Editor’s note: Its #Winewednesday and this time Marissa is back with a special Valentine’s/”Galentine’s” treat, pairing wine with your favorite takeout food. This is basically the recipe for the perfect date night in or “Galentine’s” treat right out of Sex and The City. We are so excited to learn about all of Marissa’s recommendations!
Wine Wednesday: Pairing Wine With Your Favorite Takeout
One of the most wonderful inventions of our time is Seamless.com. You can stay home in your PJs (because anything else would be silly), order whatever you’re craving, have it delivered right to your doorstep, and not even have to take out your wallet. Truth: I prefer calling to order my delivery, because I’m always worried it will take too long, or they won’t actually give me the extra ginger and wasabi, etc. But I know I’m literally the last person on earth who is like this (my boyfriend thinks I’m nuts. Which, I am.)
It’s very important not to ruin that delicious delivery with the wrong wine. That would be tragic. I’m here to help you make the best choices. And yes…I did a LOT OF IMPORTANT RESEARCH for this piece. It was all for you my friends. I had some ground rules:
1. Choose the foods that everyone orders most often.
2. Involve friends and boyfriend in the research so there are multiple points of view (and to order more dishes for variety ;).
3. Takeout/delivery is supposed to be relatively cheap and easy, right? So, none of the wines I’m recommending to you are over $20.
Pizza is my absolute favorite food. And I’m happy to tell you, that you can basically drink any wine with pizza. That’s right. Any. Wine. With. Pizza. You see, pizza has all the major food groups: carbs, fat, protein, cheese, and sauce. The sauce is so important in life. One time, I went on a date with a guy, and he told me he DIDN’T LIKE SAUCE. OF ANY KIND. WTF. I ended things immediately. But I digress. Seriously though, because it has the luscious balance of fat content from cheese, and the carbs from bread, you can do a lot with it. You can pair that big cab you’ve been wanting to open. You can drink your sauv blanc. Your rosé. YOUR CHAMPAGNE. Yep, champagne (or any sparkling wine) is a freaking dream with pizza.
If you want to be a little more nuanced with your selection, just think about the toppings and pair accordingly. If you’re a mushroom or veggie pie kinda person, I’d say go for a Pinot Noir, because you’ll have a lighter bodied wine, with nice medium acid, and those forest floor, mushroomy notes to savor. Or if you’re going for pepperoni and sausage, then you can select a bigger wine like Syrah or Zinfandel/Primitivo, which have warm spicy notes and fruity, juicy full body to wash down the meats. If you’re having a slice (or 4) of white pizza, go for a full-bodied Chardonnay or fragrant Viognier. The possibilities are endless.
You know sushi has gone mainstream when it’s sold in Whole Foods. (Venison is NOT sold in Whole Foods. See my previous post for details.) When I did a quick Google search about food delivery trends, sushi was right up there with pizza in popularity. Sushi is one of my favorite things to order when I’m home alone or with my girlfriends watching bad reality TV. That *might* be because it pairs well with the immensely quaffable Sauvignon Blanc, which, let’s be honest, is so damn delicious I could finish an entire bottle by myself. With sushi, you want a wine that is dry and crisp with high acidity. I really think you could go for a Sauv Blanc from just about anywhere, but I’m slightly partial to Sancerre (from the Loire Valley in France). Sancerre is known for its fresh minerality — you’ve definitely heard us somm types saying “oh, I get wet stone here.” That’s because vineyards in Sancerre are grown on very chalky, well-drained stony soil. From the first sip of this bottle, I was transported to a babbling brook, overflowing with aromas and flavors of lemon, crunchy green apple and tart pink grapefruit (with a side of wet pebbles). Kinda perfect for pairing with fish, I’d say. Another good choice would be a Chablis or another dry, unoaked Chardonnay.
Most people dismiss wine with Indian cuisine and opt for beer. Okay, okay, I’ll admit, that’s a pretty good match. But we’re talking about wine here, people! Indian takeout is typically saucy or creamy (helloooo tikka masala) and often quite spicy too (vindaloo). So, you need a wine that can stand up to those kinds of complex, layered flavors and textures. I almost always opt for an off-dry Riesling (off-dry means just a tiny bit sweet. But not sweet or unctuous like a dessert wine. The acid in it keeps it more balanced.) One bottle I love that is easily found is Kung Fu Girl Riesling from Washington State. Washington and New York (specifically the Finger Lakes) are making awesome Rieslings. You should totally check them out. If you prefer red wine, then definitely keep your selection light bodied and fruity (skip the Bordeaux this time, trust me). Grab a bottle of Gamay — my perennial favorite Beaujolais Cru is a great idea. You can also find Gamay in the Loire Valley, just ask your friendly wine shop merchant to steer you towards the right bottle. And, my loves, you’ll be jazzed to know that rosé is also a nice match with Indian food. Just make sure you pick one that’s on the dark pink side — like a Grenache/Garnacha or Cabernet — not a blush pinky one from Provence (step away from the Whispering Angel).
