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Wine Advisor Express:
Matching likes: Black pepper

"Match likes with likes." This relatively modern wine-and-food-matching rule makes a little more sense than the old "red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat," which can be useful as far as it goes but has many exceptions.

The "match likes" principle, however, works just about all the time, whether you're pairing grilled meat with a smoky, "meaty" red Syrah from the Rhone or making a match with a sharply acidic white and a delicate fish dish finished with tangy lemon.

This concept came home to me last night when I bit into an oversize chunk of crushed black peppercorn from my pan-grilled steak just before taking a taste of the wine of the evening, a peppery Spanish Grenache that's our featured wine today. The experience was little short of amazing! The pepper initially filled my mouth with sharp, piquant heat, followed almost immediately by the complex flowery fragrance of really good black pepper. That was good enough, but bringing in the fruity, peppery wine while the pepper notes still vibrated on my palate created a blend of similar flavors that was mighty near unforgettable; it was as if someone had suddenly turned the brightness and contrast on my flavor monitor up to high.

If you're of an experimental nature, you can try it yourself. You don't need this exact wine, but choose any peppery red - a Syrah or Shiraz, or a Grenache or Petite Sirah. Grab your peppermill and crank out a shake of freshly ground pepper, and take a little taste, followed immediately by a sip of the wine. I think you'll be surprised by the way the flavors blend and enhance each other. And by experiencing this extreme example of strong flavors, you may just pick up on the mechanism that works in more subtle ways when you match more delicate "likes with likes."

Here's my note on the wine of the evening:

Etim Etim 1999 Tarragona-Falset Old Vines Unfiltered Grenache ($10.99)
Inky dark ruby in color, this Spanish red is somewhat closed in the nose, offering light, rather subtle hints of plums and black pepper. It has much more to show in the flavor department, though, a burst of raspberries and ripe, juicy plums with fragrant black pepper, full and tart, very approachable and fine with red meat. The tiny print on the back label indicates that it's 85% Grenache, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, from 50-year-old vines. U.S. importer: Cutting Edge Selections Inc., Fairfax, Ohio. (Oct. 23, 2001)

FOOD MATCH: The peppery fruit makes this wine a natural with pan-grilled filet mignons.

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Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2001
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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