Food

Wine Recs from Gregory Majors

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

Salads can be a tricky dish to pair with, the vinegar being a difficult element, as you acknowledged. So too can the greens, especially if you have some bitter chicory types like endive or radicchio. To tame these elements, I like to use high acid un-oaked whites, such as a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley or Trentino-Alto Adige (Northern Italy). The acid in the wine will help to quell the vinegar’s acid, while helping to cleanse the palate and not overwhelming the intricacies on the salad.


Q

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

A

Again something with good acidity and un-oaked. A dry to off-dry German Riesling (Kabinett or Spatlese), or perhaps a “toasty” Brut Champagne


Q

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

A

Alsace is your friend here. Gewürztraminer is the obvious choice, but I think a semi-ripe Pinot Gris from Zind-Humbrecht or Trimbach would be best.


Q

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

A

Sweet wine is always where I look. The idea is to match salty (the cheese) with sweet. With a stinky cheese, you’re going to need something with a fair amount of residual sugar. A German/Austrian TBA or a 6 puttonyos Tokaji would suffice (the latter being lighter on the pocketbook).


Q

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

A

For “rustic” food, think rustic wine. Italy is a good place to visit, especially the South: Campania, Calabria or Sicily. In Campania there is a grape I love called Aglianico, which is called the “Nebbiolo of the South” because it has similar characteristics to the famed grape from Piedmont: earth, leather, smoky and structured. Aglianico can be a bit tannic at times, so it’s best to search for producers from the Taburno area as opposed to the Taurasi area. From Sicily, wines from the Etna area, grapes such as Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio are nice, and from the Southeast, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, which is a 60/40 blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappatto. Finally from Calabria (which is the toe of the boot): grapes such as Magliocco and Gaglioppo. These sound funny, and are a bit difficult to find, but we are seeing more and more of them, both on wine lists and in the wine shops.


Q

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

A

A red with a good amount of acid. Because tomatoes are acidic, you need something to compensate, for example: Barbera d’Asti from Piedmont, Toraldego’s from Alto Adige or an early 2000 or late 1990’s Chianti would be nice.


Q

How about Pan-seared tuna?

A

Depending on what you’re serving with it, perhaps a dense Rose, a Provencal light red, or a 100% Frappatto from Sicily.


Q

What about white fish in general?

A

Obviously white is our first thought, yet it really depends on the variety or fish. For an oily “fish”, like sardines, something light and crisp: unoaked Chablis, unoaked Vermentino from Liguria, or Albarino from Northwest Spain. With more meaty fish that can be a bit “fishy” tasting, an oaked Chardonnay or a Northern Rhone white would work well. For adventurous wine drinkers, the oxidized whites of the Jura would be really cool. With more neutral flavored fish: sturgeon, cod, flounder, etc., it will ultimately come down to the garnish. But in general, I would recommend anything that is coastal: Languedoc-Roussillon, Friuli or Santa Barbara.


Q

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

A

I would suggest something herbaceous, like a Cortese from Piedmont (Gavi di Gavi), or perhaps a Gruner Veltliner from the Wachau in Austria (nothing over 12.5% alcohol).


Q

What are your favorite dessert wines?

A

Tokaji from Hungary, PX sherry from Spain, and almost everything from the Wehlener Sonnenuhur vineyard in Germany’s Mosel region.


Q

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

A

I don’t normally drink Cabernet, but for this I would recommend a semi-structured, semi-juicy California Cab from producers like Dunn or Corison.


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: depending on the preparation, you could do white, like a ripe Riesling from Austria’s Wachau, Kremstal or Kamptal areas; or a Pinot from Gevrey-Chambertin or Pommard

Lamb: Red Rioja (the gaminess of the lamb is complimented by the leatheriness of the Tempranillo), or my favorite, aged Barolo or Barbaresco.


Gregory Majors is the chief sommelier at New York City’s CRU restaurant.

CRU
24 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10011-8858
(212) 529-1700
cru-nyc.com

You may also like