local wine expert chips in on how to pair wine with dinner – or any food, really
DO YOU KNOW THIS MAN? William Bernier, a.k.a. the Eau Claire Wine Guy, is a wine specialist with Superior-based Saratoga Liquor Co. Here’s a photo of Bernier at one of his 2017 classes at Forage in Eau Claire.
TIP #1. Drink and eat what you like.
Choose a wine that you would want to drink by itself, rather than hoping food will improve a wine you don’t like. The same holds true for the food: After all, if you detest liver, there is no wine pairing on Earth that will make it work for you!
TIP #2. Look for balance.
Consider the body or richness of both the food and the wine. The wine and the dish should be equal partners, with neither overwhelming the other. If you balance the two by weight, you raise the odds dramatically that the pairing will succeed. Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon complements grilled ribeye because they’re equally hearty. In contrast, Edna Valley Pinot Grigio is wonderful with a poached fish because they are equals in delicacy. How do you determine weight? The cooking method and the sauce are very important. (Note how a salad with blue cheese dressing feels heavier than one with citrus vinaigrette, as will fried chicken versus grilled.) For a wine, you can get clues from the color, grape variety and alcohol level, along with the region. (Lower alcohol wines tend to be lighter-bodied; those with higher alcohol percent are heavier.)
TIP #3. Match the wine to the strongest element in the dish.
This is critical to wine pairings. Identify the dominant character in the dish; often it’s the sauce or seasonings, rather than the main ingredient. Consider two different chicken dishes: Chicken Marsala, with its sauce of dark wine and mushrooms, versus Chicken Piccata. The earthy flavors of the former call a rich red, while the citrus flavors of the latter call for a fresh white.
William Bernier, the Eau Claire Wine Guy, can be found on Facebook. Each issue of Volume One includes a rotating column featuring the newest, the latest, and the neatest in the world of wine, beer, and cocktails.