesn’t necessarily mean trying a rare delicacy. You can enhance your dining experience and expand your palate with an unusual wine pairing instead. While at times you may not want to stray from your go-to pairings (medium-rare steak and a glass of Syrah are like two peas in a pod), why not try a few unconventional pairings every now and again?
Below you’ll find a few delightful, off-the-wall wine pairings to take your meals from ordinary to extraordinary. Salut!
1. Chardonnay and bleu cheese
Wine and cheese is perhaps the ultimate couple in the culinary world, providing a wealth of mix-and-match flavors.
If a nice ripe bleu is your cheese of choice, pair it with the noble grape of a vibrant Chardonnay to bring out the cheese’s creamy texture and strong flavor. Joel Aiken’s Amici Chardonnay blend is a perfect wine pairing for those ripe creamy cheeses. The malic acid in the Chardonnay gives it a slight green-apple flavor that beautifully balances the bold mature flavor profile of the cheese.
2. Sparkling Rosé and sushi
If you find yourself at a dinner party serving salmon, tuna or sushi, elevate your guests’ dining experience by offering a dry sparkling Rosé like Ruinart or Moet and Chandon’s Rosé Imperial en lieu of a citrusy white wine.
Rosé’s light acidity, beautiful effervescence and hints of cranberry and hibiscus cut through the fatty texture of fish and bring out its salty, smoky flavor. The Nicolas Feuillatte Rosé would also pair wonderfully with these dishes, as its slight ginger finish serves as an excellent palate cleanser between bites.
3. Verdejo or Vinho Verde with Indian food
This pairing works well not only for Indian food, but also with Thai dishes and Moroccan delicacies. A nice, fruit-forward Verdejo will balance out the spice of these dishes.
The herbal notes in a Verdejo like Shaya bring out the bold flavors of cumin and curry and enhance the hint of coriander traditionally found in Middle Eastern and East Asian dishes. The slight mineral finish rounds out the sharp tang and heat of these cuisines.
In traditional Moroccan dishes, a cool yogurt with mint leaves acts as a palate cleanser for heavily spiced foods. Similarly, with its floral aroma, slight effervescence and hints of bright citrus, Vinho Verde (literally translated as “green wine”) cools and cleanses the palate without overwhelming the flavors in these dishes. Due to its lack of maturation, Vinho Verde is light and fresh, which makes it an ideal partner for foods with heavy flavor profiles.
4. Shiraz and chili
Chili is often a big, bold dish and needs a big bold wine to compliment it. Enter Shiraz.
With its bold forest-berry flavors (currant, plum, blackberry), Shiraz complements gamier meats such as venison and duck. Its peppery finish allows the heat of the chili to linger pleasantly on the tongue, balanced nicely with slight oaky hints.
Additionally, the vanilla hints in Shiraz are caused by oak barrel aging, which also pushes the earthy flavor of the chili to the forefront of your palate. Try Penfolds Shiraz, which pairs wonderfully with rich game dishes.
5. Tawny Port and pumpkin pie
Tawny ports spend their time in oak barrels, giving them a nutty, burnt-caramel flavor. They are sweet and lingering, without being too cloying, making it an excellent combination with pie.
Though pumpkin pie is sweet, the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice add a hint of spiciness. These flavors are magically enhanced by tawny ports, and their sharpness is rounded by the port’s smooth, nutty flavor. The honey texture and sweetness of the port also help round out the rich spices of pumpkin pie. Pick up a bottle of Quinta de Noval 20-Year Old Tawny and prepare to taste fall in a glass.
What’s your favorite unusual, but surprisingly delicious wine pairing?
About the author: Ariel Berchtold is a freelance writer with a passion for wine, food and travel. She is currently backpacking the world with her husband. Follow their adventures at scenicroutehome.com.