Marriage of food and wine enjoying an uptick amid the pandemic


Judging by social media posts, eating and drinking at home seems to have spurred an interest in matching food and wine

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The pandemic has changed much in the food and wine business, and while a lot of it has been tough news, one area enjoying a positive uptick is the marriage of food and wine. Judging by social media posts, eating and drinking at home seems to have spurred an interest in matching food and wine or, at the very least, learning a bit about which foods work better with which wines.

It’s been suggested “a food wine” is a derogatory term, perhaps hinting that the wine needs food to taste better. Indeed, food can ameliorate rough tannins or too much acidity, or even a high alcohol rate, but it is also true that certain wines are better with certain foods. The French like to refer to food wines for gastronomy while Europeans, in general, would suggest most every wine is made to be served with food.

If we agree that almost all wine is better with food, imagine what the match could be when we pair wine with complementary food. Curiously, wines with all the necessary attributes to enhance food often profit from such a union and taste even better. It is a Catch-22 in the best way. And that leads us to the inevitable question, which are the best food wines on the planet? Here are four well-known wine styles/grapes to start your journey today.


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I’m not sure there is better food wine than Champagne and the best of its sparkling imitators. The acidity is bitingly fresh, and the flavour mix of nuts, brioche, yeast, moderate alcohol and little or no oak conspire to make it a far better food wine than its traditional role as a wine to toast special occasions. I’ve sat through numerous all-Champagne dinners and never once wished there were other wines at the table. It’s the bubbles that subdue anything deep-fried, or wrapped in pastry, while the acidity suits salt and fat, be it salted nuts or caviar and crème fraîche. If you are more into a spice or Asian food, sparkling wine works there, too, especially fruiter style. In the latter case, think New World sparkling wine.

Homework wines: Champagne Pierre Paillard Les Parcelles Bouzy Grand Cru N/V, Champagne, France $68; Albet i Noya Petit Albet Brut Reserva 2017, Penedès, Spain $24.99.

There was a time when Chardonnay meant white Burgundy and all its incumbent flavours: Citrus, minerality, tree fruits, nuts, yeast and wet stones, all with a hint of grilled toast and butter. After losing its way for a few decades, New World Chardonnay has returned to the fold, sporting much of the classic Burgundian framework with a touch of riper fruit. No matter which style you prefer, both can be stunning food wines when the oak is perfectly orchestrated. Think lobster, crab, chicken, quail, turkey, pork and veal; your job is not to mess up the match with a dish too big or too rich that overpowers the wine.


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Homework wines: La Crema Sonoma Chardonnay 2018, California $29.99; William Fevre Chablis Champs Royaux 2017, Burgundy, France $36.99.

A century ago, Riesling was the go-to wine adorning the tables of nobility around the world. After a noticeable fall from grace, most of the 20th-century Riesling has found new respect as one of the most versatile food wines of all. Riesling is all about sugar or lack of it. When it is bone dry, you can use it as a squeeze of lemon to freshen dishes.  As the residual sugar increases, Riesling will tame the heat/spice/smoke in most dishes until in its sweetest incarnation, capable of performing magic on stone fruit dessert dishes.

Homework wines: Pewsey Vale Single Vineyard Estate Riesling 2018, Eden Valley, Australia $19.99; Summerhill Pyramid Winery Summerhill Vineyard Riesling Demeter Certified Biodynamic 2019, Okanagan Valley, B.C. $28.00

Pinot Noir is another variety that is closely linked with food. The temperamental grape is anything but after it’s bottled. Bursting with ripe fruit and lower tannins, it is a poster child for food matching. Cheese and Pinot is a great match, and the fruiter the Pinot, the better. Simplicity is the key to great pairings. Spicy dishes with cumin, coriander, cinnamon or ginger work, as do sweet and salt Asian menu items. Game birds, veal, tuna and most anything with mushrooms, especially risotto or pasta. Any earthy vegetable dish can come to life with a glass of Pinot Noir.


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Homework wines: Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Dundee Hills 2016, Oregon USA $39,99, Tantalus Pinot Noir 2018, Okanagan Valley, BC $29.99

Whether you prefer to pick the wine first and match the food or vice versa, the key as always is to enjoy the journey.

Weekend Wine Picks

O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars Pinot Noir Rosé 2019, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

$16.97 I 88/100

UPC 681714160046

Expect a northern 50 degrees-plus Rosé with an enticing light pink colour and rhubarb, cranberry, pomegranate aromas. The palate is a similar mix of cool red fruits, including raspberry and cranberries, with a hint of licorice and a squeeze of nectarine. Bright full flavours with Pinot delicacy will work with a variety of menu items. Grapes come off several blocks grown over soils with a lot of clay, adding smoothness to the finish.

