Monday, December 6, 2010

The elusive perfect pairing

There is nothing quite like having the perfect bottle of wine, with the perfect meal. I am always trying to pick a wine that goes perfectly with the meal I'm going to eat. The wine makes the food taste better, and the food brings out the flavors in the wine. The most interesting part for me, is when you are served a wine you typically don't care for, while eating the right food. You wonder what just happened, and take another sip to see if you still feel the same about the wine.

Last night, I ate the most amazing dinner at a friends house. We had carrot soup to start, paired with Betz Besoleil grenache. The wine was fresh and fruity, and really brought out the garrigue notes from the dollop of pesto in the center of our bowls. Next we moved onto the best Cassoulet I have ever come across, with garlic sausage, goose and lamb. A special wine had already been decanted for this main course, a 1989 Jaboulet Hermitage "La Chapelle". Savory notes of brown sugar, minerality, root beer, cherry, and smoke complimented the dish perfectly.

Three servings of the Cassoulet later, a salad was placed in front of me, along with a small glass of dessert wine. The wine was a 2003 late harvest wine from Jurancon France, made from a blend of these three very unusual, Botrytis affected grape varieties: Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng, and Courbu. The salad was buttercrunch lettuce, blue cheese, and hazelnuts, covered in a very flavorful dressing made from hazelnut oil. The result was one of the best food and wine pairings I have ever come across. Botrytis + Hazelnuts + Blue cheese = Heaven.

I don't usually go nuts over dessert wines like Sauternes, Port, or Madeira, but this was amazing. I couldn't get enough of the the wine. In fact, everyone at the table was getting another pour of this medium sweet desert wine. Before I could wrap my brain around just how good this pairing was, I was served an 1982 tawny port. This brought out different flavors in the salad, and the blue cheese just sang. The best food and wine pairings can come from the most unexpected dishes.


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