Down-to-earth pairings from a Master Sommelier

The best food wines, according to Master Sommelier EvanGoldstein, have a good level of zippy acidity, moderate alcohol,unobtrusive oak, and not too much astringency from tannins. Hereare “varieties that rock” and some of his favorite labels.

• Riesling. Brilliant with food ― low alcohol,pure fruit, no oak or tannin, and it comes in both dry and off-drystyles. Great with Asian and Latin fare.
Value brands: Eroica (Washington), Hogue (Washington)
Splurges: Kunstler (Germany), Trimbach (France)

• Sauvignon Blanc. It makes almost anything pop, witha jolt of underlying acidity ― oysters, heirloom tomatoes,fresh goat cheese … even vegetarian dishes.
Value brands: Frog’s Leap (Napa Valley), Geyser Peak (California)
Splurges: Brancott (New Zealand), Marlborough Spottswoode (Napa Valley)

• Pinot Noir. This “white wine in red-wine clothing”is the most flexible of all, as happy alongside lamb as rare tuna.Great for when four diners order four different things.
Value brands: Argyle (Oregon), Wild Horse (Central Coast, CA)
Splurges: Buena Vista (Carneros, CA), Gary Farrell (Russian River Valley, CA)

• Tempranillo. A versatile Spanish red that rangesfrom bright, sharp, and bursting with fruit to fuller-bodied andrich. Splendid with red meat (especially lamb), stews, littlepoultry (quail, game hens), and paella.
Value brands: El Coto (Rioja, Spain), La Rioja Alta (Rioja, Spain)
Splurges: Emilio Moro (Ribera del Duero, Spain), Pesquera (Ribera del Duero, Spain)

There’s more than one answer

“From the day you figure out you can spit out the strainedspinach and have seconds on mashed bananas, taste preferences areborn,” writes Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein in his new book, Perfect Pairings (University of California Press, 2006;$30). You don’t have to think like an M.S. to pick wine and foodthat taste great with each other.

Pairings maps the elements in both and explains how theyinteract. The meat of the book is a variety-by-variety analysis ofwine flavors, styles, food affinities down to specific ingredientsand cooking methods ― and recipes from Joyce Goldstein (aka”Mom”), influential cookbook author and restaurateur of the formerSquare One in San Francisco, where Evan’s career really tookoff.

It’s a deceptive journey. There’s no need to learn the wineregions of the world or memorize producers, but before you know it,you have. And you’re experimenting with the likes of toasted nutsor a charred soy-honey glaze with beef, to see if it really doespick up on the oak in the Cabernet.

“There’s not just one food-and-wine-pairing answer,” Goldsteinsays. “And it’s a hell of a lot of fun when you relax aboutit.”

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