Pairing perils

Wine paradox: high scoring wines are among most difficult to pair with food, even though pairing wine with food is a vital aspect of wine.

Godzilla wines aggressively sweep your table clean with oaken aromas and fruit-bomb attacks; they seize your pallet with one message: “Me, me, me.”

That doesn’t make them bad, but it does make them wines better enjoyed on their own or paired with cheese and unsalted crackers. When you pay three, four, five figures for a wine—heck, wine is the star, allow it to be the performance.

For normal food pairing, go for good-enough wines, commercial products made to please a wide range of consumers and bank accounts.

Think wines without extremes. Think wines scoring in the 80s. Think non-diva wines willing to share the table with fare from ovens and grills.

Think chablis, riesling, pinot gris and grigio, sauvignon blanc, un-oaked chardonnay.

Think pinot noir, merlot, syrah, grenache blends, barbera.

Of course bold and beautiful varietals, bodacious blends, intense acids and florid fruits can pair deliciously with dramatic foods, but outspoken flavors narrow the number of people who enjoy the experience.

The more distinctive the wine—or food, for that matter—the fewer the folks who will love it and the larger the number who will hate it or just not get it.

In wine as in baseball, you don’t have to swing for a home run every at bat. A base hit up the middle leaves a better taste in everyone’s mouth than a torso-twisting strike out.


• Clos du Bois Chardonnay. Pears, green apples, toasty oak, silky smooth. California. $10

• Les Jamelles Syrah. Dark and inky; wild berries on the nose; rich, full mouth, silky finish. Excellent value. France. $12

• Ramspeck Pinot Grigio Lake County. Peaches and apples; bright citrus. California. $13.50