Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Wine Pairing Guides

Because I routinely develop recipes to go with specific wines for my client, MyWinesDirect, I'm always on the lookout for books that delve into the subject of wine pairing. I have about ten books or so on the subject. I've already written about my absolute bible, What to Drink with What You Eat, but there are a couple of other books I turn to frequently and wholeheartedly recommend, specifically Perfect Pairings: A Master Sommelier's Practical Advice for Partnering Wine with Food by Evan Goldstein and Everyday Dining with Wine by Andrea Immer Robinson. They both do an excellent job of explaining why certain pairings work and share typically main course recipes that go with a variety of commonly available wines and varietals. Robinson mentions specific labels, but also manages to be descriptive enough about styles, so that you can understand how to swap out wines she suggests for others you might prefer. They are both educational books, but not geeky.

Daring PairingsThree new books have made their way into my collection that I am really excited about. The first is a follow up to Evan Goldstein's book, called Daring Pairings. As he did in Perfect Pairings, Goldstein digs into the characteristics of each wine. The book features "Pairing Pointers" basically bullet-point lists of explanations of what a varietal pairs well with and what it doesn't. There are also cheese pairing suggestions for each wine and recipes from a variety of mostly well-known American chefs. This is a really fantastic book for learning about up and coming varietals that often get overlooked in other food and wine pairing books, varietals such as Muscat, Verdejo, Malbec and one of my favorites, Touriga Nacional. This book is like picking the brain of your favorite friendly sommelier. The recipes come from chefs including Fergus Henderson, Cindy Pawlcyn, Charlie Trotter, Floyd Cardoz and Dan Barber. The recipes themselves are mostly Mediterranean and French with some notable exceptions. But even without the recipes the text would suffice to steer you in the right direction.

100 Perfect PairingsSometimes good things come in small packages and that is certainly the case with 100 Perfect Pairings by Jill Siverman Hough. Hough has worked with wineries for years, creating recipes. She approaches recipes like I do, from a food rather than a wine perspective. But she certainly knows her wine. What I love about this book is the recipes. They are not the tedious "steak and Cabernet" variety, but small plates. While she acknowledges that steak and Cab is a classic pairing, her recipes to go with Cab include things like Rosemary Walnuts, Charred Eggplant Spread with Whole Wheat Pita Toasts and Sharp Cheddar and Bresaola Melt. Even her steak and Cab recipe has a twist--it's Steak, Porcini and Parmesan Risotto. The wines she chooses are the most common ones you are likely to drink, but her recipes are all fresh and exciting. It's a skinny little volume, but the short and to-the-point tips and recipe headnotes do the explaining as to why the pairings work. Truthfully small plates can be appetizers but also light main dishes and sometimes salads or side dishes so the recipes are very flexible. Read an excerpt online.

Seasons in the Wine CountrySeasons in Wine Country is a beautiful book with enticing modern photography. The simple and straight-forward (rarely fussy) recipes come from Culinary Institute of America (CIA) chefs and instructors as well as local Napa Valley chefs, and are divided by "wine seasons" and they don't shy away from those notoriously hard-to-pair ingredients such as asparagus and artichokes. This book also includes many dessert recipes and pairings. I can't wait to try the Spring Pea and Ricotta Gnocchi with Pancetta and Mint to pair with Chardonnay or the Macerated Cherries on Goat Cheese Crostini with Pinot Noir. Because the book comes from the CIA, there are also little lessons on wine and technique tips. This is primarily a cookbook, so not every single recipe comes with a wine pairing, but the vast majority do. This is hands-down my favorite book ever from the CIA.

Note: I purchased two books (Perfect Pairings and Everyday Dining with Wine), and the rest were review copies.