Good food is great. Good food paired with good wine is even better. But how does one go about choosing the right food and wine pairing? That's what our group set out to learn during a recent Sunday afternoon at Flatiron Kitchen + Taphouse, a locally-owned chef driven restaurant located in the heart of downtown Davidson and host of the monthly wine tasting and education series KnoWine.
With Flatiron's Managing Partner, Jason Tognarina, leading the way, our group sampled six cheeses and wines, along with an assortment of kalamata olives, walnuts, fig jam, grapes, pear slices, dried apricots, and some of the best grilled bread in town. Here is what we learned:
Before sampling each selection, we learned about the process of combining flavors. By following a specific sequence, one is able to better determine whether the flavors complement or detract from each other. This is done by first taking a sip of the wine and letting it coat the mouth. This initial sip is then followed by a bite of food, which is combined in the mouth with a second sip. Was the second sip more enjoyable than the first? If so, you have a good pairing.
Of course, what qualifies as enjoyable is a matter of personal preference. As a result, it is difficult to speak of pairings in terms of good or bad. While general guidelines are helpful and the occasional "bad" pairing does exist (think light white wine overpowered by a spicy curry), pairings are best defined as how well the food and wine complement and contrast each other. The degree to which opinions can differ was well illustrated as our group tasted and discussed each of the pairings. While some of us preferred sweet and mild flavors, others were partial to more robust and peppery selections, reinforcing the notion that much of the fun in food and wine is the process of discovery rather than mastery.
Our wine selections included three whites and three reds, beginning with the lighter whites and gradually progressing towards the more robust reds. The individual pairings were as follows:
- Appalachian cheese paired with Lagosta Vinho Verde from Portugal
- Buttermilk blue cheese paired with P.J. Valckenberg Riesling
- Aged goat cheese paired with Crespi Ranch Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
- Manchego cheese paired with Matchbook Tempranillo
- Extra sharp cheddar paired with Alexander Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
- A soft French, double-cream cow cheese paired with Sangue di Giuda
Opinions and preferences were across the board. Some loved the buttermilk blue, while others disliked it. There were those that preferred the white wine pairings and those that leaned towards the heavy tannic reds. One wine, however captured the group's consensus: the fascinating story and characteristics of Sangue di Giuda.
A sweet, sparkling red wine produced in northern Italy's Oltrepò Pavese, "Sangue di Giuda" literally translates as "Blood of Judas". The story behind the naming of the wine is unclear. Some claim it to be the result of monks and nuns attempting to deter people from consuming the delicious drink. Others attribute the name to biblical events saving the vines from a terrible disease. Whatever might have led to the unusual name, the wine itself was a fascinating discovery.
Wine can sometimes feel complex and overwhelming (6-page wine list anyone?). However, as we spent the afternoon walking through the different wine and cheese pairings, our group was reminded that first and foremost, wine is fun and delicious.
A big thank you to Jason and everyone at Flatiron for a wonderful afternoon and the opportunity to expand our knowledge and confidence when selecting and pairing wines.
Want to hear what another one of our bloggers had to say about the experience? Head on over to My Forking Life for her story.