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Fun Wine Pairing for the Rio Olympics

TASTEnPAIR will be sipping cheerful glasses of frizzy red Lambrusco for the next two weeks!

Why pair red Lambrusco with the Olympics?

🍷It’s served chilled, very summer appropriate and a particularly fun shift from the quintessential white and rosé pours.

🍷It’s tannic, fruit-driven and has firm flavors that stand up to the athleticism and excitement of the high-energy games.

🍷It’s frothy and frizzante with just the right amount of celebratory bubbles as you cheer for your country and favorite Olympians.


To start, I picked up two bottles of quality Lambrusco – both are dry (11% abv.), deliver substantive red berries and spice notes while exhibiting noticeable balsamic quality.

Villa Castellazzo has softer tannins and a bit more residual sugar; I find it an excellent wine to enjoy on its own.

Vigneto Saetti is drier, a bit more tannic than Villa Castellazzo and pairs deliciously with saucy pasta dishes.

Although I have only seen larger wine stores carry Lambrusco, these wines are really enjoyable and worth seeking out.  Go Rio – Santé!


Sweet and Sensual Valentine’s Day Couplings … for EVERYONE!

Did you know that history’s most famous ladies’ man, Casanova himself, made a habit of consuming chocolate before his romantic trysts? Or that the great Aztec emperor, Montezuma, gulped a goblet of liquid chocolate before visiting his harem?

No? Well, you’ve likely stumbled upon many recent articles about the health benefits of dark chocolate – bursting with powerful antioxidants and flavonoids to help to lower risk of cardiovascular disease, protect against sun damage, increase cognitive functions, improve mood, etc. Similarly, countless modern studies have also documented health benefits of wine (Yes, white wine as well). Many doctors agree that it’s possible that antioxidants, such as flavonoids or a substance called resveratrol, provide profound anti-aging and heart-healthy benefits.

Chocolate and wine share other fun similarities beyond these oh-so-welcomed health and beauty revelations. Perhaps surprisingly, they are described using a very similar vocabulary of taste characteristics such as “tannic, acidic, sweet, floral, fruity, spicy, earthy, etc.” And they both have earned an association – together or alone – with romance, sensuality and epicurean sumptuousness. Dessert wines, in particular, have been paired with chocolate by chocolatiers and sommeliers alike in delightful feats of palate alchemy.

So this Valentine’s Day, don’t just give chocolate – step it up and bring along a bottle of elixir d’amore! (Don’t know much about dessert wine at all?  Check out my recent post, Sweeten Up Your Wine Repertoire for a quick primer.)

A few things to keep in mind when pairing chocolate with wine:

  • Choose a wine at least as sweet as or sweeter than the chocolate; otherwise, the taste may quickly veer towards sour.
  • The darker the chocolate (usually less sweet), the more full-bodied the wine should be. For example, a dark chocolate tends to pair well with an intense fruit driven red, such as a late harvest California Zinfandel or jammy Syrah.
  • Wines may provide either matching or complementary characteristics. A wine with fruity and floral notes, for example, could work well with either a fruit-infused truffle OR a dry, earthy chocolate block.
  • As with any food and wine pairing, your personal palate is the your most trusted guide, so be creative and have fun. Santé!

TASTE n PAIR pocket guide:

Chocolate and wine


East vs. West Coast oysters and Wine Pairing: 8 things you need to know to charm your date

With an increasing number of restaurants and bars serving fresh bivalves, NYC has become a heaven of oceanic goodness for sophisticated diners. Whether you are looking to slurp dozens over $1 oyster happy hour or entice your taste buds with a selected few, knowing the difference between East Coast and West Coast oysters and some wine pairing basics is key to enjoying nature’s offering and impressing your date. Like understanding wine, ordering oysters is an acquired skill. Here are the eight things you need to know:

Know the difference

  1. Terroir

Living oysters get their food by constantly filtering water, thus acquiring unique flavor profiles and morphing varied shell shapes according to their environs. It is important to understand how oysters’ native terroir contributes to differences in appearance, texture and shape.

East: East coast oysters are gown sub-tidally, lying always below water and in colder temperatures.

West: West coast oysters are grown inter-tidally, exposed above water in low tide and submerged below water in high tide. 

  1. Shell size, shape and coloration

East: Having been nestled in relatively calmer waters, East Coast oysters develop smoother shells with rounded edges. They are bigger, 2-6 inches in diameter, with relatively shallower shells. They come in shades of brown, green and white.

West: With the frequent tossing of intertidal waters, West Coast oysters have rougher shells which are fluted with jagged edges, points and ridges. They tend to be smaller, 1-2 inches in diameter, with deeper shells. You will find them in shades of black, purple, green, with white and pink hues. 

  1. Flesh texture and flavor profile

East: The colder waters slow down the metabolism of oysters, producing crisp-textured bivalves with higher salinity, brininess and minerality.

West: Warmer waters speed up metabolism, producing creamier and thicker-textured oysters.  Overall, West Coast oysters are sweeter, taste inkier and have more notes of seaweed, melon and cucumber. 

  1. Examples of the most prized oysters

East:  Naked Cowboys (NY), Blue Point (NY, CT), Melpeque (PEI), Misty Point (VA)

West:  Kumamoto (WA), Kushi (BC), Totten Inlet (WA), Fanny Bay (BC), Nisqually (WA)

Tasting and Pairing

  1. Inspect before you slurp

Fresh oysters should be glistening in their own “liquor” (briny seawater in the half shell) and smell like sea breeze with sweet notes. If an oyster appears dry, submerged in cloudy water, or smells fishy, toss it and let the waiter know. 

  1. Accoutrement pairing

I like my oysters naked – pure and unadulterated. The most I might add is a splash of lemon juice.  Some people like to drizzle a bit of spicy and tart mignonette (a condiment commonly made with minced shallots, cracked pepper and vinegar) to wake up the flesh. No right or wrong answers here, it’s all about your preference, but I highly recommend you to try at least one or two without any accoutrements! 

  1. Wine pairing

Raw oysters are very delicate. A wine that’s too sweet, complex in flavor, oaky or tannic will overpower or destroy the subtlety in both taste and texture. With this in mind, you should avoid pairing raw oysters with most reds, sweet wines or Chardonnays that are oaky and buttery. Crisp, dry, light-bodied whites are your best options.

  • Classic pairing: Champagne and dry sparkling bubbles, Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis, Muscadet
  • Fun pairing: Spritzy Txakoli from Basque country is a fun option if you want to try something new and really impress your date.

Note: Stay tuned for more insights into different wines to pair with oysters. 

  1. Ultimately…

As with wines, the flavor profiles of oysters depend on where they come from, the conditions in which they are grown, and your personal palate. A bit of technical understanding is sure to enhance not only your menu confidence, but also the experiential beauty of tasting and pairing which lies in curiosity, open-mindedness and creativity. Santé!

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