Bisol Jeio Rosé Prosecco Brut Glera 2019, Treviso, Verona, Veneto, Italy

$24.99 I 88/100

UPC 8053251830003

The Bisol family has been farming the famed hill of Cartizze for 21 generations. Rosé DOC is new to Prosecco but it acquits itself well, blending 85 per cent Glera, and 15 per cent Pinot Nero, with a small hit of residual sugar measured at 6.5 g/L. Look for a light raspberry colour and aroma and flavour profile streaked with peaches and dried cherries. Soft, simple bubbly and ready to drink. Pure fun and would be a good match to spicy tuna rolls.

Selbach Riesling (Fish Label) 2018, Mosel, Germany

$19.99 I 89/100


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UPC 00717215001707

Rinse and repeat doesn’t sound all that tasty, but it perfectly describes this delicious Riesling that consistently outperforms the opposition for the price. Expect a crisp and dry Riesling picked in the middle Mosel region on steep, south-facing slopes. The style is Kabinett-plus in terms of ripeness, meaning red apple, not green. The palate is peachy fresh, and as winemaker Johannes Selbach likes to say, it is crunchy, too. Great value and pairs with anything.

Poplar Grove Merlot 2017, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

$30.99 I 90/100

UPC: 626990396987

2017 is an 85/7/5/3 mix of Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This wine is turning the complexity corner, drying out just enough to display the fruit’s best sides without overwhelming the palate with baked flavours and chocolate. It gets 21 months of barrel aging in 25 per cent new oak and 75 per cent one- to three-year barrels be spending another year in the bottle at the winery. A solid, mid-valley Merlot that should age well through 2023-2025. Things are heading in the right direction at Poplar Grove if you are a serious wine lover. Grilled beef is the match.

La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2018, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County, California, United States

$38.99 I 90/100

UPC: 049331002307

2018 has given us a very pure Pinot Noir packed full of black cherry. The textures are similarly inviting with just enough structure to channel all the mouth-filling fruit along the palate to an even more impressive 13.5 alcohol content. Seriously Pinot-like, this was once thought unattainable in California. Delicious and friendly, you can serve it with duck, mushrooms, root vegetables, soft cheeses and pork. La Crema Sonoma Coast oversees a large production of estate and grower vineyards, all within the cool, marine swept boundaries of Sonoma County. Post ferment, it’s aged nine months in 98 per cent (20 pe rcent new and dwindling) French oak. Bravo.


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Recipe: Chicken spicy jalapeno ramen

A steaming bowl of ramen is the food equivalent of a warm hug on a cold day. This dish from Kinton Ramen puts a homestyle twist on the noodle soup. The Kinton team suggest looking for “fresh, frozen and dried ramen at Asian supermarkets” in order to create this soup at home. “If you buy instant ramen, use the noodles and toss the MSG-laden seasoning packs,” they advise.

Jalapeno paste

1 large jalapeno, stemmed (seeded if desired) chopped

1 tbsp (15 mL) canola oil

Pinch kosher salt, or to taste

Ramen Per Serving

2 cups (500 mL) boiling chicken stock

1 tsp (5 mL) tamari

1 tsp (5 mL) mirin

1 tsp (5 mL) sake

1 tsp (5 mL) jalapeno paste, or more to taste

About 4 oz (110 g) fresh, frozen or dried thin ramen noodles, cooked as per package instructions

Toppings per serving

2 thick slices cooked chicken breast

2 tbsp (30 mL) cooked ground chicken

1 heaping tbsp (15 mL) minced white onion

1 heaping tbsp (15 mL) thinly sliced green onions

2 thin, round jalapeno slices with seeds

2 snack-size pieces roasted seaweed/nori (about 4 inches/10 cm square)

For jalapeno paste, in mini food processor, combine jalapeno, oil and salt. Purée. Refrigerate in sealed container. For ramen, put hot soup in large, deep bowl. Stir in tamari, mirin, sake and jalapeno paste. Add cooked noodles, stir with chopsticks.

Arrange toppings in small piles on top of ramen, starting with chicken breast slices, ground chicken, white onion, green onion and jalapeno slices. Stick seaweed upright along edge of bowl. To eat, taste soup with spoon, then use chopsticks to thoroughly mix in toppings.


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Makes one.

Recipe Match

Chicken spicy jalapeno ramen will be a challenge, but we think the match is fresh European whites.

Domaine de la Chaise Touraine Chenonceaux Blanc 2018, Touraine, Loire, France $26.99

Pineapple, passion fruit, and lemongrass with the perfect touch of bitterness (guava), all with a mineral twist.

Il Meridione Catarrato 2019, Sicily, Italy $15.49

Exotic notes of melon, mandarin orange and Asian flow through a smooth texture with a butter/guava finish — nothing but fun and cheap.

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