ENJOY THE RIGHT RED WITH WHITE AND WHITE WITH RED
Sales figures from local retail and hospitality venues continue to show that Bangkok consumers hold to their well-established preference for red wine over white. Of every ten bottles sold at least seven are red varieties of various sorts regardless of whatever food may be selected to accompany them. In a region famed for its spicy specialties, bountiful seafood options as well as fowl and pork, this lopsided preference for red wine flies in the face of the traditional “white wine with fish and fowl” adage—or so it seems.
In fact there is a broad selection of red wines that pair well with fish, fowl and light meats, just as there are numerous whites that readily amplify the enjoyment of succulent red meat entrees. There are also in each group some varieties that should best be postponed for more appropriate menus. As we enter the season of holiday celebrations including the fast approaching feasts where turkey takes center stage on many restaurant menus let’s look at a few options of both red and white wines to please everyone’s palate.
First a few guidelines on red wines best savored at special occasions and particular menus other than those coming up in the next few weeks. Among reds to avoid when turkey or seafood dominate the meal are heavily tannic varieties like cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel and syrah/shiraz. Younger vintages of these wines contain noticeable tannic acid compounds derived from extended contact during fermentation with grape skins and seeds then from aging in oak barrels. Their puckering effect on the tongue can overpower fresh seafood and fowl flavors often making them taste sour.
The reds best suited to upcoming holiday meals include current vintages of merlot, pinot noir, Beaujolais, Valpolicella and many from Chianti, all of which are fruit forward with very little tannin. Look for merlot and pinot noir from Australia and New Zealand for good value and quality. French Beaujolais, including the party favorite “Nouveau,” will be released shortly, and Italian favorites from Valpolicella and Chianti are widely available locally.
Among whites to steer clear of for main course menus this month are sweeter versions of Riesling labeled Beerenauslese and Trochenbeerenauslese and others labeled “late harvest” as well as Sauternes. While ideal with desserts and cheese plates their high residual sugars will overpower most main course dishes. Sauvignon blanc with its typical herbaceous character should be reserved for appetizers of oysters, shrimp and raw fish.
Whites best with fish and fowl in the weeks ahead are dry Rieslings labeled Kabinett and Spatlese from Germany and the pleasant dry versions from Australia. From Italy pinot grigio, orvieto, soave and verdicchio are pleasant companions for the occasion, and from France Sancerre, Chablis and fume blanc. When roast beef in its many iterations is on the menu choose a hearty chardonnay from Chassagne-Montrachet or one of many oak-aged Napa, California chards.
At our particular latitude near the equator where temps and humidity tend to be high we have the additional advantage of legitimately serving all wines, including reds, chilled which often expands their versatility with many foods. Happy dining whether with red or white gifts from the vine!