Anyone who loves food and loves wine, knows that the marriage of the two can be the ethereal equivalent of 1 + 1 = 3. Although, I have to admit, on any given night, I think it’s probably more important to match wine to mood than to food.
I found this particularly interesting, since I enjoy artichokes and chilis, Billie. I can easily skip the asparagus, Gus!
With one big exception—or rather eight of them. When any of the following eight “killer” foods are involved, I pay attention. Because any one of them have the potential to make wine taste as bland as tap water; as metallic as tin foil; as bitter as burnt coffee; or as stewed as canned spinach. Watch out.
Artichokes contain cynarin, an amino acid that can produces the impression of cloying sweetness and an unpleasant, metallic taste in wines. Drink cabernet sauvignon or other high tannin wines with artichokes and the wine will taste hollow at best, and possibly like a tin can.
Asparagus contain mercaptan, a skunky-smelling compound associated with spoilage in wine. Want your $25 wine to taste like two buck chuck? This is the way to go. (On the bright side: some wines—notably sauvignon blanc—can work well enough if you grill the asparagus and slather them with fruity extra virgin olive oil).
- Cruciferous and Leafy Green Vegetables
Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, Brussel sprouts and related vegetables release sulfur compounds when cooked, contributing off-flavors to wines. With these foods, your great cab will taste like canned green beans. Pinot noir will taste like a swamp. Hello chefs: can you please stop putting the protein on a bed of wilted spinach?
Eggs also contain sulfur, and release sulfur compounds when cooked, often contributing an off-flavor to wines. On the really disgusting list of food and wine combos: eggs and oaky chardonnay.
Hot chiles contain capsaicin, which can make wines high in alcohol taste unpleasantly hot, and accentuate uber dryness in tannic wines. Zinfandel and chiles can blow off your head with heat and alcohol.
- White Wine Vinegar
Vinegar and foods pickled in vinegar contain high concentrations of acetic acid, which makes wine taste bitter, astringent, or sour. Make that salad dressing with lemon instead of vinegar—or use a higher grade aged vinegar like top notch Sherry vinegar or Balsamic vinegar.
- Raw Garlic and Raw Onion
Raw garlic and raw onion are both so strident and palate coating that they make most wines taste like nothing—or like garlic and onions. Smart cooks sautee garlic or onions before cooking with them if they intend to drink wine too. The perfect answer for that raw-onion-laden guacamole or a burger loaded with raw onion? Drink beer.
Only one partner is going to win in this marriage and it isn’t the wine. Chocolate is such a powerful, deep and complex flavor that it neuters most wines and makes them taste blank. The only wines that work with chocolate are wines that are more powerful, deep and sweet themselves—like the fortified wines Port and Madeira.
Speaking of chocolate, pairing with ports, always use dark chocolate. Do not combine with milk chocolate. The richness of chocolate must stand up to the sweet and powerful port. And dark chocolate is better for you!
More Karen at Winespeed: Every avid wine lover should know about Clos de la Coulée de Serrant, in Savennières, in the Loire Valley of France. Considered one of the greatest white wines in the world, Coulée de Serrant is made on the single estate also called Coulée de Serrant. The prized vineyard (first planted in the year 1130 by Cistercian monks—whose small monastery still stands) is owned by the Joly family, and today consists of vines aged from 35 to 80 years old. Current winemaker, Nicolas Joly, was among the earliest and remains one of the most ardent practitioners of biodynamics in the world. The vineyard is cultivated partly by hand and partly by horse because of the steep slopes overlooking the Loire, and because the hooves of horses loosen the soil perfectly without compacting it. Though it is just 17 acres (7 hectares) in size, Coulée de Serrant has its own appellation. Only a handful of other appellations in France are made up of a single property, including Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, and Clos de Tart, all in Burgundy, and Château-Grillet in the Rhône.