How To “Dare to Pair”


Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of eating (and even more drinking) to find the best pairing combinations for some of the wildest foods around. From a Super Bowl inspired lineup on Real Simple, to wine and cake on Cosmopolitan my palate is tired! But, I realized there’s a method to the madness, it’s a a method worth sharing.

The science behind Dare to Pair is simple, and easy to recreate at home (read: You can drink well with anything, even that leftover birthday cake).

Most recently, the team at Vivino came to me inquiring about a Wine and Cake mash-up, and I was only too eager to devour pounds of sugar alongside my other favorite food (read: wine).

The challenge was to find the ideal wine mate for each of 10 cake flavors, a parallel experiment to ones on this blog like dumplings, Hot Pockets, and grilled cheese.

So how do we do it? With a panel, and lots of wine. Essentially, I rounded up few hungry wine lovers (a handful of professionals, a handful of thirsty average Joe’s), and laid out all the cake and wine options.

Bite by bite, and sip by sip we tested each combination–occasionally going for a second bite, and quite often hating the interaction between wine and various frostings. (Check out the results here…and know frosting is the most challenging element of cake and wine pairing!)

Then, I re-tested the favorites to make sure the sugar high hadn’t clouded our judgement, which it hadn’t! And the rest is history.

Without venerable panels of tasters, it’s easy to recreate the process by simply opening several bottles of wine!

First, take a normal sip of the wine. Next, take a bit of the food in question. Then, another normal sip of wine to wash everything down. Finally, sit tight and see how your mouth feels–is it refreshed and hungry for another bite? Is there a bitter or strange aftertaste? Is there any feeling at all?

With each combination, you’re aiming for the refreshed, wonderful feeling vs. neutral or strange aftertastes. The more wines you open, the more chances for success!

Don’t worry–you can always put the cork back in after a glass or two, and save the remaining wine in the fridge for a later day or alternate pairing (or just for later when you’re still thirsty).

Creating crazy new pairings is fun and practical, and you really can do it too! Or, just keep reading because I’ll be doing more Dare to Pairs than ever this year.

Dare to Pair Uncorked:

Laura Loves: Putting snack food and wine together–you win some, you lose some, but it makes snack attacks that much tastier!

Takeout dumplings and Beaujolais! This light, juicy French red is a great compliment for soy-based dipping sauces and even goes with spicy dumplings.

Fun Facts: Confetti Cake is significantly sweeter than other boxed cake mixes…and it goes great with sparkling wine.

I’ve been Daring to Pair for 5 full years!

“Rules” really don’t apply–any and all wines have a perfect food match, so experiment!

Tips and Tricks: Bring out all the glassware–tasting is much more fun when you can compare wines against each other and food.

Aim for balance, bold flavors are successful with bold wines and light wines with light flavors. The weight and feel of a wine matter more than fruit flavors or “red meat with red wine” type rules.

  • March 15, 2017
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