Food is lovely, wine is undoubtedly great, but combine the two and the results are often exponentially greater than the sum of their very delicious parts.Much in the same way music can enhance an experience, wine plays with a dish’s innate characteristics, enhancing them in the best of times and creating a sensory train wreck when the pairing is less than ideal.
The only way to find the pairings you love best is through continual trial and error, but these downright delectable duos play so well together they’ve achieved Starsky-and-Hutch-like levels of coupled-up fame.
Caviar and Champagne
An undeniable classic, this pairing might not be entirely original, but it’s so off-the-charts fantastic it would be a crime not to include it. Champagne is the perfect complement for anything salty (we like our bubbly with french fries and potato chips, too — don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!), and the soft, rolling effervescence cuts through the lusciously rich texture of the briny eggs.
Kettle Corn and Sauternes
The captivating interplay of salty and sweet that epitomizes kettle corn is a dynamite nosh all in itself, but accompany each gargantuan handful with a swig of intoxicating Sauternes and it’s like putting diamond earrings on with your overalls; there’s no way it should work, but there’s something super charming about it. The casual snackability of the kettle corn is a lovely counterpoint to the wine’s honeyed nuttiness, and the acidity and slightly raisinated quality of the wine give the fluffy kernels complexity.
Oysters and Alsatian Riesling
A great oyster tastes of the sea, briny and fresh, often with crisp, clean notes of cucumber or melon on the finish. There is a minerality that comes from both the shell and the bivalve’s habit of sucking in water, thereby absorbing all kinds of waterborne minerals in the process. Many people equate Riesling with sweetness, but an off-dry version from Alsace has the aromatic melon-infused richness, acidity, and minerality you’ll quickly learn to crave.
Jamón Serrano and Fino Sherry
Most Americans have no idea what truly delicious ham should taste like. We’ve been trained to eat those overly salty but otherwise bland deli slices with mute acceptance, all the while missing out on the magic of this Spanish delicacy. Traditionally, the best Serrano ham was cured outside in the Spanish countryside during the winter months by dedicated traditionalists who let the mountain air slowly do its work. Today, more sterile, controlled conditions are in place, but the unctuous, slightly gamy, fast-melting fattiness remains the same. Our favorite fino sherries are on the drier side, with underlying currents of olive and almond that take the accompanying wafer-thin slices of Serrano to impressive heights.
Grilled Cheese and Napa Chardonnay
Grilled cheese is both the ultimate comfort food and a nostalgic sandwich that brings back childhood memories even as it offers up opportunities for gourmet grandeur. You can put almost anything into a grilled cheese sandwich, and some elements would certainly change the pairing, but no matter how many roasted tomato/Kalamata olive/blueberry chutney creations we taste, we always go back to the good old white bread and American cheese original. We use a sturdier loaf for textural purposes, and the crispy, semi-burnt edges and creamy center are echoed in a buttery California Chardonnay.
Steamed Mussels and Albariño
Steamed mussels are like little secrets; pry open the winged mollusks and you’ll find the meaty interior, marinated in the cooking liquid, inherent brine, and the garlic and herbs we sure hope you added to the pot at the start. That same herbaceousness and minerality weaves in and out of a glass of Albariño, and enjoying a pot of mussels and bottle (or two) of the wine is our favorite way spend late summer nights with friends. Bonus points if you steam the mussels in the actual wine.
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