Tofino Food: Wine Pairing
by Jen Dart, Tofino
The culinary experiences available in Tofino are numerous and varied—from
the many restaurants, to our proximity to fresh seafood. This time
of year–or the calm before the storm – is an opportune
time to enjoy these experiences to the fullest (and often cheapest!).
The perfect enhancement to this pursuit is choosing the right bottle(s)
of wine to accompany either dinner at home or out on the town. This
task can seem daunting, even to those with a healthy appreciation for
the stuff. BC Liquor has been kind enough in the past to provided customers
with a handy foldout chart for quick reference food and wine pairings.
This is useful for basic pairings (if it is still available), but what
if your dinner companion is having crab and you're having beef
tenderloin? Or your food choices combine contrasting flavours and styles
of cooking (fusion cooking as the kids are calling it these days)?
Or you've prepared a seafood feast with white wine in mind and
horror of horrors one of your dinner guests doesn't drink white?
The dilemmas are endless, but so are the solutions.
The main tenet of pairing wine with food is to find happy combinations,
so that each might be enhanced by the presence of the other (or so
I read in a wine guide!). However, as you might expect, it's
not always that easy. The same guide suggests considering the following
factors in relation to both food and wine: weight, intensity, acidity,
sweetness and tannin. Generally speaking these characteristics should
be alike in food and wine, although there are a few contrasts that
work very well. Weight refers to the heaviness or lightness of the
ingredients used in a dish and also the way it is prepared. The weight
of the wine should correspond to that of the food. For red wine, grape
varietals such as Shiraz, Syrah and Zinfandel are heaviest, followed
by Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir. Of course,
there are many other varietals that fit into this mix, but these are
the more common. For white wine, oaky Chardonnays are usually weightier,
followed by Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Blanc.
Again, this is not an all-inclusive list.
The intensity of a dish refers to the sharpness or forwardness of
its flavour, and this should also be matched with that of the wine.
same goes for acidity. If your dish contains citrus, you should consider
an equally acidic wine. This usually means a young white wine made
from a lighter varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc. Sweetness should
also be matched, or contrasted (ie. salty Cambozola cheese with a sweet
late harvest wine or French Sauterne). Also, younger red wines that
haven't been significantly aged are usually more tannic and this
can reek havoc on a dish. Tannin is the dry, puckery mouth feeling
that is subdued by red meat but destroys light and salty food. Cabernet
Sauvignon and Merlot are among the more tannic red wines, while Pinot
Noir, Gamay Noir and Beaujolais are much less so.
The flavour profiles given on the labels of wine bottles, along with
the five factors listed above should be a starting point for choosing
wine to go with food. While no two wineries produce the same varietal
wine with the same flavour profile, the characteristics of each grape
(or varietal) are generally the same. Having said that a BC Chardonnay
is infinitely different than the same varietal produced in Burgundy.
Differences occur due to particular climates, soils, age of vines,
winemakers, and the list goes on. As with all things in life, the
more you learn about wine, the more there is to know!
Some beautiful combinations that make this exercise seem worthwhile
include oysters with champagne or sparkling wine, steak with a peppery
Australian Shiraz, goat's cheese with Sauvignon Blanc, chocolate
with Merlot ice wine, and I could go on. And on. BC produces some fantastic
choices in an amazing array of grape varietals. According to this author,
however, one should not rely on the VQA label to denote the cream of
the crop. Many wine producers in BC (and there are a few on the island)
do not sell to the liquor store due to low production or simple choice.
There are many great wines that are only available directly from BC
wineries, so go online and find some! Try bcwine.com for a list of
wineries. The wineries sites usually include detailed tasting notes
of their products.
When in doubt add more wine" is a sign posted in a local restaurant
and I couldn't agree more. Experimenting with wine and food is
unique in this area and also with all the choices available from abroad
and south of the border. Traditionally, Europeans drank local wine
perfectly suited to their regional cuisine. While our wine and food
combinations are not so straightforward, there is a lot of fun to be
had during trial and error! Cheers.