What are you going to drink with your Pad Thai and green curry? Let me help. If you have any leftover Sauvignon Blanc from the sushi night, you could totally drink that if you’ve chosen dishes that aren’t spicy (like that Pad Thai). I tried it myself, and it goes nicely with those peanut-y, slightly sweet, slightly salty flavors. When you start to go for spicier options, like the green curry, you want to be careful to avoid any wine that is high in alcohol, because spice exaggerates that heat and it will not be tasty. You also want to avoid overly oaky wines, because the strong tannins clash and will ruin the dish. No bueno. A few lovely options include Gruner Vetliner, Gewurztraminer, or Riesling (Riesling is having quite a moment in this article, lemme tell you. I drank A LOT of it for research and I’m having a renewed love affair).
For this piece, I tried this budget-friendly Gruner (and it comes in a liter, oh yeah) and loved it. Lemon-lime and tart green apple on the nose, with a hint of freshly cut grass and wet stone. A sip and you’re tasting a juicy lemon drop candy with a touch of honey and limes. It is light and citrusy enough to work with both spicy and mild dishes. When it comes to Riesling, any choice would probably be pretty great, but my gut says to go one in an off-dry style, especially if you’re a fan of the heat.
Now, here’s a nice lesson about Gewurztraminer. I had an awesome bottle in my cellar from this small producer called Biggio Hamina that I bought a couple of months ago at a tasting in D.C., so I decided to try it with the Thai food. It’s an ORANGE Gewurzt, which I’d never seen before and is really delicious and interesting. The nose is your typical Gewurzt — roses, lychees, candied ginger, orange peel and a hint of ripe strawberry. Potpourri in a good way. But because the juice had some skin contact when it was being made, thus giving it that orange-pink color, there are fairly strong tannins present. The flavor profile is complex, with lemon, grapefruit, and some sour cherry too. And, no residual sugar as you typically expect in a Gewurzt. It was not a match with the Thai food (and not a match with the Chinese food we ordered the next day, either.) Buy it for sure when you’re making a pork loin or even burgers (you can order burgers and chicken fingers from the diner!!) but skip here. Stick to a Gewurzt from Alsace like this one, and you’re golden.
PHOTO: Cape Cod Collegiate
PHOTO: The Tasting Table
You guys…This. Pairing. Research. Was. So. Much. Fun! If you want to have a chill night with some friends but take it up just a notch, please do what I did and then tag me in your Instagram photos so I can kvell. (Insta: @mreibstein) I organized a casual night in for my bf and our friends Nana and Jeremy. We ordered a TON of Chinese food — all the best dishes like spare ribs, dumplings, beef & broccoli, moo shu pork, Hunan beef, sesame chicken… the works. And, I opened a bunch of wine bottles so we could try everything with the food to see what was fab together and what wasn’t. You can skip all this and just take my advice, but, if you are interested in strengthening your own wine tasting skills, this is a fantastic way to start to build your own pallet and vocabulary.
We sampled: the orange Gewurzt and Gruner Vetliner from the Thai night, a Chenin Blanc from South Africa, a dry Australian Riesling, a German Kabinett Riesling, and a Gamay from Beaujolais. (Don’t worry, we did not FINISH all of these bottles in one night. haha.) Here’s the low down: The Gewurzt didn’t work, for the same reasons I listed above with the Thai food. The Gruner did work, but it wasn’t my favorite choice. The Chenin Blanc was medium bodied, with notes of crisp red apples, honey, and a touch of melon. We agreed it was lovely with the lighter, sweeter dishes like the ribs, dumplings and the sesame chicken. Solid choice.
I was honestly a bit disappointed with the Australian Riesling pairing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a gorgeous wine. This bottle was brimming with aromas of lime, elderflower, pineapple, and sweet pink grapefruit. But the dry style wasn’t well suited to the Chinese food. I had wanted to buy a Riesling from the Clare or Eden Valley in Australia, and while Pewsey Vale is from the Eden Valley, I should have purchased their off-dry selection. Next time! Now the German Riesling, on the other hand, was a star pairing. That first sip makes the back of your cheeks pucker in the most pleasant way, a result of the delightful balance of high acid and a bit of residual sugar. A classic Riesling, it smelled of peaches, honeysuckle, lemon rind, and bright green apple. As I rolled the sip around in my mouth, I tasted honey, peaches, nectarines, and lemon candy. The slight sweetness made it a killer pairing with all the dishes, but especially the spicier ones. Definitely my fave pairing of the night.
And, last but not least, the Gamay. This was another really solid match and we particularly loved it with the beef dishes and the moo shu. We fondly dubbed it our “Little Caesar wine” because of the cute guy on the label, who we imagined pouring us this luscious strawberry-banana, super-ripe raspberry juice. Sounds wacky but trust me. You can serve it a little bit chilled too, which I love. This was the one bottle we finished that evening (A good transition into dessert…which were donuts! haha.)
Have fun with your pairings! Experiment! Don’t be intimidated. Even bad pairings mean you learn something new. And let us know if you have other questions or topics you’d like me to cover. Cheers!