Thursday, March 27, 2008
Finding thePerfect Food and Wine Pairing - Accidentally
Last summer, while courting my honey, Stacy, we began a fun little tradition of sneaking a bottle of wine into the theater to enhance our cinematic experience. It makes the movies a little more fun and slightly naughty and we do it fairly often (more on this in a future post). But this Autumn, we accidentally ran across the perfect wine and food pairing. And I mean perfect.
Forget goat cheese and Sauvignon Blanc. No comparison.
Give up on ribeye steaks and Cabernet Sauvignon. Oil and water.
Lobster with drawn butter and Puligny-Montrachet? Awful stuff.
I'll end the suspense: the perfect pairing is...
Gummi bears and Asti.
Stacy and I don't normally buy Gummi bears at the movies (or in this case, Gummi stars). For us, movie candy generally means chocolate - M&M's, Whoppers or Milk Duds, for example. But on this occasion, chocolate wouldn't work with a sweet, bubbly wine like Asti. So in an extraordinary situation, we turned to Gummis.
Honestly, I don't really drink Asti either. I prefer Moscato d'Asti, a lighter, more delicate wine that's a ballerina compared to Asti's boxer - lighter, more delicate, less fizzy. But as Stacy's been on a sweet, sparkling wine kick lately, I was happy to oblige her. But I didn't think it was going to work with Gummi bears.
I was wrong. Dead wrong. Asti matches Gummi bears perfectly. After a great deal of puzzlment, I think I've figured out why.
Sure, Gummi bears are fruity and very sweet, but Asti is made from Muscat , so sugar is no problem and neither is fruit. Asti tastes like peaches, honey and melon and that's certainly compatible with the bright fruit you get in Gummi bears.
The Gummi bears' texture is what had me worried.
They're chewy (um hence the name Gummi bears?) Not only that, long after you've swallowed them, they coat your mouth with a sticky, hard to scrape off film. Know how you can't get the taste of some jammy, out of balance, flabby Zinfandel off your palate? That's exactly what I'm talking about. That's really what I thought would make the Gummi/Asti marriage fail. I should have known better.
Good Asti isn't only sweet, it has a fair amount of acid in it, and that works in three ways to create this pristine, perfect food and wine pairing. First, it balances the sugar in the wine, making it not too sweet, nor too tart. Second, it gives the wine its snap, it's crisp texture. Third, it acts to slice right through the candied mouth coating you get from the Gummi bears and scrub it clean from your palate, leaving a clean, fresh finish to the wine.
That's perfect balance, perfect harmony in a food and wine match - you don't taste too much sugar, fruit, acid in either the food or the wine. Textures match in both the food and the wine. You don't taste one element over any other and they all work seamlessly.
Yin and Yang meet.
There are three lessons to be learned from this little exercise. First, when you're pairing sweet wines and food (or any wine for that matter), it's just as important to pay attention to the acid in the wine as the fruit or the sugar. Acid ensures balance among all the other elements in the wine.
Second, it's as important to consider the interaction between texture and flavors in both your food and your wines. The food's texture here demanded a very crisp wine - softer, less acidic wines would have made the candy unbearably sweet and only added to the richness of the mouthfeel in the wine. You'd never get the candied fruit out of your mouth!
Finally - and oh so appropo to the title of this very blog - we found this pairing accidentally. We broke our normal patterns and tried two things we didn't normally try, even though I was more than a little ambivalent about its chances for success. This is the most important thing you should take from this tidy little blog entry - accidents can be happy!