Pairing food and wine is about enriching the dining experience. Whether you are having a casual night of ramen and egg rolls or a ten-course tasting menu, wine has the ability to take either occasion to the next level or, if paired incorrectly, it can negatively affect the quality of the meal. A harmonious relationship between food and wine can make dining a deliciously memorable experience.
Originally from Austria, Grüner Veltliner’s history dates back to Roman times, but it was only after World War II that its quality started to mature and the grape eventually became the country’s most planted variety. Most of the grapes are grown in the northeast part of the country including along the Danube. While it has long been the wine most associated with Austria, it is only recently that more Americans have started to appreciate this versatile grape. It is also rather recent that the grape has been planted across several wine regions in the United States: California, Washington State and Oregon along the west coast and Ohio, Maryland and Pennsylvania towards the east. While production of the grape is still rather small in the US, it is slowing gaining traction as consumers become more aware of the unique qualities of Grüner.
Depending on the region and style, this dry, acidic white wine can have notes of citrus, minerals, herbs and even hints of white pepper. Austrians drink Grüner with traditional dishes like smoked ham, smoked fish, schnitzel, salads and young cheeses, but this is just a start of what this wine can be paired with. The herbal tones of the grape allow it to also match handsomely with dishes that contain herbs, especially tarragon, parsley, dill, and mint. An herb-crusted chicken with braised vegetables would pair perfectly with a Grüner. Don’t be afraid to try it with sushi and sashimi – especially with Asian spices like ginger and wasabi. Its acidity makes it an exceptional complement to fried foods such as fish & chips, fried chicken and pork schnitzel. Pretty much anything goes with a Grüner Veltliner, including some dishes that are notoriously difficult to match with wine. Artichokes, for example, are infamously stubborn to pair. They contain a chemical (cynarine) that inhibits taste receptors, making food and drink appear to be oddly sweeter than they are. But the dryness and high acidity of a Grüner breaks up any negative effect of the cynarine allowing you to enjoy both the artichoke and the grape.
So definitely give Gruner a go and why not pair it with the following scrumptious recipe!
Roasted Cauliflower and Radicchio Salad
• 1/2 pound seedless red or purple grapes
• 1 tablespoon minced shallot
• 2 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning
• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar syrup, plus more for drizzling
• 2 heads Cauliflower, cut and roasted until golden brown
• 2 heads Radicchio, cut chiffonade
• 1/4 pound Manchego, or Pecorino cheese, shaved with a peeler
• 3/4 cup salted, roasted Marcona almonds, coarsely chopped
Finely chop 7 grapes; transfer to a small bowl. Cut remaining grapes in half; transfer to another small bowl and set aside. Using a fork, mash chopped grapes in bowl into a purée. Stir in shallot, 1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in oil and 1 tablespoon balsamic syrup. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt, pepper, and more Sherry vinegar if desired.
NOTE: Vinaigrette and halved grapes can be prepared 8 hours ahead. Cover and chill vinaigrette and grapes separately. Bring vinaigrette to room temperature and rewhisk before continuing.
Combine Radicchio, prepared Cauliflower and halved grapes in a large bowl; drizzle with vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper. Toss salad to coat. Arrange salad on service plates, dividing evenly. Scatter cheese and almonds over. Drizzle salads with more balsamic syrup. Serve and enjoy.