Pairing food and wine is not a life-or-death situation. Who says you can’t have red wine with fish? There’s no need to be a sommelier or a red seal chef to have that expert opinion. With a little trial and error, you yourself can become the expert.
Like the perfect cocktail, a well-balanced blend of sweet, sour, salty and bitter when pairing wine and food is essential. An off-dry Riesling is a lovely compliment to spicy Asian dishes. High-acid wines like a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or a Cabernet Sauvignon go well with high-acid foods like a zesty goat cheese, vinaigrette dressings or tomato dishes.
Try matching the heaviness of the wines. Pair light-bodied, dry, low-alcohol wines like a Gewürztraminer or a Beaujolais with light fare such as sushi, salads and chicken. Chardonnay or a Shiraz are full-bodied, high-alcohol, ripe wines. They pair well with heavier food, protein-rich meats, full fat cheeses and sauces.
A regional approach to pairing is a great way to entertain. Pair a luscious, creamy risotto with a crisp Italian Pinot Grigio, or a hearty beef bourguignon with a French Burgundy made from pinot noir grapes.
Let the elements decide what will pair well. What’s the weather like? Is it hot or cold? What’s in season? What local fish or game is available? From the Water Buffalo farm in Duncan, to farmers’ markets, to the many oyster farms scattered along the shores, Vancouver Island has an abundance of seafood, game, vegetables and fruit.
Vancouver Island wineries are stepping up to the plate and producing some fantastic wines. Averill Creek Winery in Duncan is a great example of the Island approach to food pairing. Vitner Andy Johnson, at a recent tasting shared some food suggestions.
The Pinot Gris is a dry, medium-bodied wine with great complexity is exquisite with the sweet, delicate Qualicum Bay Scallops. Often found at the local farmers markets are fresh sausages and meats from Ravenstone Farm also in Qualicum. A roasted leg of lamb is a superb match for Averill Creek’s Foch Cab, a bold, Bordeaux style blend that boasts flavors of black current and cherry with a peppery finish.