Columns by John

John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

Wine Vs. Beer: The Results

Appropriately matching wine with food continues to be a challenging and pleasurable life-long pursuit of mine. It is not, however, an easy task since the flavor of a specific meat, vegetable, fruit or fish is never all one needs to consider.

Think about it. A roasted chicken is never simply a roasted chicken. In order for the bird to taste good, we season it with a multiplicity of ingredients (i.e., rosemary, garlic, cumin etc.). The meat’s flavor is further complicated by the cooking method employed such as grilling, broiling, frying, smoking, etc.

So while the uninitiated might rely on conventional wine advice to come up with a good match (i.e., pairing a lighter-styled white wine with plainly seasoned chicken), that suggestion could be disastrous depending upon the above-mentioned considerations.

I bring this up to underscore the difficulty I had this past weekend in picking wines to go with a menu that was truly delicious. The optimum solution would have been to do a pre-event tasting of the food with multiple possible wine partners and then to select the best.

Unfortunately, this is the real world where time and circumstances seldom offer such opportunities. My advice: make sure you try and match your wine to the most prominent tasting ingredient (i.e., spice, rub, marinade, etc) on the meat, fish or veggie.

As you probably know by now, Rich Ireland (“Beers To You“ blogger) and I squared off in a wine vs. beer throwdown where we each selected our favorite beverages to accompany a five-course gourmet dinner. The good, but perhaps not surprising, news is that wine was the clear-cut winner among the more than 200 folks who attended.

Kudos to Rich for suggesting this event last summer, which raised a whole lot of cash to support Festivall – our city’s multi-weekend entertainment gift to the community. And, while I certainly thought the wine showed well, there were some excellent brews – one of which won the night’s first course pairing.


Here is the course-by-course breakdown.

Course 1 – Roasted Roma tomato with Romano, pan seared polenta wedge and chevre goat cheese
Winner was Mons Abbey Witte Beer over 2010 La Zerba Gavi. I was surprised by this, but not shocked. I expected the Gavi to have a little more acidity, but still thought it was a better choice than the Mons. Oh well, not good form to express “sour grapes.”

Course 2- Sweet potato soup with toasted sunflower seeds
Winner was 2011 Anton Bauer Gruner Veltliner GMORK (versus Pumking Pumpkin Ale) I actually picked this pumpkin-flavored beer over the wine in this course. I expected the grunner to be sweeter to match the richness of the soup.

Course 3- Spicy Calabrian Shrimp with Peppers and Cannelloni beans
Winner was 2010 Busi Chianti over Raging Bitch Belgian Style IPA. Loved this inexpensive Chianti with loads of sour cherry and cola flavors.

Course 4- Braised Pork Loin with seasonal vegetables
Winner was 2010 Domain Brusset Cotes Du Rhone “Laurent B” over Goose Island Mild Winter. I really enjoyed both the beer and wine pairing here, but gotta go with another excellent 2010 Cotes Du Rhone.

Course 5- Chocolate truffle and various artisanal cheeses.
Winner was Domain Rondeau Bugey Cerdon over Mons Abbey Dubbel. The Bugey is a lovely sparkler that is light and refreshing with hints of strawberry. I felt sorry for Rich on this course. I did really like the Dubbel, but it was a little too heavy for this paring.

All in all, this was an excellent evening full of good food ,wine and cheer. I look forward to making this an annual event.
Wines of the Sierra Foothills
FeastivALL: The first ever wine and beer throw-dow...

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