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Jul 30, 2008 06:47 AM

Advice for pairing with fennel

I fell in love with fennel as a child and never really got over it. Braised, broiled, stuffed, grilled, used in sauces, or just sliced and raw. Love it. The problem comes with pairing it with wines. Inoffensive but not too interesting whites are an obvious choice, and I've done that. Chianti or other Sangiovese wines seem to work quite well and are interesting. Sometimes I would love a red burgundy or a flinty white one, but every time I've tried I've been a bit grossed out by the combinations. Unfortunately I haven't kept track of which ones I've tried (since they didn't work), which is a bit of a problem given the region we're talking about. If anyone has a specific burgundy rec, I'd love to hear it.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape and I have been back and forth around fennel. Sometimes the spiciness works with it, sometimes against it. It sure is glorious when I works, though.

I'd love any interesting recs or even untried suggestions. I'd like to change things up in the wine department when dining on my fave fennel dishes.

A thousand thanks!

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  1. I think part of it depends upon preperation. Sliced raw, I can think of nothing better than a fruit forward Champagne.

    Braised as an aromatic in a red meat dish Nebbiolo (Piedmonte) and, yes, CdP come to mind. Maybe the right Aglianico, too.

    As part of a white meat fish dish, Riesling Kabinett (*maybe* Spatlese) or a fuller bodied Austrian Riesling would do the trick. As might a Kabinett or Spatlese level Scheurebe or an Alsatian (Tokay) Pinot Gris. Perhaps a good Muscat or Gewurztraminer, as well, though thouse would largely depend upon the other flavors in the dish, particularly the Gewurz.

    2 Replies
    1. re: whiner

      Whites: Riesling Spatlese, Arneis, Gavi, Champagne
      Reds: Barbera, Pinot Noir, Southern Rhones, Rose

      1. re: whiner

        Huh, I hadn't thought about a Kabinett though I do love German Rieslings. I'll have to give that a try. Unless I was stuffing the fennel with foie gras or something, I think a Spatlese would be too cloying for my tastes. As part of an aïoli garni, that could work, though. Thanks for the suggestions.

      2. In add ition to whiner's suggestions, a NZ SB has worked for me, as well.

        1. White wine in general is a better match with fennel, IMO. While a few varietals work, if I was to pick just one it would probably be sauvignon blanc. If there's butter or cream in the dish then chardonnay would be first choice. Alot of whites work, really, depending on what the other flavor notes are.

          1. Fennel thrives in Sicily and I always found it went well with native Sicilian whites. I fondly remember a salad of shaved raw fennel and onion dressed with olive oil and salt (I think even the salt was local--Sicilian sea salt--which you could find in the supermarket), some deep-fried fresh anchovies (more salt, some lemon?), and a local white wine.

            1. Depending on its use, I find that many Pinot Noirs have a major affinity for fennel.


              2 Replies
              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Wow, thanks Bill and Maria for pointing me back in the direction of Pinot noir. I'll have to do some experimenting with Burgundies to figure out which ones work (oh woe is me!), keeping a backup Chianti or Nebbiolo on hand in case they don't get along.

                I gave this a try last night and it was a great success. The fennel preparation was quite simple, sliced lengthwise, lightly browned on the flat side, then braised in its own juices, seasoned with its greens, salt and pepper. I made the fennel as the entrée, then a sauteed rabbit for the main dish. I had a 2005 Haute Côtes du Nuit on hand, which was quite nice and had the slightest green flavors in it, but not in a way that detracted from the wine. I think that almost celery flavor helped it marry nicely to the fennel.

                Thanks for all the suggestions everyone; I'll update the thread as I try them out, if the results are noteworthy.

                1. re: tmso

                  I also find some fennel-like notes in many Sangioveses - most often when consumed without a rich red-sauce. When paired with "local" cuisine, they seem more dilute, like an Asian 5-Spice, but very light on the fennel aspects.

                  Pinot Menuier is another varietal that comes to mind, but is far less often seen by itself. Domaine Chandon is one of the few domestic (US) producers, that I know of. We've done a couple of dishes with star anise (I think fennel on steroids), and it was a great compliment.

                  Let us know what you decide on, and how it all goes.