From the vineyards of California’s Sonoma County and Central Coast to the great estates of Bordeaux, France, Daniel Baron has learned the importance of the pursuit of excellence in winemaking. Today, he serves as a winemaking consultant after22 years as Director of Winemaking for Silver Oak Cellars. Known for his diligence and attention to detail, Daniel perceives wine not just as a beverage, but as a way of life and an important component of family bonding, fine dining, history, and culture.
Wine, in addition to being the adult beverage of moderation, is the perfect complement to fine cuisine. Successful pairing of wine with food can achieve a synergy that brings out the best in both elements. Here are a few tips to make marrying food and wine less intimidating for neophytes and more enriching for more experienced wine lovers. One thing to always keep in mind: a good food and wine pairing is one that pleases you. You are the expert on your own taste.
- Although the old rule of red with meat and white with fish generally holds true, the saucing is often as important as the main ingredient in a preparation. The acidity in a sauce will often dictate whether a white should accompany a fish course or if a lighter red (Burgundy or Pinot Noir) would work as well or better. Moonfish prepared with a rosemary onion sauce will pair beautifully with a red Burgundy such as the Domain Confuron-Cotetidot Gevry Chambertin; if it were prepared with a lemon sauce, I would probably choose a Sauvignon Blanc or a white Burgundy.
- Trying to match the dominant fruit flavor in a wine with fruit in a preparation is a frequent pitfall. The black cherry character of Merlot will not pair well with a cherry sauce, whose acidity and sweetness will bring out the bitterness in the wine. A less tannic red, such as the Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir, would be a better match.
- Spicy dishes can be a challenge with wine. Savory spice, for example that in empanadas, calls for Tempranillo or Syrah. Indian spice, like that in a curry, would call for a wine with a little residual sugar such as the Caymus Cunundrum or a fruity dry white such as Les Arums de la Grange.
- Cabernet Sauvignon- and Merlot-based wines whether from Bordeaux, California, Washington, or Chile, have, by nature, more puckery tannins and will pair best with dishes that provide some mouth-coating elements and lower acids. This will also hold true for Super Tuscans such as Tignanello, Sassicaia and Solaia. Some good choices are lamb, steak, and, surprisingly, salmon. Celery root and roasted nuts are particularly good at softening the tannins of younger red wines. The older the wine the lower the tannins, so lighter fare will pair better with older Bordeaux.
- Finally, be adventurous and have fun. Try a complete meal with nothing but Champagne. Start with a red and finish with a white. Figuring out what does not work for you can be almost as interesting as what does. And remember, it’s your taste that matters, not that of some expert.
Daniel will be conducting wine lectures and a wine tasting on the July 26, 2017, Cook Islands & Society Islands voyage aboard the m/s Paul Gauguin. For more information on this sailing, visit http://bit.ly/2ppUESW.