Though I like wine, the only thing that I know when tasting it is whether I like it. It’s easy for me to admit that while sitting behind a desk, but being a wine idiot is a lot harder to swallow while under pressure on a date with someone you want to impress.
Fear not. Recently I admitted my wine ignorance to Travis Takahashi, Wine Director of Bin 69 Maui in Wailea and Doug Moore, Wine Buyer of Hawai‘i Liquor Superstore in Kahului.
According to these two experts, Merlots are generally dark and good with lamb, beef or duck; Cabernet Sauvignon is more intense and is good with red meats prepared with peppercorns, veggies, char from wood grilling or sauces reduced with aromatic herbs; Pinot Noir is lighter and goes well with fish; and Zinfandel is woodsy and pairs well with barbequed meats.
Then there are the whites. Chardonnay is good with pork, veal and chicken; Sauvignon Blanc adds nicely to salads with vinaigrettes or cheeses like Chevre; Chenin Blanc is great with chicken, seafood and fish; And Riesling, which matches up nicely with seafood.
MAUI TIME WEEKLY: So how and why are reds and whites different?
TRAVIS TAKAHASHI: The process for making wine either white or red is the same with one exception. Upon crushing and pressing, the winemaker will immediately separate the juice from the seeds, skins and solids. With this step any unwanted color and tannins [astringent and bitter compounds found in grape seeds and skins] will be kept out of the white wine. For the most part, red wine is left in contact with its skins to extract color, flavor and tannins, while white wine is allowed very little skin contact during the fermentation.
MAUI TIME WEEKLY: Okay. Now explain to me how wine plus food equals love.
TAKAHASHI: When matching food with wine it is more easily understood when the taste or flavors of the wines are thought of in the same way as the taste or flavors of the dish. Good cooking involves a balance of the ingredients and technique; good wine and food matching involves focusing on how the specific components in wines interact and achieve a sense of harmony and balance with the specific components of the dishes.
DOUG MOORE: Basically, you don’t want either the wine or the food to be overwhelmed by the other. You have to find that balance and middle ground.
TAKAHASHI: The two ways that wines are successfully matched are by similarities and contrasts. For example, a piece of fish in a buttery sauce can be enhanced by the buttery, creamy texture of an oak barrel-fermented white wine. Or the sweetness of a white wine can balance the saltiness of an Asian inspired dish. For the most part, in my opinion Riesling or Pinot Noir are a few grape varietals that will pair well with many different regional cuisines of the world.
MAUI TIME WEEKLY: Any recommendations?
TAKAHASHI: [Reds escalating in price from affordable to extravagant] Boarding Pass Wine, South Australian Shiraz 2005; Scherrer, Sonoma County Pinot Noir 2005; Clarendon Hills, South Australian Shiraz “Hickinbotham” 2004. [Whites] Ruggeri & C., Italy Prosecco “Gold Label”; Wegeler, Rheingau, German Riesling “Pure” 2006; and Patz & Hall Sonoma Chardonnay “Durrell Vineyard” 2006.
MOORE: I don’t think I could narrow it down. We have about 3,000 different types of wine in here. MTW