By: Tati Amare
Summer is here, and if you’re anything like me, you can’t wait to chill out with a nice glass of wine and some delicious summer fare after work and on the weekends! The only problem is, what wine do I pick? I’ve end up with anything from an amazing bottle of white, to a poorly selected red wine that ends up getting used as cooking wine.
While out on the town for UrbLife.com recently, I decided to get some expert advice on wines for summer dining. Since I love food and wine, the thought of making them go together even better was a no brainer! I headed over to VERO Wine Bar in midtown New York City, and met with their Certified Sommelier Kasi Shelton to get some advice on how to pair different wines with summer dishes.
The whole point of pairing the right wine with the right dish is to accentuate flavors in both, that your palate might otherwise miss. Also, to create a compliment where the wine isn’t overpowering the food and vice versa.
I started off by selecting a couple of items from their menu that are good warm-weather dishes, which also parallel ingredients I like to use at home in the summer. I might as well be able to dazzle people with my wine selections at home too!
The first dish was VERO’s Yellowfin Tuna Tartare with cilantro, lime zest, ginger, sriracha (hot pepper sauce) and olive oil.
Yellowfin tuna, as Kasi explained, is a heavier fish, so you can pair it with either white or red wine. Who knew you could do red wine with fish? Generally this is a pairing faux pas, but it’s all about pairing the fish with the right red wine.
Due to the novelty, I couldn’t help but start with the red – Torzi Matthews Schist Rock Shiraz (Australia). According to Kasi, this is the perfect choice for a summer red, because it’s not heavy and is a sweeter red but not too sweet for a spicy dish like this one.
Since the tuna is heavily flavored with the ginger and the sriracha, we needed the sweetness to cut through the heat with out overpowering the fish. Put the two together and what do you get? An unexpected hint of fruit that perfectly complements the tuna and brings out the lime zest and herby flavor of the cilantro!
Just when I thought the yellowfin tuna couldn’t any taste better, Kasi poured me a glass of Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc (white, South Africa). The yellowfin tuna went from fruity with the last wine, to aromatic with the second glass. In this combination I started to taste the vanilla, nutmeg and clove in the Chenin Blanc, which brought out the warmth of the ginger and spice in the fish.
The second item I selected from the menu was the house-made Tortellini stuffed with pear, four cheeses and tossed in burro fusso (spiced Italian melted butter) with sage. If you like cheese and fruit stuffed pasta like I do, then you will love this dish at VERO!
The first wine I had with this dish is a glass of Los Vascos Chardonnay (white, Chile). Since tortellini is considered a heavier dish because of the cheese and butter, Kasi paired it with a more acidic wine. This chardonnay cut through the weight of the dish, and you could really taste the fruit in the pasta and the fruit in the wine. It lightened up the dish, and I felt like I could eat the whole serving, where normally I would feel full after just a few bites of a dish like this.
The second glass of wine I had was the Cantina Santadi Vermentino di Sardegna Villa Solais (white, Italy), also considered acidic, but had a totally different flavor. This wine had apple, hazelnut and fig undertones, and had a creamy texture. It literally made the pear tortellini taste like a dessert dish. But beware, the creamier or more syrup-like consistency the wine is, the higher the alcohol and sugar level in the wine – and the faster it goes to your head!
Both times, one dish turned into two totally different experiences just by the wine selection. Though I’m far from an expert, this quick lesson taught me that there is a world of food and wine pairing just waiting for me to discover. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it…
If you’re not feeling as adventurous as I am, visit VERO Wine Bar at one of their two Manhattan locations. It’s a great place to start your journey, and they’re more than happy to give pairing suggestions. Just make sure you get there early! I arrived at the location at 1004 2nd Avenue and 53rd Street at 6:00pm on a week-night, and within about 20 minutes the place was packed!
Follow VERO Wine Bar on Twitter @VERONYC!