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With food-wine pairings, what you like is correct

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Most of the questions we receive about wine concern pairing it with food.

This is terrific, as it means more people are interested in having a glass of wine with their meal. And this seems to be a growing trend in Hawaii.

Europeans have had centuries and generations of refining this practice. My wife, Cheryle, and I never cease to be amazed on our travels through Europe at how many restaurant patrons enjoy a glass of wine with lunch and dinner. It’s safe to say they practice this at home as well, which we have also witnessed many a time.

Wine with meals is a way of life there, and that idea seems to be embraced more and more in the islands.

So the next step in the learning curve is what wine to have with what food. This means a certain amount of experimentation. We can speed up the education, however, by looking at the European model to get basics.

Here’s a simple exercise: Take home-cooked spaghetti served with a tomato marinara sauce. Pour two tastes of wine, one an Italian red (such as Monte Antico, roughly $13 a bottle) and the other your favorite cabernet sauvignon.

By itself, the cabernet will probably be darker, bigger bodied, smoother and richer. In contrast, the Monte Antico will be much lighter in color, much more earthy in nuance, lighter and more sour. But when tasting each with the spaghetti, the traits of Monte Antico will meld seamlessly with the food, while the cabernet will stand by itself.

For another exercise, start with a fresh piece of mahimahi, sauteed with lemon, butter and capers. Pour two white wines, a Mediterranean white (such as Boutari Moschofilero, a Greek white wine about $15 a bottle) and an oaky, buttery chardonnay.

The Boutari will interact with the fish like a freshly squeezed lemon, cutting through the fishiness and cleansing the palate between bites. In contrast, the bold chardonnay will take center stage and probably overpower the fish. It might even finish with a somewhat bitter flavor.

Keep in mind that these examples are simply suggestions and are by no means set in stone. Assessing wine is highly subjective, and pairing wine with food is even more so. These examples are a starting point.

You will see as you get further into pairings that it is another fun, thought-provoking facet in the world of wines.

Until next time, please enjoy. Aloha.

Chuck Furuya is a master sommelier and a partner in the dk restaurant chain. To contact him visit


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