Fact Sheet: Food-Friendly Wines
Big, full-bodied blockbuster wines may get soaring scores from critics, but sommeliers know better. They know that the wines that best match a variety of dishes are another type altogether. They’re highly concentrated and unwimpy, but medium-bodied rather than full-bodied, with enough acidity for balance and (if they’re red) enough tannin to give them some grip. High-alcohol, heavily oaked whites and reds, and those with an impression of sweetness (or actual sugar) unbalanced by acidity, can taste clumsy or cloying with food.
BEST BETS WITH FOOD
Dry rosé, non-nouveau Beaujolais, lighter Pinot Noir—like “village” or regional (Bourgogne) Burgundy—lightly aged (crianza) Rioja, Dolcetto d’Alba, Barbera, Alsace Riesling and Pinot Gris, German white, Austrian white and Sauvignon Blanc made in leaner, classical styles from Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and New Zealand.
NEXT BEST BETS
Leaner-style Chardonnay from Chablis and Mâcon, Albariño, Pinotage, Côtes-du-Rhône, non-riserva Chianti and Rosso di Montalcino.
10 Top Bottles
2000 Pierre Sparr Alsace One ($9)
An everything-but-the-kitchen-sink collection of grapes (including Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Gewürztraminer) that somehow harmonizes into a melony, dry, smooth-drinking white.
2001 Buitenverwachting Sauvignon Blanc ($17)
The tongue-twister name (try “BAY-ten-ver-VAHK-ting”) means “beyond expectation” in Dutch, and this South African wine more than lives up to it. A heady combination of mineral crispness, juicy fruit and citrus aromas.
2000 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, Clos du Roy ($22)
From one of the Loire’s most dynamic young up-and-comers, this single-vineyard offering is smooth and abundantly fruity in a full-flavored style.
2001 Fox Creek Verdelho ($16)
Made from a Portuguese white grape grown in Australia, this wine has plenty of body and a touch of creaminess but also a crisp, citrusy edge that keeps it lively.
2000 La Vieille Ferme Côtes du Ventoux Rosé ($8)
From the Perrin brothers of the highly regarded Châteauneuf-du-Pape property Château Beaucastel, this rosé has a refreshingly clean, dry finish.
2000 Bruno Clair Marsannay Rosé ($19)
A Pinot Noir rosé from a star red-wine maker in Burgundy that offers a seductive combination of lusciousness and vibrancy, not to mention an aroma like cherry blossoms.
1999 Torres Gran Sangre de Toro ($13)
Another remarkable red from one of Spain’s most international producers. Blended from Garnacha (Grenache), Syrah and the local Cariñena (Carignan), it is spicy and ripe, with notes of blueberry and blackberry.
1999 Château de la Chaize Brouilly ($15)
The stunning château on the label is the tip-off that this is a serious Beaujolais. A consistently delicious “restaurant” red with a well-knit, harmonious. character.
1999 Château des Tours Côtes-du-Rhône ($15)
Owned by Emmanuel Reynaud, winemaker at the legendary Château Rayas, this winery’s Rayas-like red. is complex, briary and spicy. At the rich end of the spectrum.
2000 Pio Cesare Dolcetto D’Alba ($21)
Pio Boffa, fourth-generation proprietor of this Piedmont estate, is a modernist; he gives this supple red wine short-term aging in stainless steel to preserve its delicious fruit.