The first time that the food and wine pairing light bulb went off in my head, when I had a combination that really underscored how good a good combination can be, it was thanks to a bottle of Riesling.
My husband and I were at a restaurant in San Francisco and it was one of those perfect evenings—the atmosphere, the service, the food, the company. But what sticks in my mind is taking a bite of the smoked sea bass, then a sip of the Riesling, and thinking, “Oh. My. God.”
That was about fifteen years ago, and Riesling is still one of my favorites. Especially as the weather gets warmer and I want a wine that’s light, fruity, and refreshing.
If Riesling is new to you, you’re not alone. Riesling has long been considered one of the world’s great grapes—but we’ve been slow to receive the message here in the States.
If it’s not new to you, you might think of Riesling as a sweet wine. While it’s true that Riesling is made in styles varying from bone dry to sticky sweet, a garden-variety Riesling off the supermarket shelf will likely have only a touch of sweetness.
And that’s a very good thing. Because while sweet foods are best paired with sweet wines—for example, dessert and dessert wine—slightly sweet foods are best paired with slightly sweet wines—for example, mahi mahi with mango salsa (pictured) and an off-dry, Riesling.
(For more about why I think off-dry wines are awesome, read this post.)
In addition to foods that are a little sweet, Riesling pairs well with foods that are a little spicy. Also foods that are a little smoky. It’s considered a classic pair for lighter Asian dishes, like Thai food. And it’s also classic with pork and ham, fish and shellfish.
And then there’s the aforementioned Riesling and smoked sea bass.
Oh. My. God.
A few more summery recipes that’d pair well with Riesling:
Seafood and Andouille Jambalaya from “100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love” in Bay Area Scene
Baja Fried Fish Tacos from Sunset
Thai Pork Salad with Chiles and Mint from Real Simple
Shrimp and Cucumber Salad with Horseradish Mayo from Bon Appetit