Today's Sponsor
 The California Wine Club
All Reds, All Napa!

In This Issue
 Worst wine-food matches A reader suggests an offbeat but effective way to think about wine-and-food matching: We study a few pairings that really don't work.
 Ferrari-Carano 2003 Siena Sonoma County Red Wine ($19.99) One of my favorite Italian-style wines from California shows very well indeed in the 2003 vintage, and the price comes down a bit.
 The California Wine Club All Reds, All Napa!
 This week on
Our WineLovers Discussion group ponders airline security and carrying on wine, and our weekly poll asks your thoughts on some bad wine matches.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index The Wine Advisor archives.
Administrivia Change E-mail address, frequency, format or unsubscribe.

 Learn about our RSS Feed

Worst wine-food matches

Wine Advisor reader Miriam P. got in touch the other day with a cheeky suggestion that rang the bell at the top of my idea-meter: "Food and wine pairings are an evergreen subject," she wrote, "and most experts will say that it's more about personal taste than an objective correct answer. In fact, your Web site even says that there are very few incorrect choices. So that might be the way to approach the topic: what are the absolute wrong choices? Seems like that would be a fairly short list and, therefore, a more practical guideline."

Great topic! I'm not sure that a don't-do-this list should be the only way to approach your decision about what wine to have (or not to have) with dinner tonight, but perhaps by examining some of the wine-and-food combinations that most people consider unsuccessful, we can pick up some general principles to guide us in the quest.

Scrod and Shiraz - The delicate, light character of scrod, cod, sole and other white fish calls for a crisp and subtle white wine to match. The inky, dark and monolithic character of a big Barossa Shiraz would wipe out the fish, overwhelming the food with all the subtlety of spots of red paint spattered on a white dress shirt.

Venison and Vinho Verde - Representing the exact opposite equation, this pairing between a robust, strong-flavored game meat and an exceptionally light and frothy wine is likely to fail because the meat is too powerful for the wine, which might not actively quarrel with the dinner but certainly wouldn't harmonize.

Chocolate and Chardonnay - Generally speaking, sweet desserts and wine make an iffy match, because even wines that seem sweet on their own will show their tart and sour side when you compare them with something sweeter. Dark chocolate goes well with strong, sweet red wines like Banyuls from the Pyrenees or Tawny Port. It's hard to imagine anyone washing down a Hershey's Kiss with a big, bold Chardonnay, though: The flavors are so different that it would be like reaching into a box of candies and pulling out a chocolate-covered fried cheese curd.

Mackerel and Merlot - In constrast with the Shiraz that smashed the sole, this knockout battle pits strong, oily fish against a fruit-forward red, a joust of fighting flavors that most people would find unappealing; if the Merlot boasts an astringently tannic backbone, the battle could be as disgusting as tag-team mud-wrestling.

I could go on, but I think the underlying principle is becoming clear: Matching wine and food involves a dance between balance and contrast: Balancing flavors of similar strength and intensity so neither beverage nor fare outshouts the other; seeking pleasurable contrasts of aromas and flavors that intuitively fit. Most people like chocolate-covered coconut; few of us care for chocolate-covered catfish. Let your own taste buds be your guide, with a dash or two of common sense, and you'll find, as I said in the first place, that most food and wine combinations work just fine.

Today's tasting features a food-friendly Sonoma County red that's one of my favorite California Italian-style wines. Ferrari-Carano 2003 Sonoma County "Siena" emulates a "Super Tuscan" with its blend of 75 percent Sangiovese (the primary grape of Chianti) with a smaller portion of the Malbec (11 percent) and splashes of a half-dozen other grapes. I'm delighted to see its price, at least in this part of the world, drop back to the $20 range after having soared close to $30 in recent vintages; although still a bit above everyday status for most wine enthusiasts, its high quality makes it a fine value at this price.

