Wine and Food Diversity

There isn’t a single wine that will pair well with every taste and texture.
Wine and Food Diversity
Different wines offer fascinating alternatives for the variety of foods we eat. (Southworks/Shutterstock)

True wine lovers adore diversity in their wines as much as they love diversity in their foods.

Yet the wines we see offered to us in retail shops and restaurants are dwindling in variety. I believe we’re in danger of losing the great assortment that creates excitement for those of us who love wine in all of its myriad forms.

Sameness is a bore.

As a result of higher interest in sparkling wines, cabernet sauvignons, and pinot noirs, there is less interest in riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chenin blanc, merlot, syrah, zinfandel, and even chardonnay. So we’re seeing fewer choices than we did in the past.

Often in the past few years, I have heard of plots of 75-year-old Carignane vines or 80-year-old petite sirah vineyards being pulled out to be replaced by more cabernet. Sure, there’s lots of interest in Cabernet, but if you want to pair a good red wine with pizza, zinfandel is a great pick.

And there are fewer of them today than there were just a few years ago.

Different wines offer fascinating alternatives for the variety of foods we eat. If you’re having salmon, pinot noir is a good choice, but so is Rioja or a light red wine such as a Beaujolais or even an Italian Bardolino. But are these wines available?

Sole veronique made with fresh grapes is a poor companion for Chardonnay. It is perfect with Chenin blanc or an off-dry riesling. But just try finding them.

Tapas from Spain work nicely with many wines, but tradition calls for tapas to be served with a glass of chilled fino sherry. Again, I haven’t seen much fino sherry recently.

And when having a traditional Tuscan dish, complete with pasta and a red sauce, Chianti should be better than Cabernet. And, yes, Chianti is often available, but their number is shrinking, and the quality of what’s left is usually uneven to terrible.

Here are a few more food-wine tips:
  • Pasta with garlic, olive oil, and fresh tomatoes is better with Chianti or barbera, higher-acid grapes and wines that work nicely with the dish.
  • To pair with roast leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic, my choice is a young, lower-alcohol zinfandel. The fat of the lamb needs the tartness of the wine.
  • Mandarin chicken with Chinese seasonings works nicely with dry Gewürztraminer—but they aren’t easy to find.
Dining out these days is best done using the restaurant’s website (a day or two before going) to see what the menu offers. Many restaurants now offer webpages that display the wine list, which gives potential diners the opportunity to see if a wine is available that goes with the food.

One good tactic is to call the restaurant to make certain that the specific wine you’re interested in is available. Some restaurants are happy to reserve a bottle that’s in limited supply so they can guarantee that you'll have it when you arrive.

With diversity becoming less common, it’s incumbent upon diners to do more planning than we once did.

No Wine of the Week.

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