About UsWine ReviewsArchivesAdvertiseContact Us


Posted by Michael Apstein on July 29, 2015 at 9:42 AM

A Seasonal Take on Food and Wine Pairing

Bob Harkey, a friend who has an excellent palate and uses it stocking his retail shop (Harkey’s Fine Wines, in suburban Boston), gives the spot-on advice around Thanksgiving, “Match the wine to the company--not the food.”  I now expand that advice after a meal during the recent East Coast heat wave to, “Match the wine to the setting, not the food.” 

On a recent evening, the temperature and humidity were racing each other to see which could climb above 95 first.  The guests were clamoring for skirt steak, which was fine…since this flavorful cut cooks quickly on the grill and its variable thickness means everyone gets slices cooked the way they like it.  But what to drink?  Normally, this cut of beef calls for a hearty red or perhaps a mature Bordeaux or Burgundy.  But not in this weather.  Some would suggest a rosé, which probably would have been fine, but I think most rosés lack character and substance.   A chilled Beaujolais would have been perfect, but I didn’t have any (that oversight has since been corrected).

In a reversal of David Rosengarten’s and Joshua Wesson’s 1989 book, “Red Wine with Fish,” we opted for a 2008 Michel Bouzereau Meursault “Les Tessons.”  The bright citrus-tinged minerality and edgy acidity cut through everything---the heat and humidity as well as the steak.  Though the wine was only a basic village Meursault, it had character and weight usually associated with a premier cru, which was not surprising since Bouzereau is one of the star producers in that appellation.   A couple of guests continued with our aperitif wine, a 2002 Pol Roger Brut, which turned out to be an excellent choice with the skirt steak and reminds us that Champagne is not just for celebrating or to be consumed at the start of a meal. 

Indeed, any lively, taut, high-acid white would have been fine on that muggy evening:  A dry Riesling, a Savennières, a dry South African Chenin Blanc, or another Chardonnay-based wine that emphasizes structure, such as Kumeu River from New Zealand or Grgich Hills Estate in Napa. 

This anecdote is not intended to debunk the importance of matching wine and food.  Or to say, “drink any wine with any food.”  Indeed, Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas, my friends and colleagues here at Wine Review Online, thoughtfully explain in their column, “Wine With….” why some wines “work” better than others with food.  An obvious example is how much better oysters on the half shell taste when washed down with a limey Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc than an oaky Chardonnay.  I just want to encourage readers to think outside of the box--consider the guests and the setting--when selecting wine because sometimes those two other considerations trump the food.

*       *       *

E-mail me your thoughts about your experience pairing food and wine at Michael.Apstein1@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter @MichaelApstein

Domaine Louis Latour, Corton Charlemagne (Burgundy, France) 2010 ($120, Louis Latour USA)
No one produces a better Corton Charlemagne consistently than Maison Louis Latour.  Latour, the largest owner of Corton Charlemagne, has ideally located plots on the hill of Corton.  The sheer extensiveness of their holdings means that even in “difficult” years Latour’s Corton Charlemagne is top-notch because they limit production by selecting only the very best grapes.  However, in a year like 2010--which was superb for both reds and whites -- Latour’s Corton Charlemagne is magnificent.  Tightly wound even now at four years of age, it takes time in the glass to open.  Indeed, its stature was far more apparent after sitting in the refrigerator overnight.  Very different from the other white Grand Crus (thankfully, in price as well as character), Latour’s Corton Charlemagne has appealing spice and citrus rind components atop its firm minerality.  The 2010 has enormous concentration complemented by breathtaking vigor.  Its lush and firm simultaneously.  Judging from my experience with their Corton Charlemagne, the 2010 will evolve gracefully over the next two decades.
97 Michael Apstein

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
An Italian Snapshot
Paul Lukacs

VinoVip is an annual celebration of Italian wine hosted by the influential Italian wine magazine, Civiltá del bere. Held in the picturesque mountain resort of Cortina, surrounded by the majestic peaks and crags of the Dolomite Alps, it involves three days of tastings, seminars, talks, panels, and--did I mention--more tastings. This year's event, held a few weeks ago, featured fifty-five top producers, each of which showcased an array of different wines, providing the outside visitor with a snapshot of the contemporary Italian wine scene. Here is what the picture revealed--at least to me.
The Trouble with Vouvray
Michael Apstein

Vouvray is home to a fabulous array of under-valued white wines. A major impediment to more widespread popularity is the confusion that surrounds their level of sweetness. (This confusion is surely a major reason the wines remain undervalued, so perhaps--for those of us who love the wines--I should stop here.) A superb trio of wines from Domaine Huet, perhaps the appellation's greatest producer, puts the problem in clear relief. The three cuvées, each made from separate vineyards (Haut-Lieu, Le Mont and Clos du Bourg) in the superb 2014 vintage, were surprisingly different in sweetness despite all being labeled Vouvray Sec.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Summer Veggie Lasagna

There is nothing particularly Italian about this lasagna except for the broad ruffled pasta noodles themselves. Freeform, intuitive, and based on fresh, seasonal produce, it's at home in any culinary tradition, and is a great dish for casual summer dining. Serve it with a simple green salad and good bread or rolls for sopping up the juices. Use a variety of fresh chopped vegetables such as corn, zucchini and other summer squash, eggplant, carrots, mushrooms, and peppers (we always include a spicy pepper of some sort). If you've never used oven-ready lasagna noodles you might be somewhat mystified by how they work but, like us, once you try them you'll probably be hooked. For a lighter dish we like to arrange the noodles side by side without touching each other or the edges of the dish (they expand and fill in the gaps as they cook).
On My Table
A Question of Style
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

My recent blind tasting of several California Pinot Noirs included two wines that delighted me, although they were different in style, as Pinot Noir wines can be. It turned out that both wines were from the same producer but from different wine regions. The brand was On Point, a label of Fulcrum Wines, and the wines were a 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and a 2013 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Three years after launching Fulcrum Wines -- a very small operation based in Napa Valley that sources grapes from respected growers of Pinot Noir winemaker David Rossi developed his On Point line in 2008 as a home for Pinot Noir wines that are immediately alluring and vibrant, compared to the rich, more structured character that marks his Fulcrum Pinot Noirs. Grapes for the On Point wines come from many of the same respected vineyards as the Fulcrum Pinots; the nature of each wine in the barrel determines whether a particular Pinot Noir will debut under the Fulcrum or On Point label.