WINE: For Pairing

For thousands of years, wine has meant sharing and celebrating, with friends, lovers, yes, even relatives. And its main mission is enhancing food. Central to wine is not simply drinking it by itself, but pairing it with cuisine, from simple to complex.

An elaborate labyrinth of rules has developed for what wines do and don't go with specific foods. This has spawned entire books devoted to the science. For instance, red wines don't go with fish. Yes, mostly. However, pinot noir with planked salmon can be stunning. And red wines do go with oily fishes.

The nice thing is you as an independent person can throw the rulebook out the window and discover what you like on your own. That's why wine is such endless fun. You can explore pairings as you go, expanding constantly as your wine knowledge and culinary prowess improves.

After 45 years of personal questing, I am still having new eureka moments over wine and food magic matches. You will achieve it when a great wine and a complex dish suddenly meld in your mouth and create a higher fusion of taste that transcends the individual elements. But when the magic does not work, the food can make the wine taste weird, anything from metallic, to sour, to fishy, etc., an infinity of badness.

So today we offer you five wines. Two are weekend charmers for fine dining with guests on your days off. And three are weekday wonders, and amazing best buys. With each wine, I have suggested food fare that works amazingly. But feel free to experiment please. As I have often said, ultimate joy lies in making your own brave food and wine mating discoveries. Cheers!

Barone Montalto 2013
Pinot Gris
$8.95 (Italy) LCBO #73148

I presumed this Sicilian offering was at least $13 and was stunned to discover it is less than $9. Attractive aromas of fresh pear, lime and marshmallow build to a delivery of spicy pear livened by a lovely, racy citrus style. A lime zest finish triggers seafood cravings. Food suggestions: Wine poached mussels, fish and chips, trays of mild cheeses, chicken kebabs.
Rating: 89+/90

Casal Thaulero 2013
$7.45 (Italy) LCBO #588996

A new vintage of an amazing best buy. A bouquet of fragrant blackberry and earthy black cherry and cedar. The medium weight flavours hint of black olives, violets and black cherry with a blackberry and cherry pulp finish. Food suggestions: Tomato sauced penne with spicy sausages, lamb lasagna, manicotti.
Rating: 89+

Deakin Estate 2013
$9.95 (Australia) LCBO #560821

A new year for this crowd pleaser shows aromas of smoky vanilla, burnt embers, black cherry with delicate herbal notes and super mellow vanilla-laced cherry and blueberry pie flavours. Totally succulent fruit! Food suggestions: Banquet burgers, baby back ribs or sirloin and bell pepper kebabs.
Rating: 89+

Red Knot 2012

$17.95 (Australia) LCBO #619395
LCBO #61101, $14.95 (Ontario)

A big-hearted mellow red with some real power. First open the special coiled closure (which requires no corkscrew). Full blackberry, cedar and smoked sausage aromas and wide sweet black cherry with lots of vanilla and lilacs notes. A deep blueberry and wild blackberry finish. Food suggestions: Thick bone-in steaks, hearty stews, grilled butterflied leg of lamb.
Rating: 90+

Wente Morning Fog 2012
$16.95 (California) LCBO #175430

A delicate bouquet reveals vanilla, guava, pineapple, coconut and golden apple. On the palate, a silky texture delivers vanilla, yellow apple and coconut cream pie with a tangy citrus accented finish. Extreme elegance and a flawless balance of fruit and oak.
Food suggestions: Breaded freshwater bass and pickerel or coconut crusted shrimp.
Rating 91+