Wine Pairing: Enhancing the Dining Experience
Join Coastal Palate as we tour Fisherman’s Corner, Clemenza’s, and Cafe 30A and offer wine pairing suggestions.
There are few things better than sharing great food with great friends, however, adding a perfectly paired wine to the mix elevates the dining experience to new levels. Food and wine go together like, well, food and wine. It is a combination found on dining tables throughout history. The companionship between the two is akin to a harmonious marriage whereby each offering accentuates the qualities of the other, creating a synergy sure to light up your taste buds and send you into a state of euphoria.
When pairing food with wine, keep in mind that the palate you aim to please is your own. Most importantly, the wine you choose to accompany the meal should be a wine you enjoy. Do not be afraid to experiment and try new combinations as this is the best way to expand your palate.
To help take some of the mystery out of wine pairing, Coastal Palate visited three Gulf Coast restaurants well known for upscale dining, delectable cuisine, and exceptional service. We matched several in-house wines with menu items to inspire combinations that one may overlook.
Quaintly nestled in Perdido Key, Fisherman’s Corner offers casual fine-dining with Creole-influenced fare. The coastal Cajun cuisine is made from scratch using the highest-quality local ingredients, which sets this humble establishment apart from the rest. Their robust wine list opens the door to multiple sensational pairings.
Creole food is well-known for flavorful spices, complex sauces, slow cooking, and fresh seafood. While white wines typically pair better with lighter meats – think fish and chicken – it is better to match wines with sauces.
Off-dry Rieslings create a contrasting balance between sweet and spicy. For starters, pair the Spicy Oysters/Shrimp with a glass of the Valckenberg “Madonna” Kabinett Riesling – a light aromatic white wine offering an off-dry sweetness. It contrasts with the spicy habanero aioli and complements the salinity of the parmesan cheese. The Valckenberg Riesling also pairs beautifully with their Nearly World Famous Seafood Gumbo as well as other creole entrees.
Wine should have the same flavor intensity as the food. Bear in mind that bolder dishes work better with wines boasting a little more oomph. Enter Chardonnay. This well-known grape gives us a bigger body and fuller taste that better complements bolder entrees. The Corner’s Creole Linguine, Crawfish Etoufee, and Shrimp & Grits have more complex flavors and ingredients with richer sauces requiring a wine that will not be overwhelmed. The St. Kilda Chardonnay is a quality Australian wine with a good expression of melon and tree fruits – like honeydew and pear – balanced with hints of oak. This bolder-bodied wine holds its own when paired with more robust flavors.
For a memorable dining experience, try a by-the-bottle French Chardonnay. The 2007 Verget Bussieres “Vielles Vignes De Monbrison” Chardonnay pairs wonderfully with the Shrimp & Grits as well as the Creole Linguine. The lush, full-bodied Verget Chardonnay is well-balanced and complements the rich, creamy sauce found in both dishes. Tropical fruit notes like litchi and pineapple provide contrast to the spice, and the wine’s Burgundian acidity pairs nicely with the shrimp and crawfish found in these dishes.
For a special occasion, try the 2009 Jean Paul Drion “Vaillions” Chablis. Other notable wines with which to experiment include Jaffurs Viognier, Pichot “Domaine De Peu de La Moriette” Vouvray, and J.J. Prum “Wehlener Sonnenhu.” If you are looking for a more earthbound fare, pair the Creekstone Bone-In Pork Chop with Blackberry BBQ Sauce with a bottle of the 2008 StoryBook Mountain “Mayacamas” Zinfandel. The intense, bold, fruit-forward aroma of blackberry, boysenberry, and plum – underlined by exotic spice notes and hickory smokiness – perfectly mirrors this dish.
If you are craving Italian, Clemenza’s at Uptown Station in Fort Walton Beach serves classic homemade Italian cuisine in a friendly, family-style atmosphere. Their menu offerings, made from only high-quality ingredients, are quintessential Italian comfort food to share and celebrate with friends. Although it may seem apparent, food and wine from the same region go together naturally – a philosophy reflected in Clemenza’s approachable and perfectly tailored wine list. One of the beauties of Italian wine is its versatility as it pairs well with a variety of cuisine.
Wines should be a bit more acidic and sweeter than the food. Clemanza’s offers a wide range of mouthwatering appetizers, including Sicilian Arancini, Caprese bruschetta, and seaborn starters like Calamari Fritti, Mussels in Garlic and Wine, and Frutti Di Mari (Fruit of the Sea), an appetizer consisting of freshly sautéed shrimp, scallops, clams, calamari, and mussels in a white wine sauce. The Banfi Gavi Principessa and Villa Jolanda Prosecco are two excellent aperitif-style wines that pair nicely with these starting dishes. The crisp citrus notes and acidity of both wines also act as a palate cleanser to prepare your taste buds for the next bite.
