March 29, 2019

Perfect Pairings: Herbs


Herbs and wine: an essential combination to elevate your pairings. As we welcome warmer weather, longer days, and the new blooms that come with the start of spring, it’s the perfect time to incorporate herbs into your wine pairings. Mary Watson-DeLauder, Sommelier and Chief Wine Officer for The National Conference Center, weighed in with her expertise on herb and wine pairings.

Mary often focuses on herb pairings in her work and emphasizes their importance stating that:

“Even though we have heard the ‘red wine with meat, white wine with fish’ adage most of our wine-drinking lives, it is much more involved and interesting than that. How you cook and season the dish is more important than the main ingredient when you are pairing wine with food. Each cooking method and seasoning has a different effect on a particular wine. It is often the herbs and/or spices in a dish that makes a wine pairing work and taste like it does. Think of them as a bridge ingredient to make a dish work the way you envision it with the wine. One single ingredient, like an herb or spice, can change the flavor and complexity of a wine. Each herb and/or spice has a particular flavor or personality and can drive the match to a particular wine. Even salt and pepper have a major impact on the taste of the dish and the wine.”

Care and attention are needed to perfect the pairing of herbs and spices with wine. For your pairing guidance, Mary breaks down a few of her recommendations below:

1. Syrah/Shiraz has black pepper aspects and works well with dishes prepared and/or seasoned with black pepper. When flavors like these are matched together, they intensify one another.

2. Tarragon is one of the most wine-friendly herbs on the planet. Think about what a wonderful seasoning it is for Béarnaise sauce. Two favorite wine pairings would be Chardonnay, as in lobster with Béarnaise sauce or a beautiful filet mignon with that same Béarnaise sauce and your go-to Pinot Noir. The herb elevates both of these wines to a higher stature and can make the wine something very special.

3. Chervil has a similar, but more delicate flavor and can be substituted for the tarragon in larger amounts.

4. Anise is a part of the aroma and flavor profile of Barbera, so herbs such as basil and fennel bring out that quality in the wine and dishes that are seasoned with them.

5. Earthy herbs, such as thyme, oregano and marjoram, pair well with Cabernet Franc.

6. Rosemary is a good choice for Syrah, especially when you think of a leg of lamb studded with rosemary sprigs and slivers of garlic. The wine pairs well with lamb and the herbs enhance the experience.

7. Experiment with Sauvignon Blanc. Borage brings out more of the melon quality, while dill emphasizes the herbal side and lemon verbena focuses on the citrus aspect. Lemon thyme is a favorite pairing with Sauvignon Blanc because it brings out more of a combination of herbal and citrus.

8. Oregano, marjoram, and sage bring out the fresh herb quality to Sangiovese and almost any Italian variety, while thyme pairs better with Cabernet Sauvignon and other French varieties such as Merlot.

“There are infinite combinations and it is fun to experiment. If you grow your own herbs, it is easy to experiment since you have them at hand. Since food and wine pairing is all about taste, there really are no rules. Good wines are multi-layered so sometimes it is a nice surprise to bring out flavors that you don’t even realize are there,” concludes Mary.

If you are curious to learn more, watch Mary as she demonstrates pairings here.

Be sure to experiment and create unique combinations and share below in the comments if you have a favorite #vawine and herb pair. Cheers!


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