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Issue Date: April 2006 Issue

A Flair for Pairs

A circle of friends makes picking the perfect bottle a pleasure.

Marianne Frantz

Wine devotees — whether novice or aficionado — are eventually faced with the task of pairing the right wines for a dinner.

Sounds easy, yet modern food-and-wine pairings offer more exceptions than old-school rules.
So how do you confidently choose the perfect wine? Simple. Give it some careful thought and call upon the palates of your wine-loving friends.
Earlier this year, a similar scenario played out, creating a well-versed group of Northeast Ohio wine tasters now fondly dubbed the NEOenophiles.

The menu under consideration featured classic spring flavors. Just for fun, members were asked to select the perfect wine for their designated course.

We started with mixed greens with thyme-scented goat cheesecakes and balsamic vinaigrette. The high acid content in the goat cheese and vinaigrette require a wine with a good dose of acidity. Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir, a festive sparkler from California, and Giesen Sauvignon Blanc, a grapefruity, aromatic white from New Zealand, handled the task beautifully.

Next up, ahi tuna with lima beans, corn and pancetta. The fleshy ahi tuna requires a medium-bodied wine. An off-dry German Riesling such as Robert Weil Kabinett harmonized the dish’s sweet and salty flavors. For those interested in tossing aside the “white wine with fish” rule, the group suggested Mommessin Fleurie, a juicy, light-styled red from the Beaujolais region of France. The wine’s soft tannins and crisp acidity squarely matched the meatiness of the tuna.

Dessert called for a wine with enough sweetness to counter a homemade rhubarb-and-berry crisp served with lemon sorbet. Best bet? Either play up freshness or accent the sweetness. The group decided to do both by pairing La Famiglia di Robert Mondavi, an Italian-styled, refreshing Muscato Bianco from California, and Château Hallet, a classic French Sauternes.

So grab some friends, assign each a course and try a pairing dinner of your own. Cheers.

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