Edible Berkshires

Dare to Pair

A Few Guidelines Help You
Match Foods With Wines


By Alexander LaScala

After what feels like an eternity, winter has finally come to an end. The snow has melted, the ice has thawed and we can once again emerge from our shelters and enjoy the warmth and sunlight.

It is the time of year when you may be hosting or attending barbecues, graduation parties or other social gatherings. Whatever the event, the chances are good that a grill is being fired up. No party is truly complete without food, laughter and the appropriate wine(s) for the occasion. Wine and food have always gone handin- hand, but what wines should you pick for your summer festivities?

First things first: One of the most important rules to keep in mind it to match power with power. That means balance the weight and boldness of the food with the weight and boldness of the wine it is coupled with. Trying to pair a hefty grilled steak with a delicate Italian Pinot Grigio is a recipe for failure. Something like a fuller Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon would be much more complementary.

The best way to determine the weight of a wine is to compare the way it feels inside your mouth with water, 2% milk and whole milk. Lighter, thinner wines like Muscadet will feel roughly equivalent to water. Medium-bodied wines such as Sauvignon Blanc will feel more like 2% milk while full-bodied wines like Zinfandel (not White Zinfandel) will have a consistency more like whole milk.

The sunshine is back and it is time to break out the steaks and chops. There is a wide variety of red wines that pair very well with bold meats. You have probably heard at least once “red wine with red meat.” There is a reason for this common mindset.

The Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge. Lauren Delorenzo and Dan Thomas,
sommelier of the Inn, end the day sharing a Nosh board on the historic
porch, with a view of the hustle and bustle of Stockbridge. Dan had no
shortage of pairing suggestions, among them a Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir
from Edmunds St. John, California.

Above: Preservation Society, Great Barrington. Owner Lester Blumenthal takes a moment to
lunch and soak in the view from the patio. A salad of Mill River Farm baby mustard greens
with house-cured jambon sec, complemented with grilled shrimp on the side. Paired with his
lunch was a Gris Blanc rosé by Gerard Bertrand, from the south of France.

Left: Guido’s Fresh Marketplace, Pittsfield. Kate Wood and Maddy Lanoue meet for lunch. After
assembling a variety of vegetables from the extensive salad bar they take a tray of Maki rolls
to share under the umbrella on the outside patio. Alexander suggests a great wine to pair with this
lunch would be a dry sparkling white, such as Mumm Napa Brut. Hats courtesy of Shooz, Lenox.

Great Barrington Bagel & Deli. Judy and Marvin feast on a New England
favorite, lobster roll. Hands down, Alexander would pair a Chardonnay,
Grand Ardeche from Louis Latour, France. Not your style? G.B. Bagel & Deli
probably has as many drinks as sesame seeds.

The protein and fats of meats such as beef and wild game will make tannic reds feel smoother. Tannin is the substance found in wine that comes from the skins, pulps and stalks of the grapes. Tannins are what cause the astringency in wine, particularly in red wines, that is often connected with that drying feeling in your mouth. The proteins and fats from meat will mellow the tannic impact wine can have on your palate, the reason why Cabernet Sauvignon and steak have always been such great partners. Syrah is another excellent wine choice when it comes to grilled meats. Syrah is a full-bodied, smoky, peppery variety most commonly associated with the Rhone Valley of eastern France.

It is important to keep in mind that higher alcohol content will intensify the spices commonly found in barbecue sauces and steak seasonings. This can be seen as a plus to those who like a little spice, but it may be too hot to handle on those scorching summer days. If you insist on red wine for a blazing hot day, Merlot can be the way to go. Merlot tends to lean towards easy-drinking, medium-bodied and will not flare up the spices of your seasonings.

Red wines are not the only choice for your summer barbecues. There are white wines that have what it takes to stand up to grilled foods. Grilled fish such as swordfish and salmon make an excellent partner for heavier white wine like Chardonnay.

The Southfield Store, Southfield. Dave and son Isaac Hattem, out for a cycle ride,
stopped off to enjoy the classic BLT on the store’s relaxing patio. Alexander suggests a Chianti
makes a fitting match for a BLT. If the BLT is heavy on the bacon, which it was, a Pinot Noir
would be good too. Josephine Dubois Pinot Noir Bourgogne, from France, is his pick.

Gateway Inn, Lenox. Michele and Eiran lunch on the new patio. With seared sesame tuna
with baby greens, Eiran has paired their house wine, Salmon Creek Pinot Grigio, from California.
And the grilled sirloin burger with caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms on a challah roll was
paired with Salmon Creek’s Merlot.

Alta Restaurant & Wine Bar, Lenox. Kat Crawford and Shayna Haust lunch on Alta’s covered porch. Aurelien
Telle, owner of Alta, suggests pairing the grilled chicken Cobb salad with a Pazo Torrado Albarino, from
Spain. With the smoked turkey panini, he recommends a Sauvignon Blanc by Domaine du Tariquet from
Gascogne, France. Hats courtesy of Shooz, Lenox.

Riverbend Café, Great Barrington. Meghan and Celina take a break in the park adjacent
to the café. A light lunch of humus and avocado with red peppers, cucumber and cheese
was great for chatting. Alexander believes a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from
Oyster Bay would be the right match, and recommends a Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages,
from France, to accompany the house-roasted turkey breast with avocado,
sprouts and tomato on Berkshire Mountain sourdough bread.

Riesling is a wonderful option for grilled chicken breast or shrimp on the barbie. The pairing works even better if there is some lemon juice drizzled on it. A wine like Riesling known for its high acidity needs acid from food to keep up with it. Fresh grilled pineapple is also a good choice when it comes to drinking Riesling. An important factor in food and wine pairing is to taste-test for yourself.

Although there are some guidelines, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to experiment. Find out for yourself what works and what doesn’t, what you like and what you don’t. The only way to know what food and wine combinations pair well for you is to taste them firsthand. You may find the next great pairing to use when hosting your summer party.

Alexander LaScala is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, where he studied culinary arts, wine and beverage service management. He is currently a Certified Associate Wine Steward working at Domaney’s Fine Wines & Liquors and is studying for the Certified Specialist of Wine examination. His long-term goal is to become a Master Sommelier.


Edible Berkshires went searching for locations where a different lunch experience might be found—a hidden treasure, a complete surprise or just an interesting experience.

We thought it would be nice if a glass of wine could be available, but alas that wasn’t always the case.

So here’s our Plan B: Scattered through this article we have included wine pairings with establishments that serve, so you may choose to partake. For establishments not licensed to serve alcohol, we asked Alexander La Scala to suggest what might go well with the food enjoyed there. The pairing for each venue is included in its caption. Enjoy!