Pairings 101: Have your Dessert & Drink it too!
I know you've just been waiting with bated breath as to what will pop up on this blog next, if anything at all! Life, specifically the demands of my career, pulled me away from writing & curating this blog as I wanted to the last couple of months. BUT, do not fear! There is no shortage of content with everything I've had stockpiled yet been too anxious to post because I didn't want anything to appear half baked. Speaking of baked goods.....
We've chatted about wine & food pairings once before, and how you'd be hard pressed to find an exact science to making pairings work (check out my video series with the Green Being for some tips & tricks!). The whole discovery of lock & key flavor combos is completely reliant on experimentation. There are ways to make it easier though. I tend to always reference a "rule of thumb" a mentor of mine provided for me as the framework of wine & food pairings: congruent vs complimentary (Pssst....Thanks Chef Catherine Rabb!). Other approaches do include pairing wine with the regional/local cuisine from which the wine derives, as more often than not those wines naturally lend themselves to the food with little effort on our part.
A congruent pairing would be the act of merging two items that have identical or very similar flavor profiles to create a pairing that blends together (EX: sautéed mushrooms & a flash seared steak will both play off the umami nature of one another to create a highly savory flavor experience). Most congruent pairings in the wine world would be the idea of pairing a big wine with big, bold foods like bleu cheese paired with a California Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon. A complimentary pairing is exactly as it sounds: two items that are different yet enhance each other. My favorite combo example that puts things in to perspective would be the combination of key limes & cream cheese. The two items on their own have dramatically different flavor profiles that bond seamlessly in baked goods like a key lime cheesecake and lift each other up in the best ways.
Now that you have that framework, you can build off of it for a solid base in producing wine & food pairings. You can call it witchcraft or a super power, but wine & food pairings come like second nature to those of us who have been slinging (and drinking tons of it, obviously) wine for a little bit. The biggest challenge that still remains is pairing wine with dessert courses. You can opt for very safe choices like a Sauternes, but the most interesting pairings are those that choose to be daring. Think Washington Merlot with a spiced plum cake or Zinfandel with a red velvet parfait. I've done some pretty adventurous dessert pairings in my day, but when in doubt, I rely on the concept of congruency to make a dessert pairing work.
What better way to showcase this than with a little trip to the Batch House courtesy of the Batch Maker?! This is also my way of shamelessly plugging in one of my favorite spots in Charlotte for creative baked goods & quality Golden Girl references. Trust me, you'll thank me later! I picked up an Oatmeal Cream Pie aka the OCP, a smores brownie & chocolate cookie on my daily stroll through the city and felt compelled to try all my goodies with a bottle of M. Chapoutier Banylus I had tucked away in the fridge.
Sweet desserts with an equally sweet wine can go one of two ways in my book: either the lock & key situation occurs on the palate to entice you to sip more or you just walk away with a tummy ache & no viable pairing save for the sugar coma you've just induced on yourself.
This wine is 90% Grenache & 10% is a blend of other red grape varietals. I'll be honest in admitting that this was my first time having Grenache as a sweet wine of any kind. I'm so conditioned to the fantastic still red wines that the grape produces out of Chateauneuf-de-Pape & Aragon, Spain that I forgot the small region of Banylus AOC (close to the Mediterranean sea within the Languedoc-Roussillon region) plays with this varietal in a more unique fashion. The warm weather climate aids in the development of very ripe grapes at harvest that are perfect for dessert wine production. Deep aromas of candied orange peel & dry black forest cherries are accentuated by a palate laced in dark chocolate and baking spices. It made for the perfect partner to the smores brownie and created this smoky, campfire background on the palate that was soooo nostalgic.
Now I'm not saying you have to only test out your future dessert pairings with baked goods from the Batch Maker (literally why wouldn't you want an excuse to try everything Cris is whipping up?), but it is highly advised. The Batch House also places a huge focus on the guest experience & their community which M. Chapoutier also considers heavily as noted by the use of braille on their labels for visually impaired consumers.
Next time your craving something sweet, try popping open a bottle or two that you think might work & let me know what success you find!
You can find this bottle over at the Grand Bohemian Charlotte Hotel or special ordered from one of our local wine retailers here in CLT. For your baked goods head over to The Batch House which is located on 901 Berryhill Road in Station West.