Las Cruces Magazine

Fall/Winter 2015-16

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In the Land of Enchantment a question you often hear in any of our multitude of restaurants, cafes, and eateries is the simple query, "Red, Green, or Christ- mas?," referring, of course, to which chile sauce you prefer on your plate of local cuisine. But as the fan base of our state's thriving wine industry grows, we might also add Pinot Noir or Riesling; Merlot or Moscato? Pairing which grape varietal or vine- yard to enjoy with a meal depends largely on personal taste, mood, and the flavor profiles of the dishes you are about to savor. The age-old custom of white with poultry and fish and red with meats has long been discarded. The flavors and spices that season the dish, and certainly if you are speaking of New Mexico dishes, the chiles that fire it, are a good place to start in plan- ning a food and wine coupling. As a chef, I find myself often chal- lenged to come up with a wine for a dish that I think would glide most hap- pily together across my palate, but there are no hard rules. Here are a few guide- lines that I use after 40 years in the busi- ness. There is nothing better than a sparkling wine to start off a meal and New Mexico vineyards produce plenty of them; it tickles the taste buds and whets the appetite. Vinegars and sour ingredients tend to spoil the fizz, so it's a good idea to save those for later in the meal when they won't compete with a red. Spicy foods, whether of green chile origin or from Thai, Schezwan, or other zippy cuisines, benefit from the sweet- ness of Rieslings, Moscatos, and Mal- vasias as their aromatic and vegetal qualities cleanse the tongue and temper the heat. Although our Texan neighbors may argue that margaritas and beer are the best beverages to imbibe with our native cookery, whites in general allow the freshness of salsas, corn, rellenos, and enchiladas to shine through. The lower alcohol reds in the Dolcetto, Mon- tepulciano, and Pinot Noir vein stand up to heartier beef and pork dishes, especially carne adovada rich with red chile and cumin, or spicy barbecue. The full flavors complement each other with similar richness and tannic complexity. The tomatoey sauces found in Italian cooking also get along happily with the Dolcettos and Montepulcianos, as well as Nebbiolos and Refoscos. Save your bigger reds—Cabs, Merlots, and Shi- raz—for grilled steaks and chops. For dessert, I like to linger over a red with anything chocolate, while fruit- themed sweets pair well with Ports, Meads, and Muscats. Remember noth- ing is set in stone. I have a very sea- soned sommelier friend who declares, "The best glass of wine you'll ever have is the one in your hand right now." Add to that a fabulous meal and I couldn't agree more! Cheers - JV Wine Time Written by Chef John Vollertsen Photography by Victor Gibbs WINE PAIRINGS IN NEW MEXICO GREEN, RED, OR WHITE? The flavors and spices that season the dish, and certainly if you are speaking of New Mexico dishes, the chiles that fire it, are a good place to start in planning a food and wine coupling. No longer reserved for chile sauce—New Mexicans are now associating green, red, or white with their preference of wine during meals. 10 I lascrucesmagazine.com

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