Oenologists (wine scientists and specialists) and sommeliers are often called on to match wine with food. But what happens when you flip the selection process and ask wine experts to choose the food that best complements a type of wine? We quizzed experts on which foods they would serve to enhance and showcase the complex flavors of a variety of wines. Then we paired their selections with easy-to-make hors d'oeuvres for a full-bodied winetasting party to enjoy with friends.
CAVA BRUT OR CHAMPAGNE + PARMESAN CHEESE
Jacob Kiel, wine director at Hotel Fauche're in Milford, Pa., says salty Parmesan cheese is a perfect foil for the crispness and delicate acidity of Spanish or French sparkling wine. Parmesan's texture matches the nutty flavors present in the sparkling wine, drawing out notes tasting of lightly toasted bread.
GRÜ?NER VELTLINER + COLLARD GREENS
Bitter greens with wine? Surprising, but true. Portland, Ore.-based Pamela Heiligenthal, editor of Enobytes.com, says the pungent tang of the collards complements the earthy, mineral taste of Gruner Veltliner, while the greens' delicate mustard flavors bring out the citrusy character of this off-dry white wine. She suggests a Grüner Veltliner from the Kamptal, Kremstal, or Wachau regions of Austria, or else from New Zealand. Grü-V is the hipster wine lover's name for this increasingly popular varietal. A spicy Italian Verdicchio would work equally well.
CABERNET FRANC + ROSEMARY + CHÈ?VRE
The sharp flavors of rosemary and chèvre (goat cheese) complement the high acidity and fruit-forward flavors of Cabernet Franc. The herb's pine-like fragrance works well with the dusty characteristics of this red wine. Heiligenthal suggests a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. A Spanish Mencia is equally good but may be a little harder to find. If you can't find either varietal, choose a cooler-climate Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington state or California's North or Central Coast.
PINOT NOIR + MUSHROOMS
Wine journalist and author Steven Kolpan, professor and chair of wine studies at The Culinary Institute of America, says oyster, shiitake, and other wild mushrooms in a risotto are a great match for a fruity red wine such as Pinot Noir. The mushrooms' earthiness contrasts nicely with and also brings out the fruit in the wine. Plus, the creaminess of the risotto cuts the tannins in the wine, which further amps up the fruitiness. Kolpan suggests Valpolicella if you like a lighter, fruitier red, or a bold Zinfandel if you prefer your reds more robust.