For most of history, before advances in the transport of goods and information gave us an understanding of gastronomy as a global phenomenon, every region was quite isolated. Necessity dictated that the foods of a particular area adapt to locally produced wine or vice versa.
The following is one of the best pieces of advice one can get when first venturing into the world of food and wine pairing: “if they grow in the same place, they're a good match.”
There are hundreds of examples. To name just a few:
- A Sauvignon Blanc from the French region of Sancerre will combine beautifully with a Crottin de Chavignol goat cheese produced in the same area.
- Likewise, the freshness of an Austrian Riesling pairs perfectly with the pan-fried crispiness of a Wiener Schnitzel, the classic Viennese-style escalope, whereas Zweigelt reds are a great match for Vienna's most festive dish, the Tafelspitz, boiled beef from a very specific cut of meat.
- Mention meat and it is hard not to imagine an Argentinian asado: short and spare ribs and skirt steak cooking on the grill... This protein-laden feast begs for the tannic power of a Malbec.
- Stews cooked with wine like boeuf bourguignon bring to mind Pinot Noir, which is almost a must here.
- In Galicia, an Albariño from Rías Baixas is the perfect match for fish and seafood, although pulpo a feira, a classic octopus dish with a dusting of paprika, goes beautifully with a young, fruit-forward Mencía and Caíño red.
- Garnacha and Cariñena reds from Priorat and Montsant are stellar companions for truita amb suc, a local specialty. This spinach and white bean omelet completes cooking in a small casserole, covered in a sauce of garlic-and-tomato sofrito and good local rancio wine. A great hearty dish for character-driven wines.
- The gall negre del Penedès, the region's indigenous black cockerel, as well as the local duck are traditionally roasted with dried plums and pine nuts and love the company of a good local Cabernet Sauvignon, because the plum notes complement each other. That being said, well-aged sparkling wines are also a great choice, because they cut through the fatty sensations of the dish. The pine nuts play off the wine’s dried fruit notes beautifully.
- Finally, let's not forget sherries and their affinity for ham and fried foods. Finos and manzanillas are excellent palate cleansers after a rich mouthful.
The list is endless and can even be expanded to include non-winegrowing regions, for example, the glorious combination of green tea or sake with sushi or oysters from the Irish coast paired with a good stout.
Nature is wise, giving us ready access in our immediate surroundings to pairings with such a deep sense of place that they have become cultural expressions of the highest order.