Missouri Wine and Meat Pairings
Warm aroma curls through the air and you know without being told dinner is cooking. There is something deeply satisfying about that, and about heeding the call of the stock pot. Go ahead, walk over to the stove and give the simmering concoction a slow, tempered stir. There is usually nothing showy about a home-cooked meal—it simply cooks quietly. And when homecooked meals are paired with wine, both can taste better. It’s the combination of flavors that makes you sit up, inhale, and be pleased.
The same can be said for beer. Heavy, dark brews can bring down the flame in spicy foods or be a match for the rich sauces in stews. Light pilsners slide down easily on hot days and pair well with fried chicken or even with spicy Cajun food like jambalaya. So, it’s worth a little interest in wine or beer and food pairings. When it comes to wine, sometimes it seems you have to know a lot to choose a good one, but it is really a matter of taste. Your taste. When you are confronted with a row of bottles, which do you choose? A list of names to remember might escape you at the critical moment, but a good rule of thumb is to match strong food flavors to strong wines, and delicate to delicate.
“It’s more about what the meat is cooked in and not which meat you choose,” Charlie H. Argis, manager of Cooper’s Oak Winery in Boonville, says. “So many people think you have to pair white wine with fish, and I don’t necessarily believe that is true.” Amid the juried art show, tours of historic Boonville, and live violin, guitar, and bluegrass music, there were wine, beer, and food pairings by regional chefs and vintners at the Best of Missouri Life Festival in May. Charlie paired his slightly spicy and light-bodied Cooper’s Oak 2006 Red Wine, made with Missouri’s St. Vincent grape, with grilled, smoked pork loin prepared by Pfoodman president Kevin Miquelon and chef Gabe Meyer. Charlie said he could as easily have chosen a sweet white wine to contrast the spicy pork.
The red did well, however. Holding up a glass at the tasting table, Kevin swirled the wine, saying the pork rub’s saltiness was a good compliment to the flavor. Plus, the allspice and honey in the pork marinade made an intriguing, lip-smacking balance to the sea salt in the rub. The cracked pepper, cayenne, and perhaps especially the fresh rosemary in the pork recipe were a good foil for the slight spiciness of the Cooper’s Oak wine.
Another tasting featured Burl Lutz’s Kansas City Style barbecue with O’Fallon Brewery’s Smoked Porter. Burl, who opened his barbecue restaurant in Jefferson City in 2000, slow roasts his meats for twenty hours and incorporates brown and white sugars, tomato paste, and cayenne pepper to make a hot and sweet balance.
“Kansas City style sauces are a little sweeter than the vinegar-based sauces from places like North Carolina. But what makes good barbecue is the passion for it,” Burl says. “It is an art form.”
In 2006, Burl’s vision helped him to win Best Sauce at the American Royal competition with a special recipe. The dark, dry O’Fallon Smoked Porter settled the spicy sweetness of the barbecue, though the brewery’s Unfiltered Wheat was easy to sip as well. Beer is often a drink of choice with spicy foods, though lightly sweet white wines can also balance the heat.
Key to both these tastings, and to what you put on the table at home, is that drink pairings with food can bring us to our senses. Taste seldom works alone, according to Kevin Zraly in Complete Wine Course.
When you take a sip, taste, smell, and texture all come into play. This, of course, is something wine makers have known for centuries. Hence all the swirling and deep sniffs involved, not to mention terms like “mouthfeel” that get thrown into conversation.
“Scientists and experts agree that smell accounts for up to 90 percent of what many perceive as taste and mouthfeel,” Kevin writes. Still, mouthfeel—the body, weight, and texture of how liquid feels in the mouth—plays an important role in your reaction to a beverage. Wine, or beer, can be thin, full, heavy, silky and more, which can cause salivation or drying sensations. Occasionally, we all have felt a tingle on the tongue. That sparkly feeling goes a long way in your reaction to the drink.
There’s more to the process. Our sense of smell combined with our sense of taste, or olfaction, is directly linked to the emotion center of the brain, the limbic system. Just like emotion, Kevin writes, smell can trigger increased heart rate, sensitivity, and faster breathing.
Makes you think opening a wine bottle is like dancing. Olfaction will funnel information directly into your limbic system and tango it into an emotional reaction almost before you know what hit you.
Go with that reaction. Wipe the sweat off your brow and take another whiff. If you like a wine or beer and it sits well with your meal, it’s a good combination. In the same way that combining certain foods can improve their overall taste—grated Parmesan cheese on spaghetti, lemon on lobster—certain flavors in wine pair well with foods. Together, they’re meant for each other. And that simple home-cooked meal can shine.
Missouri Wine Pairings:
Grilled Smoked Pork Loin by Pfoodman at St. Louis paired with Cooper’s Oak 2006 Red Wine
Memphis-Style Pulled Pork Sandwiches by Newman Farms at Myrtle and Chef Mike Odette from Sycamore in Columbia with Wenwood Farm Winery Century Farm Red
Duck Confit, Blueberries, Bleu Cheese, Candied Walnuts, and a House-made Blueberry Viniagrette by Chef Ryan Weekley from Ironhorse Restaurant in Blackwater with Cooper’s Oak 2006 SeyOak Sweet
Assorted Cheesecakes by Rolling Pin Bakery in Glasgow with Wenwood Farm Winery Faithful Vintage
Lamb Loin Chops and Rack of Lamb by Pfoodman with Adam Puchta Norton
Kansas City-Style Barbecue by Lutz’s BBQ in Jefferson City with O’Fallon Brewery Smoked Porter
Brisket Sandwiches and a Chopped Salad by East Fork Beef in Randolph County and Lettuce Lizzie’s Dressing and Dipping Sauce in Arrow Rock with Les Bourgeois 2008 Norton