Red, white, rosé, and muscadine: We consulted with Angus Barn wine director and Certified Sommelier Henk Schuitemaker to find out how to expertly complement any meal with the perfect North Carolina wine. And, of course, we have suggestions for dessert.
Chicken dishes that are seemingly quite different can actually wind up going well with the same wine. Consider a platter of smoky chicken slathered in rich barbecue sauce with plenty of kick. Or, come winter, a comforting winter chicken stew with tomatoes and mushrooms — something along the lines of chicken cacciatore. Those are quite different meals, but their hearty, earthy, tomato-y sauces should call the shot when it comes to picking a wine, which is why a red wine is a better choice than the white that many people would assume goes well with chicken. Both dishes will get along nicely with Sangiovese from Piccione Vineyards. It has vibrant acidity, a palate of plum, black cherry, and earthy undertones, and rosé, cherry, and spice aromas.
When it comes to pasta dishes, it’s the sauce that determines the wine. For this pairing, think of classic red sauce in dishes such as spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna with lots of cheese (or even pizza.) Because tomato sauce is acidic, it’s best paired with a medium-bodied red wine with balanced tannins, red fruit, and acid, such as JOLO Winery & Vineyards’ JOLOTAGE. A wine that doesn’t match the sauce’s acidity will taste bland.
Shrimp pairs well with many white wines, but by pairing the wine with any accompanying sauces or condiments, you can pinpoint the match. Grilled shrimp, for example, goes well with slightly sweet Riesling, especially when served with something like peach salsa or spicy Asian-style dipping sauce. RayLen’s Riesling features a highly aromatic bouquet of honeysuckle, ripe with peach and apricot flavors with a bright, clean finish.
Oysters Paired with Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs
The primary flavors of a freshly shucked oyster are salinity and minerality, just like the ocean, so we want a high-acid wine with a crisp, clean finish that can handle those characteristics — and also coax out the oyster’s subtleties. It’s time to bring on the bubbly, such as Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs, a sparkling white wine crafted entirely from Chardonnay grapes. It features fine, tiny bubbles created though the traditional méthode champenoise. It has bright aromas of green apple and fresh pineapple, and a clean minerality.
The notion that white wine is the only option for fish is outdated and limiting. Rosé wines are accommodating partners for some salmon dishes, such as a richly flavored seared or grilled filet, or perhaps smoked salmon on a sandwich or brunch plate. Look for a dry rosé that tastes of red fruit and ripe berries, such as Biltmore Estate Dry Rosé, which can be served chilled or at room temperature. Its bright acidity works well with the rich, good-for-you fats found in salmon.
Drippy, delicious cheeseburgers have a lot going on, so it takes a bold wine with a robust aroma to hold its own with all those flavors and textures, such as Catherine from Cypress Bend Vineyards. This is a full-bodied, semi-sweet white made from Carlos grapes, a type of bronze muscadine. The overt fruitiness and distinctive, musky muscadine flavor ring true in this wine, making it a tempting option for those who might otherwise grab an icy glass of sweet tea with their backyard burgers.
The old rule of well-marbled steak demanding a big, bold, tannic red wine doesn’t always hold up because not all steaks are fatty. Flank steak is among the leanest cuts of beef. If you add garnishes such as sautéed mushrooms and jammy, caramelized onions, there’s also a consideration of earthiness and sweetness. That steak dish calls for softer, fruitier red wine, such as Steel and Stone from Jones Von Drehle. This bold, yet smooth red blend is made from Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauviginon. It’s fruit-driven with hints of vanilla, blackberry, and cherry with lingering medium tannins.
A filet is buttery tender and very lean with subtle flavors, which is why it’s often served with sauces — so keep in mind that the ingredients in a sauce can matter more than the filet itself when it comes to pairing wine. But if the steak is relatively unadorned — or perhaps wrapped in bacon for a little fat and smokiness — then focus on a wine that won’t overshadow the meat itself. One great option is Marechel Foch Reserve from Banner Elk Winery, a medium-bodied, deeply colored red wine with aromas of dark fruit with medium tannins and wonderful acidity that will release the subtle beefiness of the filet. (If making a sauce to go with the beef, consider one made from this same wine, to reinforce the pairing.)
Barbecue is serious (and seriously delicious) business in North Carolina, so a wine has to act right around it. And by barbecue, we of course mean smoky, pit-cooked pork, maybe served with a side of sticky ribs. Depending on one’s location within the state and the ’cue worldview of the pitmaster, that barbecue might come with a slightly sweet, slightly vinegary, tomato-based sauce. For that style of North Carolina barbecue, go for Pinot Grigio from Davesté Vineyards. This is a light-bodied, fruit forward white wine that can hold up to the high acid and spiciness of the barbecue sauce. It also goes nicely with the roasted pork. Winner winner!
Chocolate can be tricky to pair with wine: It has its own array of flavors and aromas that can compete with the wine’s characteristics. It also melts in our mouths, which can coat our palates to the point that the wine gets lost. When pairing wine and chocolate desserts, the general guideline is that the wine should be sweeter than the chocolate to avoid making the wine seem bitter or sour, which is why people often turn to a dessert wine, such as Starbound, a port-style blueberry wine from Childress Vineyards. It’s a hit with wine drinkers with a sweet tooth. It’s also delicious to pair like with like: Consider pairing your dessert wine with chocolate that has fruity wine notes, or a chocolate dessert that contains berries.