A few non-traditional wine pairings to surprise yourself and others

Date posted:
July 16, 2012

Wine goes with everything, writes Joelle Zarcone from America. I know what you’re thinking - everything? No way - only cheese, dark chocolate and a nice filet mignon. Not quite, my friends!

Personally, I think wine is just as much the every man’s drink as a frothy mug of beer. Sure, that may deflate a belief some revere – the notion that wine is meant for the more superior of society, or reserved for our classiest of moments amongst friends; but that’s not how life works.


Sometimes you just want a chilled glass of pinot after a long day at the office and you can’t seem to scrounge up enough energy to both pour a glass of wine and prepare a “worthy” meal. It happens and there’s no reason to shove the bottle back into the depths of your refrigerator simply because it’s a frozen mac and cheese type of evening.


In other words, there’s no need to sacrifice your nightly glass of wine simply because you don’t feel like having a fancy enough meal to justify sips of a luxurious cabernet.

There don’t need to be any more rules established! Wine is meant to be enjoyed, so this weekend I decided to take matters into my own hands and create a list of some non-traditional wine pairings. You know, like what goes best with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

For the pairings, I selected a bottle of cabernet sauvignon and a merlot for the reds, and a riesling and chardonnay for the whites. All tasted relatively standard for their respective varietals, and served as the basis for each of the pairings. I then gathered a few friends for an impromptu wine pairing party, and we surrounded ourselves with some foods not generally served alongside such wines, or at least not at any wine pairing I’ve ever attended – including in Napa.


The idea was to taste test a number of typical foods that are commonly found in households around the country. No muss-and-fuss type items like lamb chops or lasagna; just some simple foods that are easily accessible. Chances are you have the ingredients for most of these easy meals in your kitchen cupboards right now, all ready to pair with a delicious glass of your favorite wine.  

For our first round, we attempted to pair French fries, an order that we had taken home from a local restaurant. The verdict was – surprise, surprise – merlot. Perhaps because of the starch base of the fried potatoes, the slight heaviness was actually rounded out by the merlot, which effortlessly upheld the fries’ crispy taste.

Next we gave some store-bought chocolate chip cookies a go. The cookies were buttery and soft, with big chunks of milk chocolate throughout. Although I’ve always heard to pair chocolate with a red wine, the cookies were actually best with the dry, crisp chardonnay.

We then decided to sample a healthier snack often found in people’s kitchens these days, as well as one that’s readily available at most cocktail parties: vegetables and hummus. Although a carrot is literally the last thing I’ve ever thought of chasing my wine with on most nights, we found that the well-balanced cabernet paired wonderfully. In fact, I couldn’t stop munching on carrots with my glass of cab, even after our pairing experiment had ended.

Above: At Clos Malverne near Stellenbosch they even pair it with ice cream!

Ironically, the cab also went best with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Whole wheat sandwich bread filled with raspberry jelly and crunchy peanut butter, to be exact. The woodiness of the cabernet seemed to soften the rich fats of the peanut butter and helped balance out the sweetness of the jelly. One participant at our wine pairing party ended up polishing off the entire sandwich because she adored how the flavors blended with the cab.
The sweet riesling was the winner of our last two tastings, a slice of birthday cake and some popcorn. The birthday cake was a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and the riesling’s fantastic sugar-acid balance ended up complementing the vanilla undertones of the cake’s base, as well as the higher sugar content of the frosting. If I was more of a real sommelier, I could probably tell you why this occurred, but all I truly do know is that it tasted delicious together.


As for the popcorn, I blame it on the age-old relationship between sweet and salty. The popcorn (salted, no butter) thrived off of the riesling’s honeysuckle undertones and was a solid match.

And there you have it! After our untraditional wine experiment was over, I was stuffed, but extremely impressed with what we had learned. I also felt slightly like a wine-loving mad scientist, which is not necessarily a bad thing in this case.

Looks like there’s another reason for a second slice of birthday cake!

(Source: SNOOTH)



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