Wine Pairings 101

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Any sommelier worth their weight in Cabernet Sauvignon will tell you that the secret to a successful food and wine pairing is striking a balance: allowing the flavors in both food and wine to amplify each other while ensuring that nothing gets overshadowed or masked. Subjective tastes can be tricky to navigate, so achieving the right pairing doesn’t take a textbook, but flexibility and an open mind. Half the fun is being surprised when dissimilar elements harmonize.

We recently meet up with the folks at Secco Wine Bar for some fundamentals in wine pairings. Secco’s owner, Julia Battaglini, chef John Ledbetter, and a few members of their team narrowed it down to three principles:  “like with like,” “opposites attract” and “what grows together goes together.” For each principle, we tried a pairing and Julia gave us a brief explanation of why the pairing worked:

Affinitas 2012 Furmint (Tokaj, Hungary) + Le Chevrot Chevre (Loire Valley, France)

“Le Chevrot is a gorgeous goat’s milk cheese from the Loire Valley, France. Its edible rind is wrinkly and funky, and the interior shows a defined cream line depending on its age. The classic go-to pairing with this cheese is a Sauvignon Blanc from this region such as a Sancerre or Pouilly Fume – lots of acid and assertive flavors – but instead we like to take a chance and pair it with a dry Furmint from Hungary. Most often Furmint is vinified into a traditional sweet Tokaj wine, but this version brings all the soft fruit and honey notes with little to no residual sugar. The resulting flavor combination is a surprise and a delight.”

Fondo Antico 2013 Nero d’Avola Rosato (Sicily, Italy) + Confit Tuna Ragu (with heirloom cannellini beans and grilled bread)

“This is a perfect example of ‘what grows together goes together.’ The dry rose made from the Nero d’Avola grape is bold and bright, but still has plenty of acid to cut through the rich confit, flavor of the meaty beans and brininess of the tuna.”

La Grume Brouilly (Beaujolais, France) + House-made Duck Pastrami (with panko-crusted fried egg yolk and Brussels sprouts)

This pairing falls under the ‘like with like’ category. First we start with duck, which is delicious always and all ways, then we smoke and cure it. Then we deep-fry an egg yolk in salty panko breadcrumbs for texture. Finally we add some simply dressed Brussels sprouts to keep all the rich flavors in check and add a vegetal note for balance. If all these flavors could come in a liquid form it would be the Gamay grape from the Beaujolais region. The fruit marries with the sweetness of the cured meat, the spice with the smoke, the freshness with the veggies. The acid cleans up all the fat and the low tannins and alcohol means you can drink a bottle and still go dancing when you’re done.”


Secco Wine Bar is located at 2933 West Cary Street, Richmond, VA.

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