What do you get when you pair wine with … popcorn?

Popcorn and wine are two items that people don’t usually

When shoppers step into the wine section at their local grocery
store, they’re immediately confronted with a dizzying assortment of
wines
– syrah, chardonnay, pinot noir, rosé – and an even greater
explosion of labels.
When shoppers step into the wine section at their local grocery store, they’re immediately confronted with a dizzying assortment of wines – syrah, chardonnay, pinot noir, rosé – and an even greater explosion of labels.

And though most supermarkets and specialty shops will match vino to frequent fare like chicken, pork, beef and seafood, where do you go when you need a good wine to serve with jalapeño poppers?

Try calling a local winery. You may just be surprised.

“I’m thinking of Super Bowl Sunday,” said Phyllis Pedrizzetti, owner of Pedrizzetti Winery in Morgan Hill. “Champagne and mini creme puffs or Barbera and spicy meatballs. You need a big, sturdy wine to stand up to a spicy food and that Barbera is a big, sturdy wine.”

Vintners recommend pairing complimentary flavors. For example, a bold, fruity wine like syrah with a rich flavor like that of lamb or wild game, according to Mike Vanni, production manager at Solis Winery in Gilroy.

“You definitely want to go complimentary, not contrasting,” said Vanni. “Like for pizza, I would choose something that’s also tart and sort of acidic to compliment the tomato acids.”

Complimentary flavor does not mean that enthusiasts must stick to rigid rules of red and white.

A red wine can go with pasta and an acidic white can go well with the sharp flavors of wasabi-coated sushi, according to Ralph Hurd, assistant wine maker at Cienega Valley Winery and Vineyards in Hollister.

The only true rule of thumb, said Deanna Gimelli, owner of Pietra Santa Winery in Hollister, is that one should never outclass the other.

“The first thing I ask when someone comes in to the tasting room is, ‘What are you having for dinner this evening?'” said Gimelli. “I don’t want one entree – the food or the wine – to be more pretentious than the other. If you are going to have barbecue … we have a beautiful red table wine called our Sasso Rosso. I would serve the 2000.”

A wine’s vintage can be just as important as its color, said Gimelli, because some contain more tannins than others.

Those with higher concentrations of tannins tend to be heavier, and thus bolder, wines. Here are some local pairings that you might not expect:

• Along with popcorn: The sharp-nosed chardonnay from Cienega compliments popcorn well with a hint of acidity, strong pear and pineapple flavors, and a less oaky taste than most California wines, said Hurd. Just don’t go too buttery.

• For sushi: Vanni recommends Solis’ Vino Roseo, made from 100 percent Sangiovese grapes. “It’s got a little sweetness to it, just a little sweetness,” said Vanni. “And it’s got a tartness, that combined with the sweet, seems to really go well.”

• With ostrich burgers: Try Cienega’s Cabernet Franc, said Hurd.

• And for those jalapeño poppers: Pedrizzetti recommends her Petit Syrah be placed out with these party plate wonders.

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