Modern Wine Pairings 101

Notable experienced a superb five-course meal by Beringer Founders’ Estate Wines at the industrially-chic and trendy Hotel Ocho on Toronto’s famed Spadina Avenue strip. Seated in a reserved section of Ocho’s second floor, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling white drapery which glowed as dusk set in, our notions of tradition equating correctness were challenged. First-hand we learned that the traditional ways of wine pairing ought to be thrown out the window – red meat does not necessarily pair greatest with red wine; white fish is not always best when coupled with a crisp white.

Hosted by Beringer’s wine educator Jerry Comfort, we were exposed to a tasting lesson using three of the five taste senses: salty, sweet, and sour. If a dish is paired using solely traditional ideals, then the full gamut of sensory experience can be lost. Instead, learning to pair the preparation of a meal as opposed to, say, the protein will give the food and drink components better chance at synergism on your palette. In simple terms, think about the acids, the oaks, the tannins, the bouquets, the fruit notes in a wine. Sweet culinary applications tone down the floral and fruit notes; cooking techniques that involve sour flavours cut the acid and tannins; and salt brings out a wine’s oakiness. Of course, there is no universally perfect pairing, but the more you experiment with wine varieties and culinary styles, the closer you’ll come to discovering the ones right for you.

Below is the list of courses and the pairings we were given…interesting, no?

Avocado Gazpacho served with Chardonnay 

Grilled Shrimp over Red Oak Salad with Blood Orange and Mint paired with Chardonnay

Grilled Salmon Salsa Verde with Beet Salad with Crumbled Goat Cheese accompanied by Merlot 

Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Deep Chocolate Glaze (the evening’s best dish) paired with Cabernet Sauvignon 

Chocolate Lava Cake (which technically doesn’t appropriately pair with most wines, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying another glass of the Merlot)