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Upheaval in traditional wine pairing

 Posted: 2:00 AM May 28, 2013

There is a remarkable and interesting phenomenon happening in the wine consumer business today. It seems that the "traditional" rules of wine pairing with cuisine are simply not being followed.

This traditional approach tells us to pair like foods with like wines; in other words, wine and cuisine should compliment themselves rather than contrast or conflict with each other. Therefore, heavy dishes require "heavy" wines; beef and cabernet sauvignon, for example. If we are serving trout, we use delicate, fresh and thirst-quenching wines.

An alarming number of wine professionals, both in the retail and restaurant business have been telling me that these matches are just not happening as they used to. Let's look at this a bit closer.

Preparation — The other night we were served a grilled pork chop done with curry and chutney. Traditionally, regardless if one calls pork the "other white meat," red wine would have been the call, but with the curry and chutney, a white wine was exactly what was called for.

We are experiencing a new cuisine with traditional protein, much of it Asian infusion. Quite a bit of this infusion is heat-based, that is, warm if not openly hot on the palate. Red wine simply does not do well with heat.

There has been an enormous paradigm shift, especially in the use of beef in this kind of cuisine, where white wine not only clears the heat but goes well with the spices we find in (for example) Thai and Chinese cooking.

Beer out, wine in — Here is another big shift in traditional wine pairing consumption; we are beginning to see white wine and rosé wine substituting for what had been a traditional beer selection.

This is true not only with Asian cuisine but Mexican cuisine, as well, regardless of the protein chosen. Rosé wine has the wonderful quality of having the nuance of red flavors as well as the chill to put the heat out in both cuisines. Secondly, the acid level of wine has an inherent thirst-quenching quality without the filling effect of a malt beverage. Another plus for wine being exchanged for beer is the lower carbohydrates found in dry wine.

Many folks are counting carbs and finding that wine has so many varieties of flavor components, does well with a wide spectrum of foods and offers fewer carbs. Where beer had been the traditional choice, wine has proven to be the "better" nutritional value per ounce.

Rosé wine has exploded on the scene throughout the cuisine world, not only because of the nuance of red flavors and the ability to go with almost every dish, but also we are able to find very fine rosé wines at affordable prices. The use of rosé wine has become so fashionable as well as pragmatic in pairing with cuisine that it is now possible to see on many wine lists more than a few excellent, dry, offerings where in the recent past, there had been almost no rosé wines listed on the majority of American wine lists.

It astonishes me how rosé wines, over the past five years, have taken the place of so many "traditional" wine as well as beer offerings. My guess is that all bets are off as regards to traditional wine and cuisine pairings, and we'll see where the chips will fall.

Lorn Razzano is former owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland and still works there part time. Reach him at

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