Siena Ferrari-Carano 2003 Siena Sonoma County Red Wine ($19.99)

This is an inky dark reddish-purple wine, showing glints of ruby against the light. Lovely black-cherry aromas add more subtle hints of fennel or licorice. Ripe and juicy fruit flavors follow the nose, shaped by tart Italian-style acidity and soft tannins in a nicely structured wine. Tart cherries linger and add a touch of dark chocolate in a long finish. Curiously, the proprietary name was rendered "Sienna" for a year or two, as shown in the 2001 label at right; it has now returned to "Siena" as in the historic Tuscan town. (Aug. 10, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: Like its Tuscan cousins, Siena serves nicely with a rare grilled steak; it also went very well indeed with a hearty, meatless pasta dish of sauteed eggplant, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes over farfalle, topped with grated fresco Asiago and Pecorino Romano cheeses and a basil chiffonade.

VALUE: I was delighted to spot it at less than $20 in this market, at which point it's a fine value; you may be able to find it in some regions for a few dollars less.

WHEN TO DRINK: Drinking beautifully now, but its blend of grapes and its careful balance suggest that it should cellar well, and possibly evolve, over at least the next five years.

The winery Website describes the full Ferrari-Carano portfolio and offers online buying where the law permits. For a Siena fact sheet, click

Find vendors and check prices for Ferrari-Carano Siena on

To read and comment on today's column in our non-commercial WineLovers Discussion Group, click:

Today's article is cross-posted in our Netscape WineLovers Community, where we also welcome comments and questions.

To contact me by E-mail, write I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device.

California Wine Club
All Reds, All Napa!
This month with The California Wine Club!

Members in The California Wine Club’s upper-level club, Signature Series, will have a tough time deciding which of these highly-rated and sought after wines to uncork first:

Elyse Winery 2001 "Morisoli Vineyard, Napa Valley" Cabernet Sauvignon - 92 pts. Connoisseurs' Guide and a Bronze Medal Winner.

Elyse Winery 2003 "Rutherford, Napa Valley" Petite Sirah - 93 pts. Wine & Spirits, 92 pts. Wine Enthusiast.

Renteria 2001 "Stag's Leap, Napa Valley" Cabernet Sauvignon - 89 pts. Beverage Testing Institute and a Silver Medal Winner.

Bonus Bottle Offer for new members! Join the Signature Series and receive a bottle of the Salexis Wines 2000 "Snowden Vineyards, Napa Valley" Merlot. With less than 500 cases produced, it is an excellent wine to say, "thank you for joining the club!" A $32 value, free.

This month’s Signature Series is $183 including all shipping and handling charges. Monthly deliveries also include detailed tasting notes and personal winemaker comments.

Click here to order:

or call 1-800-777-4443.

This week on

Some highlights of recent articles on that I hope you'll enjoy:

Hot topics in our WineLovers Discussion Groups
Our WineLovers' Discussion Groups are the best places online to ask wine questions and participate in the civil and intelligent discussion of good things to eat and drink. Our WineLovers Discussion Group (WLDG) is the Internet's original wine forum, a non-commercial venue intended for wine-related conversations that range from apprentice-level to wine professionals. Our WineLovers Community on the Netscape/CompuServe service is dedicated to wine education, a friendly place to get quick answers to your questions about wine, beer, spirits and all good things to drink.

No more hand-carried wine in flight?
As you might imagine, last week's airline security uproar and new rules forbidding any liquids in carry-on baggage has a significant impact on traveling wine lovers, and participants in our WineLovers Discussion Group have been kicking this topic around. Read the discussion, and join in, at this link:

Poll: Worst food-and-wine match?
Today's Wine Advisor topic inspires a simple poll on our Netscape WineLovers Community, in which you're invited to share your opinion by "voting" for one of the selections in the article, or use the "other" option to tell us about your own most disliked match:

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 (Aug. 4, 2006)
No edition (travel)

 Tomato time! (Aug. 9, 2006)

 Summer wine reading (Aug. 7, 2006)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Florentine steak (Aug. 10, 2006)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


For information, E-mail


To subscribe or unsubscribe from The 30 Second Wine Advisor, change your E-mail address, or for any other administrative matters, please use the individualized hotlink found at the end of your E-mail edition. If this is not practical, contact me by E-mail at, including the exact E-mail address that you used when you subscribed, so I can find your record.

We do not use our E-mail list for any other purpose and will never give or sell your name or E-mail address to anyone. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and ideas for future columns. To contact me, please send E-mail to

All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

Monday, Aug. 14, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

Subscribe to the 30 Second Wine Advisor

Wine Advisor archives