Pairing Food and Wine

Two restaurants show us how it’s done.


The tradition of serving wine with food dates back for centuries. In Europe, enjoying a fine vino with each meal is a part of everyday life. When the perfect food and wine come together, the experience can be magical and euphoric with an explosion of flavors. The basic guideline for wine and food pairing is simple: Match the color and body of the wine to the color and body of the food.  There are a number of restaurants in San Antonio where you will find such an experience. Two to look for are the 18 Oaks Restaurant located at the JW Marriott Hill Country Resort and Nosh restaurant, which is located downstairs from Silo on Austin Highway.
The 18 Oaks serves up Texas specialties such as osso bucco ribs and wagyu beefsteaks (the wagyu is comparable to Kobe beef but produced here in Texas).  After talking to Christopher Nelson about the osso bucco ribs, it is apparent that this dish gains character from a long list of ingredients as well as a lengthy and detailed cooking process.  The ribs come from the beef raised on the Windy Bar Ranch, located just outside of Austin. These ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender, with a nice charring that offers a sweet grilled meat essence. The complex array of caramelized flavors, echoing black peppercorns, bay leaves and rosemary, comes together in a succulent entrée. One part of the preparation is a deglazing with a dry red wine, adding to the ease with which this entrée enriches a glass of wine. The restaurant adds a textural dimension to the dish by serving it with a potato puree.
Pairing the osso bucco ribs with a red wine, the Qupe (prounounced koo-pay) Bien Nacido Syrah, brings the dish to a whole new level of flavor.  This wine is from a single vineyard (SV), Bien Nacido, located in the Santa Maria Valley of California. This winery also produces several other Syrahs from the same area. The Bien Nacido Syrah is dense and luscious with flavorful black cherry and boysenberry pate de fruit notes.  The aromas are classic cool-climate Bien Nacido Syrah, including clove, nutmeg and dried raspberry, with a thyme and sage character that comes from the stems during the wine-making process.  On the palate, there are layers of black fruits, including plum, cherry and cassis, with earthy elements of leather, barbecue smoke, soft oak and coffee, expressive yet balanced, with a lengthy finish complementing the flavors of the dish.  This is a full-bodied wine that matches the weight and richness of the osso bucco ribs perfectly.
For another exceptional wine and food experience, look no further than Nosh restaurant. Italian chef Luca Della Casa, who was a finalist on Food Network Star, 2014 season, sets the standard for creativity with a menu that is easily paired with wine. Also at Nosh is chef Matt Foster, who offered insight into one of the more popular menu items, mussels and fries in a spicy tomato broth: Sautéed garlic and shallots, pepper flakes and a spicy tomato sauce, with white wine, salt, butter and mussels, steamed together for about three minutes.
Jozsef Ignacz, wine program manager and general manager for both the Silo and Nosh restaurants, suggested pairing Bellafina prosecco wine with the mussels and fries.  The Bellafina prosecco blends harmoniously with this dish, as the acidity of the wine is softened by the broth-soaked potatoes.  The soft, creamy texture of the broth and potatoes coats the palate, thereby changing the overall impression of the wine. The Bellafina prosecco wine is produced only in Italy from the indigenous Glera grape.  The name Bellafina is a union between two lovely Italian words – bella, meaning beautiful, and fina, referring to fine, or delicate.  The initial aroma of the wine offered up nuances of honeydew melon, white flowers, a hint of the perfume essence of acacia and white peach.  This wine is intensely aromatic and crisp on the palate, a perfect match to a wide variety of foods or great to sip and enjoy on its own. On the palate this wine expresses a flavor profile uniquely different from the aroma, to include bright and tangy tropical fruits, a refreshing lemon zest, gentle apricot, ripe peach, pear, yellow apple and orange blossom.  As with all wines, the progression of this prosecco does not disappoint, with a gentle transition to finish out the dish. The wine evolves from a bright crisp wine to a subtle lemon cream pie.
A red wine and food pairing option at Nosh offers wild boar sliders with the La Fiera Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine.  This dish consists of wild boar meat braised with red wine.   The recipe includes onions, garlic, celery and fennel. The weight and texture, along with the intense flavors of the recipe, make this the perfect pairing with La Fiera wine. The La Fiera winery uses only the Montepulciano grape, grown in the Abruzzo region of Italy, located due east of Rome. Other wines from this area are sometimes blended with the Sangiovese grape.
This Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is deeply colored wine with pepper and spice notes. Powerful and fruity, the initial aroma offers juicy notes of plum and black cherry, with a hint of earthiness.  On the palate, the flavors include dark fruits such as black cherry, plum and cassis. The wine has noteworthy structure and depth with a practical pocketbook price. In the glass, the wine develops flavors of red fruits when paired with the wild boar.  As the wine continues to open up, the flavors develop further into leather, tobacco, licorice and black tea, while the earthiness becomes a bit more pronounced.  After one hour in the glass, the wine develops a savory flavor of chocolate-covered dried cherries. Although this wine does change significantly after opening, there is no need to decant — the wine glass serves as the perfect decanting vessel. Cheers!

Guidelines for pairing food & wine:


Color to color
Match the color of the wines to the color of the food
• White meats or fish — white wine
• White sauce, pasta — white wine
• Red meats, red sauces — red wine

Body to body
Wines have different weights/ viscosities. For example, light to full-bodied white wines:
• Sauvignon blanc and pinot
grigio typically are lighter-weighted wines than chardonnay, a wine with a fuller body/weight.
• Red wines: Pinot noir is a lighter-weighted wine; merlot, light to medium body; cabernet sauvignon, typically a full-bodied wine.

Suggested pairings
• Lighter-body fish:  tilapia or trout  – sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio, or a medium-weight fruit-forward unoaked chardonnay.
• Fuller-body fish: Chilean sea bass or mahi mahi or swordfish – Pair with a medium-to full-bodied chardonnay.
• Lighter meat:  quail, duck, pork
tenderloin. Pair with pinot noir or light/medium-body merlot.
• Heavier meat: ribeye steak –
Pair with cabernet sauvignon.

Three styles of pairing wine and food:
• Echoing: If the the entrée has a mushroom component, then pair with a wine that has a mushroom flavor profile.
• Complementary: If the entrée has a flavor profile such as a grilling or charring component, then pair with a wine that offers an earthy rustic flavor profile.
• Contrast: Pair a spicy dish (such as Asian food) with a sweet wine like a medium-dry or sweet Riesling.

Pairing wines with food or food styles from a specific region of a country — pair with like spices/ingredients from that area.

By Denise Easdon

Denise Easdon is a certified sommelier and a
certified specialist of wine.


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