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Wine And Food Wednesday
The Killer Tomato

By Stephen Eliot

Despite the classic image of a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs accompanied by a jug of red wine, it is important to know to know that tomatoes can, in fact, be wine killers. Touted by some as being a “wine-friendly” food, tomatoes are anything but, and the indiscriminate matching of any red wine with tomatoey dishes can lead to patently unpleasant experiences. The key is to avoid wines with evident tannins insofar as high acidity, in the food or the wine itself, will amplify tannic astringency in a wine to the point that it supersedes everything else.Look for low-tannin reds that are, like tomatoes, both fruity and acidic for the most comfortable pairings. Barbera and lighter Sangioveses, the latter of which can be found in simple Chiantis are always a good bet as is California Zinfandel. Watch out for Zinfandels that emphasize high ripeness when serving the likes of red-sauced pastas, but those structured bottlings that keep alcohol in check will fill the bill nicely.

Among recent CGCW favorites, the beautifully balanced 2007 Ravenswood Teldeschi Vineyard and the 2007 Storybook Mountain Estate Reserve are classics that will pair wonderfully with Bolognese meat sauces, and the affordable Sonoma County duo of the 2007 Valley of the Moon and the 2007 Kenwood will do the job in washing down linguine bathed in marinara. Bigger Zins will match up well with appropriately heartier, tomato-laced fare, and an old CGCW favorite of Pot Roast slowly simmered with tomatoes and spices will prove the perfect partner to such heady, full-flavored offerings such as the no-holds-barred Zins of Dutcher Crossing, Seghesio, Rockwall and JC Cellars. Mind that balance is still the key to any successful food and wine marriage, and when ripeness runs rampant to the point of producing 16.0% alcohol monsters, even the richest recipes incorporating tomatoes will pale and a platter of meal-ending cheeses becomes the best choice.

Note: Steve Eliot, in addition to being Associate Editor of Connoisseurs’ Guide teaches wine appreciation at the California Culinary Academy. His classes always include experiencing wine with food.


90 D-CUBED Zinfandel Howell Mountain; Napa Valley 2007 $37.00
Deeper and tighter at the same time than most offerings in our recent review, this is a very complete Zinfandel whose dried flower and ripe blackberry aromatics are accompanied by touches of caramelly richness. It is full on the palate and somewhat supple in the early going, has a distinct sense of polish that it shares with the following wine and runs into a layer of long-grained, soft but evident tannins at the finish. Time will see the wine open up, and a few years of aging would seem the best course.


ok, I'll disagree--a little
by ThomasPellechia
Posted on:9/22/2010 12:23:25 PM
OK, so here's why I disagree--a little. Contrary to what Americans like to believe, there isn't one type of tomato sauce. The sauces up north are not like the sauces down south. If you've ever tasted the tomato sauce that I produce, alongside a rich southern Italian red, you'll understand what I mean.Generally, however, I agree with the Zinfandel pairing. As for Sangiovese and Chianti, I repeat, the sauces up north are not like the sauces down south.
I say tomato: you say "geography"
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:9/22/2010 4:00:37 PM
Yes, you are right, of course. We do to a much greater extent than I like to admit. Even a foodie like me tends to think of savory red-sauced pastas, not the more subtle kind. I love a good Bolognese or other sauces that have tomato in them but are not the same as southern Italian sauces.

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