Would you drink a glass of Sauvignon Blanc while eating an orange? Or while eating salted chips? These two questions arose as I was reading a few extracts from the book This is Not a Wine Guide, by Chris Morrison which describes some wine-food pairings on the basis of things like Acid + Acid, Acid + Salt, Tannin + Fat for example. This takes us away from the generalised “red wines with red meats, white wines with fish” sort of advice, or the more specific “light reds with charcuterie, heavy reds with roasts”, or the ultra specific “Pinot Noir with Prosciutto”. What I was reading tries to open our eyes to the simpler way of thinking about the characteristics of foods such as saltiness, acidity, fats, proteins etc which most of us understand, and pairing these characteristics with those of certain wine types such as acidity, sweetness, tannic etc which we would also need to understand. So, I decided on an experiment, a bit extreme, but one to see if my brain would tolerate or recognise any affinity between a good example of an acidic wine, Sauvignon Blanc, with extremely acidic orange slices and salted chips/fries!
First up was the orange slices …. I wasn’t looking forward to this!
The first thing you experience with this wine is a crisp acidity as you swish it around your mouth, a clean lingering freshness that develops into something citrus, maybe zesty lime but not a mouth puckering lemon. Then there is a hint of peach, not lingering, only fleeting …. then it’s gone. Biting into a slice of orange builds a strange anticipation of an increase in acidity, but when a further sip of wine is taken…. the opposite happens …the wine is softened, the finish is lengthened and more complex. What happened?
Next was a plate of chips/fries, heavily salted which I like.
I don’t think this works, the citrus/lime has disappeared and the acidity has increased! I have no idea why this happened, but I DO know that I do NOT like vinegar (Acid) on my chips, I do like plenty of salt but no vinegar please. I’m not saying the Sauvignon Blanc had turned to vinegar, just that the acidity of the wine on the chips was not a pleasant sensation at all!
“The lime zest flavours (and sometimes gooseberry, green pepper) come from a group of flavour compounds called methoxypyrazines, which can be created, even in warmer areas, by shading the grapes from the sun. Many producers now avoid methoxypyrazines in favour of the more tropical-tasting, lusher thiol compounds which are characteristic of tropical fruits, kiwi, peaches etc. but these carry with them an ever-present threat of armpit sweat. A skilful viticulturalist will try to balance the canopy shading to maximize the good points of both.” (Oz Clarke, Grapes & Wines, A Comprehensive Guide …)
I suppose we need to know if it’s thiols or methoxypyrazines that love orange but don’t like salt, but this is definitely a bridge too far even for regular wine drinkers, but my message is easy; experiment, try things for yourself but follow the basic rules beginning with Acid + Acid, which means that Chablis will always go with oysters, Sauvignon Blanc will always go with goats cheese, but as for salted fish n’chips ….. your on your own!
I acknowledge and am indebted to Danell at Vinthropology for her artistic inspiration which has influenced my images on this page. They are a poor reflection of her own brilliant artwork which you should admire directly at her wine related blog.