Food and Wine Pairings II: Wines for a Wedding

Picking wines for a wedding is an interesting problem. Instead of picking what might be the ‘best’ wine; you’re looking to pick the best value-for-money wine, or the wine that works best with the food. What’s more- you want everybody to like the wine- so if the wine isn’t easy to drink, it’s not the wine you want. There are other things to think about as well, like whether or not their are facilities to refrigerate the whites, the glasses you’ll be drinking out of, and, of course, the budget you have. So when I was asked to pick some wines for a wedding I’m going to this summer, it sounded like a fun challenge, but a different challenge than I normally have with wine.

When I got sent the wedding menu, I had a few ideas of what would work, and picked up of a couple of bottles I liked. But when the main people in the wedding tried them, they weren’t particularly keen, for whatever reason. So with the opportunties to meet up and try wines diminishing, I decided that I would cook the meal they would eat on the day, get four whites and four reds that I thought could work, and try them out together with the food. We went for a ‘blind’ tasting- not to try and guess the wines- but to make sure there were no biases of choice towards which wine worked the best. We planned the meal for a Saturday lunchtime, so that those involved could drive here and have enough time to sober up to drive back.

The wines I sourced were from The Wine Society– their wines are great value for money, so this would be where we could get the most for the budget. The whites wines I picked were a German Ruppetsburg, a Chilean Zarcillo Gewürztraminer, a white Bordeaux, and a Cortese from Piedmont in Italy. The reds, a similar variety, were a Beaujolais (France), a Chilean Zarcillo Pinot Noir, a Pays d’Oc from near the Languedoc in France, and a great value Bricco Rosso from Italy. Quite a range, but hopefully they would bring out different characteristics in the food.

First Course: Melon

We only had the white wines with the melon (as the reds would have all been a pairing disaster). The melon, along with the orange and grapefruit slices, provided a nice fresh, juicy, delicate flavour with some acidity. As such, the two more acidic wines- the sauvignon dominated Bordeaux and the Cortese- created a dish with too much acidity to be pleasant. The gewurztraminer, I thought, was a little to cloying for the delicate melon flavour, not allowing it to develop properly. The Ruppetsburg, though, complemented the melon well with floral notes, low alcohol, and only a little acidity.

Winner: Ruppetsburg

Second Course: Chicken with a white wine sauce and asparagus

The chicken with white wine sauce posed a little more challenge with the fat in the sauce and meat. The asparagus, though, would provide an astrigency which can be quite punishing with a too acidic wine- which is what happened to the Bordeaux, the herbaciousness of the sauvignon blanc in it not helping things. Interestingly the Ruppetsburg seemed not to have enough body to hold up to the chicken, and the Piedmont, while it was fine, didn’t really add much to the flavours in the meal. The sweetness and body of the gewurztraminer worked well with the sauce and proved popular, especially among the women.

Winner: Gewurztraminer

Overall, we decided on the Gewurztraminer for the white. It wasn’t my choice- I voted for the Ruppetsburg- but it was a good value, easy drinking, very accessible wine, which I imagine a lot of people will like. What was interesting was the amount of variation in preference of the whites- we almost had all different variations of our first and second favourite whites. I guess you are never going to get wines everybody likes, but just how different the attitudes towards each were was surprising.

Pudding: Blueberry Cheesecake

We ended up having the reds with the pudding, as that would be the best pairing (and as the whites took a while to get through). This time, though, there was a lot of consensus- the Languedoc wine winning out on everyone’s rating- soft, fruity, and well balanced. I liked the Bricco Rosso more than others, but given it’s structure and complexity, it would have worked poorly in the context. Also soft and fruity, the Beaujolais was popular too. The pinot noir, though, was very closed and oaky, quite disappointing.

Winner: Languedoc

Overall, a lot of fun to do, and a nice way for those involved to make sure they’ll have wines they like. It was very interesting to see the variation in people’s wine choices- same wine with the same food- really showing how you won’t always get the right wine for everybody. And of course, it was a lot of fun finishing off the leftovers.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Food and Wine Pairings III: Creating a meal around sweeter wines « oxfood
  2. Trackback: Food and Wine Pairings III: Creating a meal around sweet wines « oxfood
  3. Trackback: Introduction to Wine Structure « oxfood
  4. Trackback: Food and Wine Pairings IV: Regionality « oxfood
  5. Trackback: Food and Wine Pairings V: Thoughts from an expert | oxfood

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