Just saw this article from the NY Times about recipes for Asparagus and thought of the issues some foods create for pairing with wine. Asparagus is notorious for such. The asparagusic acidity in the vegetable is what creates that problem in pairing. This acidity along with the intensity of chlorophyl can make wines taste metallic and astringent. Wine is full of it’s own types of acidity and these can either pair or clash with certain styles of cuisine. Shellfish and Cabernet Sauvignon is notorious as is almost any wine with artichokes.
I happen to love asparagus and almost always drink a glass of wine with dinner, so creating a manner to make that paring more acceptable was a priority. One of the times that I was forced to consider how to pair asparagus and wine was for a wine dinner I did with Freemark Abbey when my friend Joseph Carr was working with them.
The key to creating a great pairing is balancing out the flavors and as acidity is one of the most prevalent flavor components in both wine and food, that is where to focus the efforts. Oak and alcohol can be stumbling blocks, so careful with wines heavy in those two areas. If you need to drink a wine with higher alcohol or heavy in oak or both then the dish must be adjusted somehow to allow such a pairing. How I did this with Freemark Abbey Chardonnay and Asparagus was to grill the vegetable after drizzling with olive oil, then dress with diced grilled pancetta and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. All of these little tweaks balance the acidic flavors of Asparagus so wine won’t clash. The same technique and theories can be applied to any food that has problems with high acidity and pairing with wine.
Artichokes, Chocolate, Hummus, Mexican Cuisine, Salad Dressing, Tomatoes and Blue Cheese are some of the tougher pairings. Some you adjust the dish or cooking process others, you make interesting wine selections and others you look to the country or region that the cuisine comes from and pair how the locals do.