The Sommelier Challenge

Eduardo Porto Carreiro, a professional wine expert and July’s L.A. Archetype, offers drink suggestions for the dishes Los Angeles magazine readers find trickiest to pair

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Photograph courtesy rampantcuisine.com

Bacon-Wrapped Oysters
Champagne with oysters is one of the most common classic pairings. And being a champagne fanatic, I happen to love champagne with bacon just as much. I strongly believe that throwing a plate of bacon-wrapped oysters on a table with a chilled bottle of nonvintage champagne would be a great start to a dinner party. The crisp and fresh bubbly would cut right through the richness of the bacon and pair deliciously with the salty brine of the oysters. 

Recommendations:
NV Lallier Grand Cru “Blanc de Blancs” (Champagne, France); $40 at The Wine House
NV Taittinger “La Française” Brut (Champagne, France); $35 at Lincoln Fine Wines.

Breakfast Cereal
I have very fond memories of late nights in college pouring a bowl of cereal and pairing it with a can of Miller Lite. Using that as a springboard, I believe that beer is the way to go with regard to the cereal-and-milk combination. Specifically, a stout. This is more difficult because of the vast range of breakfast cereals out there. But the ingrained correlation between coffee and cereal translates well to the traditional dark-roasted and coffee-flavored stout ales out there.

Recommendations:
Great Divide Brewing Company “Espresso Oak Aged Yeti” Imperial Stout (Colorado); $11 (22 oz.) at Wally’s Wine and Spirits. 
Guinness Stout (Ireland); $2 (12 oz.) at Wally’s Wine and Spirits.

Vegetable Soup
In my experience, vegetable soup falls into two categories: hearty cold-weather soups and fresh warm-weather soups. Regardless of the category, it’s important to choose a wine that has good acidity and freshness to keep up with the inherent acidity in a lot of vegetables. My recommendation is for a young and vibrant sauvignon blanc. Serving it well chilled will introduce a nice point-counterpoint interplay between the temperature of the wine and the temperature of the hot soup. Plus, the acidity and brightness of the wine will keep up beautifully with the flavors of the soup.

Recommendations:
2010 Lucien Crochet Sancerre “La Croix du Roy” (Loire Valley, France); $28 at The Wine House.
2011 Mud House Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand); $15 at Wally’s Wine and Spirits.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
I’ve never been asked to pair a beverage (besides, perhaps, a tall glass of milk) with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I feel that a traditional glass of wine would be annihilated by the texture as well as the sweet-salty combination of this classic dish. If I had to pick one wine that would be able to stand up to this classic, it would be Madeira. The nutty and complex flavors of Madeira, along with its semisweet expression, would be a killer drink to have with a PB&J.

Recommendations:
1997 Cossart-Gordon Bual Colheita (Madeira, Portugal); $39 (500 ml) at Woodland Hills Wine Company.
Blandy’s Rainwater (Madeira, Portugal); $15 at Wally’s Wine and Spirits.

Lucky Boy Breakfast Burrito
There have been many mornings when I’ve rolled out of bed and made myself a great breakfast burrito, and I know from a lot of experience that Riesling is the best pairing for this dish. Since I like to judiciously apply hot sauce to my breakfast burritos, I especially enjoy Rieslings with a little bit of sweetness (the sweetness buffers the spice of the hot sauce). Stick to young German Riesling that either says “Feinherb” or “Kabinett” on its front label. It’ll be a refreshing, slightly fruity but perfect combination.

Recommendations:
2010 Joh. Jos. Prüm Riesling Kabinett (Mosel, Germany); $27 at  K&L Wine Merchants.
2010 Mönchhof Estate Riesling (Mosel, Germany); $13 at The Wine House.

Tofu Soup
Traditional spicy tofu soup in Korean cuisine is a fantastic earthy dish with a lot of bold flavors and spice. There are few wines on the market that can stand up to that combination, but I find that slightly off-dry bold white wines from Alsace, France, are the best way to go about it. Gewürztraminer is a rich and perfumed white wine with a good body and oftentimes is found with a little bit of sweetness. It is definitely built to stand up and play well alongside spicy tofu soup.

Recommendations:
2009 Domaine Bechtold Gewürztraminer “Silberberg” (Alsace, France); $23 at Solano Cellars
2006 Domaine Beck-Hartweg Gewürztraminer “Frankstein” (Alsace, France); $25 at Wally’s Wine and Spirits.

Fried Chicken
This is one of my guilty pleasures: fried chicken and Beaujolais. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that Beaujolais is a fruity and insipid wine. Sure, there are some wines with “Beaujolais” on their label that fit that description, but Beaujolais is actually a region in France where the gamay grape is king. In my opinion, it is one of the most undervalued wine categories out there. The great examples are fresh, have a lovely purity of fruit and good structure, and are undeniably drinkable. Try it for yourself.

Recommendations:
2010 Lapalu Beaujolais “Vieilles Vignes” (Beaujolais, France); $16 at Wally’s Wine and Spirits.
2009 Pierre-Marie Chermette Domaine du Vissoux “Cuvée Traditionelle” (Beaujolais, France); $17 at The Wine House.

Mac and Cheese
A dry rosé from the south of France, particularly from Provence, is a great foil for a serving of mac and cheese. The fresh nature of those wines are the perfect vehicle to clean up the palate after a bit of cheesy macaroni. When it comes to rich and creamy dishes, finding something that can act as a complement and can refresh the palate after each bite is key.

Recommendations:
2011 Domaine Sainte Lucie “MiP” Côtes de Provence Rosé (Provence, France); $15 at Woodland Hills Wine Company.
2011 Commanderie de Peyrassol Côtes de Provence Rosé (Provence, France); $17 at K&L Wine Merchants. 

Chili
As strange as it may sound, I think the perfect pairing for chili is a great margarita. Not the store-bought margarita mix cocktail. I’m talking about a freshly squeezed lime with good tequila and agave nectar margarita. The richness of chili, along with its traditional heavy nature, begs for something a little stronger and very refreshing. 

Recipe:
Start with fresh limes and a good reposado tequila (4 Copas and Partida are favorites of mine). Get your hands on some agave nectar (Trader Joe’s usually stocks this).

Pour 2 ounces of tequila, 1 ounce of freshly squeezed lime juice, and 1/2 ounce of agave nectar into a shaker. Shake hard and pour into a rocks glass.  

4 Copas tequila; $65 at Wally’s Wine and Spirits.
Partida tequila; $60 at Wally’s Wine and Spirits.

Want even more suggestions? Or think you can stump him? Follow sommelier Eduardo Porto Carreiro on Twitter: @_eduardo_pc.

ALSO: Read more about Eduardo Porto Carreiro in “L.A. Archetype: Sommelier” 

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