This story was originally published in the Chicago Tribune brand publishing special section Off The Vine.
You just arrived home with a case of bottled treasure that you discovered on your recent Midwestern Off the Vine wine trip. The only question that remains is, what food to serve with it?
Midwestern wines are cool climate wines. They mimic some of the greatest grape growing regions in Europe, such as Germany, Alsace, Champagne, Bordeaux and Chianti, which lie at similar latitudes to the upper Midwest. Their wines are complex and balanced, with higher acidity and lower alcohol. This makes them food-friendly, connoisseurs say.
To choose the right food, you need to know two things about the wine: its acidity and its sweetness level. This will give you a clue as to what to serve — and what not to serve — with it.
Wine experts caution that if a wine has less acidity than the food, the wine will taste flat. (Acidity is that tart, sour taste you get from things like lemonade or vinegar.) So you want your wine to have higher acid content than your food. In general, red wines have lower acidity and white wines have higher acidity.
Low acid foods are things like goat cheese, beans and game. High-acid foods are nuts, seafood and bread.
If you want to eat something sweet, don’t pair it with a sweet wine. Sweet wines pair well with salty food. Dry, tart wines pair well with dessert.
If you picked up some local cheese along with your wine, the Midwest Dairy Association suggests pairing rich, red wines with older cheeses such as aged cheddar. Pair younger white wines with fresh, younger soft cheeses such as Camembert or Brie.
You want to mix, not match, your wine and cheese pairs of sweet and salty. Balance a salty cheese with a sweet wine. If your cheese has a nutty flavor, reach for a fruity wine.
The Michigan Grape & Wine Industry Council suggests the following Midwestern wine pairings for meals:
• Cabernet/merlot with braised lamb shanks, venison chops with blackberry compote and beef tenderloin with mushroom sauce.
• Gewurztraminer with Thai chicken salad, pork chops with applesauce and yellow curry chicken.
• Pinot grigio/gris with pesto pasta, spanakopita, Chinese food and sushi.
• Pinot noir with pork tenderloin with roasted apples and onions and braised chicken with leeks and morel mushrooms.
• Port wine with chocolate truffles, stilton cheese and nuts.
• Riesling with Indian curries, liverwurst, roasted pork loin with herbs and Asian chicken.
• Rosé with fried mozzarella sticks and croque monsieur or gorgonzola on sliced apples.
• Sparkling wine with Asian-style appetizers, blue cheese stuffed olives, fish and chips and fried chicken.