Italian cuisine and pasta are analogous, and it is of no surprise that Clemenza’s has numerous pasta entrees amidst a selection of homemade sauces, including Alfredo, Bolognese, Sage Brown Butter, Marinara, and Vodka. Sangiovese wines are a great dance partner to pasta dishes – providing complimentary notes of roasted tomatoes, peppery spiciness, hints of sage and oregano, and a touch of aged balsamic backed by rustic, earthy tannins and relatively high acidity.
A real treat would be the 2010 Brunello di Montalcino – a refined and elegant Sangiovese. The Castello D’Abola Chianti Classico or Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva also pair nicely with these dishes.
Red wines pair best with bolder flavored meats. More substantial dishes, like the Veal Francese and Marsala, work better with congruent wine pairings whereby balance is created by elaborating on shared flavors. The Recchia Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore is a more intense and complex red wine that matches the flavor and intensity of more substantial entrees as such. Recchia Valpolicella Ripasso – perfectly made for the aforementioned entrees – exhibits a strong bouquet of dark fruit preserve, dried herbs, cinnamon spice, chocolate and peppercorn that leads into a smooth, full-bodied palate.
Clemenza’s also offers 18 different wood-fired pizzas and brings us back to the world of Chianti with notes of tomato and high acidity. The combination marries perfectly with any pizza having a tomato base, ensuring a dining experience reminiscent of the peaceful Italian countryside.
Café Thirty-A , located in beautiful Seagrove Beach, is a casual fine-dining restaurant serving modern contemporary cuisine in a hip and chic environment. The trendy upbeat vibe makes you want to kick off the evening with a little bubbly, and a glass of the Charles de Fere Blanc de Blancs is just the ticket to excite the taste buds.
The beautiful thing about sparkling wine is its ability to create a contrasting pairing to just about any dish. Pop a bottle of Oudinot Brut Cuvee Rose and enjoy the crisp bubbles alongside the Tuna Poke, Shishito Peppers, Beef Carpaccio, or Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes.
Cafe Thirty-A has an eclectic and contemporary selection of main course offerings. For a decadent experience, pair a glass of William Hill Estate North Coast Chardonnay or a bottle of Hawley Hopkins River Ranch Chardonnay with their signature entree – Maine Lobster in Paradise served alongside truffled “three cheese” mac, crawfish tails, sweet peas, asparagus, and roasted red peppers. Both of these New World California Chardonnays have a rich and creamy mouthfeel that perfectly mirrors the flavor found in this dish. Consider also pairing either the William Hill or Hawley Hopkins Chardonnays with the Seared Sea Scallops with Smoked Gouda Cream Corn for a sophisticated congruent pairing.
The eclectic menu also features stellar cuts of filet mignon and prime ribeye. The Chappellet Mountain Cuvee and Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet-Shiraz have the body and intensity to match the boldness of these steaks. Both wines display dark berry fruit notes like plum, blackberry, boysenberry, and black cherry, as well as secondary notes of tobacco, oak, mocha/cocoa, and baking spice. The tannic structure of these wines completes the beautiful union as the tannins soften the marbling found in the steak thus creating a pleasant harmony on the palate. The Chappellet Mountain Cuvee is a very approachable Bordeaux-style blend enjoyed by those who are hesitant to drink bigger reds, whereas the Penfolds is more for the nuanced wine drinker.
Cafe Thirty-A is a fantastic venue for celebrating special occasions or relaxing with friends. They have a Reserve Wine List for special occasions and a half bottle list with selections that are perfect for sharing. Cafe Thirty-A has something for everyone.
Whether dining out or eating in, food and wine pairing is a great way to make for a delicious and memorable dining experience. Experimenting with different food and wine combinations is also a great way to expand your palate. Remember that it is your palate you are trying to please. Have fun, and do not stress about the process. If the food and wine combination you select is not to your liking – grab another bottle of wine and try again. After all, trying new things is the spice of life.
9 Tips for Pairing Wine & Food
(Reprinted from WineFolly.com)
1. Wine should be more acidic than the food.
2. Wine should be sweeter than the food.
3. Wine should have the same flavor intensity as the food.
4. Red wines pair best with bold flavored meats (e.g. red meat).
5. White wines pair best with light-intensity meats (e.g. fish or chicken).
6. Bitter wines (e.g. red wines) are best balanced with fat.
7. It is better to match the wine with the sauce than with the meat.
8. More often than not, White, Sparkling and Rosé wines create contrasting pairings.
9. More often than not, Red wines will create congruent pairings.