Expert: Match wine’s weight to food; pair choices by region


Staff Writer

When pairing food and wine, there are many considerations besides the traditional notion of red wine with beef and white wine with fish or chicken.

A myriad of possibilities exists, but don’t be intimidated by the plethora of choices awaiting the discriminating palate. After all, wine equals fun!

Dominick Cerrone, owner of Good Mansion Wines in Wheeling, offers the main rule to remember: “The weight of food should equal the weight of wine.”

Of course, a home cook or gourmet chef doesn’t have to take the concept of “weight” literally. What the wine expert means is that a light wine (white or rose) should accompany light food, while a heavier wine (red) goes best with a hearty, heavy dish.

“We’re also advocates that time of year affects the choice of wine,” he said.

For instance, in summer, white or rose wines offer a refreshing accompaniment to the lighter foods served in warm weather.

Cerrone contends one can’t go wrong with rose. “It’s light, crisp, refreshing. It’s perfect in summer,” he said. “Have roses through summer. Visit reds again in colder weather.”

In autumn and winter, when pot roasts and hearty stews dominate the menu, a red wine is a logical choice.

Another rule to remember, Cerrone said, is to consider the wine’s region of origin and pair it with cuisine from that region. For instance, Italian, Mediterranean, French and Germanic wines conjure up specific characteristics to keep in mind for culinary compatibility. “Those kinds of things suggest where food comes from,” he said.

Foods featuring olive oils and red sauces “can do very well with Sangiovese wines from central Italy,” he said. “Conversely, Italian cured meats, salames, that are salty go well with fruity Italian whites.”

The same concept applies for pairing French food with French wine. For example, Cerrone said, a classic Beef Bourguignon, which is a hearty French stew, calls for a classic red burgundy wine such a Pinot Noir from the Burgundy region of France.

Wintry dishes such as slow-cooked braised meat, pot roasts and osso bucco (braised veal shanks) — that are popular in Alpine regions — work well with Nebbiolo (red) wines from the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy, he said. Light, dry Greek wines are perfect with grilled lamb.

Sweet Riesling wines from Germany have conviviality with desserts, he added. White wines pair well with a lot of cheeses.

“The combination of food and wine is far greater than the sum of the parts,” Cerrone commented, adding, “There is a kind of wine for every food.”

For “old world” wines produced in Europe and the Mediterranean region, “wine is meant to be had with food,” he said. “We promote old world wine to pair with foods.”

In contrast, “new world” wines developed in California, Australia and New Zealand are “wines that people want to drink without food” and are “fashioned to be drunk alone,” he said. Many American wines are meant to be enjoyed by themselves.

As for exceptions, he said Australian red wines go well with boldly grilled meats, while American zinfandel can be an appropriate choice for an American picnic.

Farm-to-table dinners provide opportunities to introduce red red wine drinkers to the pleasures of white and rose wines. For warm-weather, al fresco dining, food choices tend to be lighter and utilize fresh produce — combinations that favor a white or rose selection.

At home, if you’re serving dinner to four people, it would be expensive to try to have a different wine for each portion of a five-course meal. In that situation, Cerrone suggests choosing one wine for the beginning of the dinner and another variety for the end of the meal.

When hosting a dinner party for 10 people, it’s nice to pair wines with individual courses since six or seven bottles of wine will be needed for that occasion, he said.

“We should all drink in moderation,” Cerrone cautioned. “There’s no real evidence that a lot of red wine drinking is going to be better (for one’s health).”

Good Mansion Wines, located at 95 14th St. in Wheeling, carries more than 2,000 varieties of wine from around the world.


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