Last week I discussed the importance of a wine's acidity level when choosing a food to pair with it. Today, I'll focus on the fruit flavors of a wine and how they also can play a significant role determining a good food-and-wine combination.
Like any element of taste in a wine, there can sometimes be too much of a good thing. More often than not, wines that are overly fruity make poor pairing partners with foods for which they might otherwise be intended.
For example, viognier and lobster would normally be considered a good match. But if the wine is overly fruity, with perhaps predominating peach and apricot flavors, then all bets are off because too much fruit in the wine can overshadow the flavors of the food.
That's also why non-grape-fruit and fortified-fruit wines, like those made from raspberries or blueberries, have to be dismissed as non-versatile food-pairing wines. While these wines certainly have a place at the table, they're usually best served at the end of the meal, either as dessert or with dessert.
When choosing a white wine, be sure not to confuse the fruit component with its sweetness level. The wine can be fruity without being sweet, and if it's balanced by other factors, such as acidity, it can be perfectly suitable serving with food.
Along these lines, one of my new favorites is the Treveri Cellars Extra-Brut Blanc de Blanc (about $14). This overachieving sparkler from the Yakima winery is made from 100 percent chardonnay and is packed with fruit flavors of green apple, kiwi and ruby red grapefruit.
The finish, however, is dry and there's plenty of brisk acidity to balance out the fruit. That makes it a great wine to enjoy with smoked salmon, mild cheeses or even fried chicken.
Zinfandel is a red wine that's often guilty of being too fruity - and, as a double whammy, too high in alcohol as well. But a well-made zin is one where the winemaker keeps the fruit in check with the proper balance of acidity, alcohol and tannins.
Two good zins to consider with lamb, pork or roast beef are:
- Jacuzzi Family Vineyards 2008 Primitivo (about $17), a zinfandel clone with rum raisin and dried herb aromatics and berry, fennel and fig flavors.
- Thurston Wolfe 2010 Howling Wolfe Zinfandel (about $20), a gorgeous Washington zin with blackberry and ultra-dark plum, a sprinkle of baking spice, and silky tannins.
Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at www.danthewineguy.com.
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