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Jan 28, 2011 04:18 PM

SUGGESTIONS PLEASE! Wine to match this menu...

Any help appreciated! I am I suppose a casual wine drinker. I enjoy a glass, but am by no means accomplished in the finer detail of wine appreciation. I suppose I've never really been taught! But I'm not a lost cause - I think I've got potential. I'm a good cook (although I don't quite have any Michelin stars...) and understand how flavours work together. I've done a bit of wine research on the net recently but got a bit overwhelmed. So would greatly appreciate suggestions for a menu I'll be serving up, which goes like this:

Potato pancakes with smoked salmon and horseradish yoghurt, falafel and harissa dressing for the veggy of the group

Red thai curry with duck, vegetable massaman for veggy

Pears poached in Marsala with cardamom cream

In the past I have drunk Rioja with spicy stews and meat dishes, rose wines with... Picnics... And Prosecco with.,.. Well... Everything else! ;)


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  1. Heyo,
    Considering all the fire in that menu you could do worse than a Reisling. And in order to top the sweetness of the dessert, perhaps a Trockenbeerenauslese...intensely sweet.

    Scott : )

    1 Reply
    1. re: skaboy

      Thanks for that! I saw someone recommending a Riesling for spicy foods, but I was just unsure as both the salmon and the duck have a fair bit of fat to them, what the best choice would be. I'm pretty clueless! And the Trockenbeerenauslese... I'll have to look that one up. Or ask my German friend (she's the veggy who will be attending)

    2. Generally concur with skaboy, with (1) maybe an added suggestion of some spice in the savory-course wine(s). Thus even at the same rough level of sweetness, a Gew├╝rztraminer will be spicier (part of its very name). For dry wine, maybe even for the first two courses, an (Austrian) Gr├╝ner Veltliner which is a pretty unique type of white, with "energy" and a distinctive peppery note. In my US region, with literally hundreds if not thousands of Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, the more elegant ones with thoughtful wine lists sometimes include both Rieslings and the two other types I've just mentioned.

      (2) Pairing heavy sweet wines directly with desserts is a custom recommended in many 20th-century food and wine books (which I have in large numbers) to the point that it became an unexamined habit (like white wines with all seafoods, red wines with meats). But in more recent years, I've seen a clear trend among high-end restaurants and astute students of eating to syncopate sweet wines and courses. That is, serve and start drinking the wine slightly before or after the sweet course (maybe, the sweeter or less acid of the two being served second). This avoids the palate-numbing effect of sweet foods and drinks causing one of the flavor experiences to eclipse the other. It works. (I don't know if this principle has yet spurred one of those "Secrets Revealed" articles so beloved by mainstream US media, but if not, it will by the time it's widely practiced.)

      6 Replies
      1. re: eatzalot

        Cheers for that, eatzalot. I never pay attention to the wine list in restaurants (forgive me.) When it comes to dessert wines - which I've enjoyed on occassion as I do have a sweet tooth - is the idea to match the dessert with a drink of equal sweetness? Or not?

        1. re: makecakenotwar

          My own point was actually on a different dimension: _Timing_ of sweet wines and sweet courses. The sweetest edibles, solid or liquid, tend to mute the palate, for which reason by sampling both a sweet wine and dessert at the same time, one may suppress subtleties in the other. There's no harm in overlapping their service, but try serving the sweet wine before or after the dessert, and see what you think.

          "Sweetness" in wines is complex, and oversimplified in popular media. It certainly is not measured by "residual sugar" (some very sweet flavors have no sugar at all; sugars per se are not the only sweet components in wines by far). Conversely some wines with residual sugar don't taste "sweet" because of sweet-acid balance.

          skaboy suggested a "TBA" ("selected dry berries") German Riesling which is the _heaviest,_ most concentrated, sometimes also most complex of their standard predicate categories. Those categories are defined legally by pre-frementation ("must") density and some of them, especially from around the Mosel, have lots of acid balancing their sweetness. But both TBA and the next lighter, Beerenauslese ("selected berries") Rieslings tend to be syrupy wines with lots of sugar even if not cloyingly sweet. So generally, you want to be serving the sweetest wines late in the meal, just like the sweetest courses. My main point here is don't get stuck in the old habit of rigidly serving both at the same time, which led to absurdities like pecan pie served with (and overpowering) sometimes delicate sweet wines. (An astute wine guide long ago groused that pecan pie "can be so sweet it leaves you gasping for black coffee," thus an unlkely match for any wine.)

          1. re: eatzalot

            Ok. I'm learning! On a different subject, can wine act to cleanse the palette between meals? As I write this I'm aware I'm probably asking a very silly question, but there you go.

            1. re: makecakenotwar

              IMO, rarely is an honest food question like yours silly, mc (if I may coin an easier-to-type nickname) -- though occasionally, online discussion sites see questions that are asked weekly by newcomers too inconsiderate to search first and find the last 100 answers to the same question.

              But I've never seen this question before, and I thought about it. I guess I've never considered wines as palate cleansers -- they have so much flavored "stuff" in them (minerals, sugars, flavor esters, polyols, organic acids) that they're usually _sources_ of flavor. Often in multi-course fancy meals, to "cleanse" after a highly flavored course, something very light is served, like a granita or sorbet, not too sweet. I suppose a wine could do that too -- again not too highly flavored -- or if you want to be creative, deliberately serve a light wine diluted to taste with water or even better, with mineral water, a "spritzer" (that scrubbing-bubble action to clean the palate!). They do versions of that all over Europe for warm-weather drinks, and it might make a good palate cleanser too,

              1. re: eatzalot

                I get ya. And the whole, source of flavour (and the way the subtleties of flavour can be compromised/heightened by foods) was what I was thinking of when I thought 'silly question'... But ta for the consideration. I'm finding it all very interesting. I wish I'd properly got 'in' to wine a bit younger, but funds do not always permit such things! Esp. when you can barely allow yourself to use whole carrots, pieces of celery etc to make a stock (... Sure, that stock is going to be darn tasty. But a whole carrot and three pieces of celery? That could be like.... Lunch!) Ha ha.

                White wine spritzers have a certain reputation over here in the UK - but I'm all up for questioning recieved wisdom! I never, ever (not saying I wouldn't like to) throw the kind of dinner parties which involve sorbets inbetween courses, you see.

                1. re: eatzalot

                  As I was taught, ideally wine should (amongst other things) cleanse the palate between each bite, to prepare it for the next. And I'd even argue that if wine does anything during a meal cleansing the palate should be it. Having said that though it rarely happens for me other than when pairing maybe profoundly sharp white wine with buttery mashed potatoes, butter sauces or other rich sauces.

        2. First course - Sparkling Vouvray
          Second course - Demi Sec Vouvray
          Third course - Vouvray Moelleux

          3 Replies
          1. re: Chinon00

            Thanks. Would the sparkling and the Demi-Sec both be ok for the vegetarian meals, too?

            1. re: makecakenotwar

              From what you've described I don't see why not. My first thought when I read potato pancakes and smoked salmon was Champagne. But then horseradish yoghurt, falafel and harissa shifted my thoughts still toward something sparkling but rounder and sweeter to compete with these other less "subtle" flavors. Same is sort of true for the second course; although you won't need the sparkling element which is more appropriate to counter the creamy elements of the first course.

          2. I think I'd opt for an Alsatian Gewurztraminer with those spicy dishes.

            1 Reply