Bon appétit: Balancing Minnesota wine

Have you ever wondered how to pair your entrée with wine? It can be tricky, so we asked Minnesota Grown member Scott Ellenbecker from Round Lake Vineyard & Winery to offer some insight to pairing meat and cheese with wine.

“Everything in wine is balance,” Ellenbecker explained. “Think of the big picture. Parents cook certain foods as you are learning to cook. Today, you cook these same foods. Think about the balance and the finish of the wine.”  Here are several examples of proteins to match with wine.

Beef is a bold flavor, you will want a red wine, such as a Marquette, to complement the meat. Prominent flavors in the meat and seasonings should match the sweetness or acidity of the wine. However, a lighter beef appetizer such as a roll of roast beef with a cream sauce will need an aromatic and citrusy wine with a light finish.

Sliced chicken on a bed of greens with fruit, nuts and vinegary dressing will correlate with a sweet white wine, such a La Crescent. If the grilled chicken is paired with a creamy sauce, Ellenbecker suggests a light wine such as Brianna or St. Peppin. Consider the colors on your plate when choosing a wine. A chicken breast with a honey glaze and steamed carrots will pair with a sweet white wine.

Pork varies with seasoning and preparation. A pork chop with a cracked red pepper rub has a big flavor that will dominate any light wine. In this case, a peppery red wine would pair well. Chutney is a fruit reduction, essentially it’s nice to balance acid with something sweet, such as La Crescent. Temptation, which is Round Lake Winery’s apple wine, can be paired with an apple based chutney. Ellenbecker suggests to try different wines with different proteins to find your preference on pairings.

Since Mushrooms have an earthy taste, a Marquette will match the flavor. If the mushrooms are in a buttery sauce with dill and light herbs, a citrus medium bodied white wine would connect the flavors together.

Pairing cheese with wine is a similar theory. A successful pairing will come with balancing flavors. Gouda and smoked cheeses have a big flavor. Peppery cheeses should be paired with a bold red wine. Brie has a bite; therefore, it should be on a lighter saltine cracker. Because of the stinky flavor of brie and blue cheeses, your palette may portray different flavors depending on the wine. Aged cheddar has a crunch and aggressive bite, a Zinfandel or Marquette will balance the flavors. A younger cheddar agrees with a lighter white wine.

The palette evolves as a person becomes more experienced with wine. He explained that people generally do not initially enjoy red or dry. Ellenbecker reinforced that wines can vary in finish depending on soil conditions, locations, sunlight, and weather. Therefore, wine tastings are important to discover new wines! Always picture which seasoning and preparation method would balance with each wine sample.

Are you hungry and ready to put your new skills to the test? Now that you have inside knowledge on pairing wine with meat and cheese, it is time to stock the wine rack with local wine from the forty-one wineries in the Minnesota Grown Directory! We would like to thank Round Lake Winery & Vineyard for taking the time to discuss pairing food and wine.