Selecting a wine to go with dinner can be intimidating. Saying the name of the wine you chose can be even more so. I once murdered a French wine’s name so badly that it can still bring a little color to my cheeks 20 years later.
While pronunciation may still be a problem, wine lists these days are getting easier to use. The best user-friendly lists now identify not just the color and origin, but the style or character of the wine as well. Wines can range from crisp, light-bodied whites, like Sauvignon Blanc, to full-bodied whites, like Chardonnay, and light- to medium-bodied reds, like Pinot Noir, to heavy Cabernet Sauvignon.
When choosing a wine to pair with food, a useful fall back to remember is that people typically make wines that go with what they typically eat. While not always perfect, Spanish wine does go well with Paella, Southern Italian wine pairs nicely with pasta and meat sauces, northern Italian whites go well with lighter Italian seafood dishes, etc...
So what about Thai or Cajun? Some of the most popular types of food today can be very perplexing.
And so we are back to the fun of pronunciation. One good pairing for spicy foods, though not fool proof, is Gewürztraminer (guv vertz tram eener). Though German-sounding, some of the best of this wine is made in the north eastern region of France, called Alsace.
A good Gewürztraminer will have spicy exotic aromas, like lychee and passion fruit, and strong floral notes that can range into roses. They can compliment a Thai curry, as well as Creole, and even Caribbean dishes.
I recently brought a 2005 Trimbach Gewürztraminer to a friend’s house for dinner. On the menu was a Creole shrimp and potato dish with green bell peppers, purple onion, and a sweet tomato sauce spiked with habañero. The flavor of the wine was big enough to stand up to the bell pepper and onion. The slight sweetness worked beautifully with the sweetness in the tomato sauce and did not amplify the heat from the chili. The wine had hints of pineapple and rose and just seemed to be a perfect match with the meal.
As a caveat, I tried the 2006 Trimbach a short time later with a Chicken Tikka Masala and was surprised to find that the wine overpowed the curry pretty easily.
I will have to try the 2006 again; but, to be on the safe side, I’ll bring a back-up wine.By Richard Arebalo