Food

Wine Recs from Aldo Sohm

Pairing the right wine with your meal can be so difficult; there are so many flavors to balance and courses in the meal to consider. Scratch your head no more, we’ve asked for suggestions from a team of knowledgeable wine connoisseurs—big-time sommeliers, an at-home aficionado and an insider in the business.


Q

I love salad with seasonal greens and often find that a strong vinegary dressing can really throw off the flavor of a great wine. Do you have any suggestions for a wine that can take vinegar on?

A

I’d use aromatic, crisp, and fresh style of wines with not too much minerality. I also keep an eye on the alcohol level because acid (from the vinegar) and alcohol are not the best of friends. This is the reason I’m looking for some aromatic fruit to put a little ‘make up’ on that. For example a Sauvignon Marlborough, perhaps the Coopers Creek 2008, or a Sauvignon Blanc, Montes from Chile 2008.


Q

If you’re serving a variety of appetizers that have ingredients like smoked salmon and raw onion, what might work?

A

Onions and salmon are two quite specific flavors. In this case, I would use wines with a tiny touch of residual sugar (around 4 grams/liter), that are technically still on the dry side. I’m talking about a sweetness level like of many California Chardonnays. Another option you have is to go with is Champagne on a Brut level.


Q

What about Asian appetizers with spring rolls, prawn crackers, sesame toast, etc.?

A

Asian appetizers are flavorful, often spicy, and garlic is a widely used ingredient. Here you need really aromatic wines with a lower alcohol level (high alcohol and the spicy hot flavor will turn to bitter). Go for a dryer style of German Rieslings such as Riesling Estate Schloss Johannisberg 2008. You can also easily go with a Kabinett Style Riesling. Or take a Muscat, such as Bonny Doon from Santa Cruz 2008


Q

When serving a cheese course with a strong, smelly cheese included, what do you suggest?

A

If you mean cheeses such as a Epoisses, go with a Rhone style of wine, like a Cotes du Rhone, Coudoulet de Beaucastel 2007

For goat cheeses I prefer to go with a Alsatian Pinot Gris like Leon Beyer 2007


Q

So many restaurants these days serve homey, rustic dishes; for simply prepared roast chicken and root vegetables, what’s a good choice?

A

That’s difficult to answer because these dishes have a broad range. In general I’d recommend these wines. You could go with a more elegant style of Pinot Noir such as Calera from Central Coast of California, or you could pick a Bourgogne Rouge from Nicolas Potel 2006.


Q

What goes well with an Italian pasta in a tomato based sauce?

A

I would take a red wine with fruit and freshness, such as a Chianti Classico from Felsina 2007, or also a Il Frappato, COS from Sicily 2007, a wine I tasted recently.


Q

How about pan-seared tuna?

A

With the seared tuna itself I’d go either with a Shiraz/Viognier, Yalumba, Barossa Valley 2008, or pick an elegant version of Pinot Noir (but something not too earthy!!!). Here, I want to support the distinct flavor of the tuna.


Q

What about white fish in general?

A

I’m going very classic – white wine. Depending on the fish and sauce I stick with white burgundy and Chablis. I would recommend Chablis Fevre, France 2008 or if your budget allows, a Meursault from Boyer-Martenot 2007


Q

What’s a nice light wine for a summery meal of salads and a variety of grains?

A

In the summer I’m always looking for light, crisp and mineral driven wines. It’s all about the refreshment and the lightness.

I like to go with a Gruner Veltliner: crisp, fresh, clean and tasty. I would suggest Gruner Veltliner, Schloss Gobelsburg 2008 or alternately an Albariño, Lagar de Cervera from Spain 2008


Q

What are your favorite dessert wines?

A

Personally I’m dying for old German Riesling: Trockenbeerenauslese (sweetwines). The only problem is that I cannot afford it all the time. Therefore I often enjoy a Tokaji from Hungary such as the Late Harvest from Oremus 2005, but lately I have tasted some interesting dessert wines from upstate New York produced by Hermann Wiemer. I was very impressed with the quality level they produce.


Q

For meat eaters, what are a few great bottles to go with a steak or a big juicy hamburger?

A

For steaks I use wines with some power just to stand up to all the rich flavors and support the juiciness. I’d go with a Malbec, Catena from Argentina, or with a slightly more elegant version of Bordeaux such as the Croix de Beaucaillau 2004.

For the big juicy hamburger I would personally go with a fresh and cool beer. In case you want to go a little fancier I’d pick one of the Belgium Ales such like Dupont Farmhouse Ale.


Q

Friends are constantly asking what to pair with pork and lamb, which have distinct flavors and are hard to match. What are a few good options?

A

Pork can be indeed challenging depending on the preparation and sauce. Generally speaking, I go with either an aromatic and fresh kind of wine (Vouvray Clos de Bourg, Huet, Loire 2007) or with a light fruit-forward red wine with some acid such like a Dolcetto, Oddero, Piedmont 2007. For pork you always need wines which have acid, just to cut through the fat content.

For lamb, with its specific flavors, you also have to keep an eye on the sauce. Generally I prefer some red wines with some age and perhaps some tannins which the meat will absorb. Spain has a tradition of aging red wines before releasing them to the market. You can go perhaps with a Rioja, Viña Ardanza, or a Reserva from La Rioja Alta.


An Austrian Sommelier, Aldo Sohm is the Wine Director at Le Bernardin in New York City. In 2008 he won the “Best Sommelier in the World” award from the World Sommelier Association. He is the first representative of the United States to do so.

Le Bernardin
155 W. 51st St.
New York, NY 10019
212.554.1515
Le Bernardin

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