Sometimes a wine needs the right food pairing to show well. A light bodied wine that tastes thin and acidic alone might match well with a tomato pasta dish, and a full bodied, tannic red is a great match for a thick juicy steak.
Last weekend we had some friends over for dinner. I'd been to Costco and picked up some of their USDA Prime steaks; season them with salt and pepper, put them on the barbecue and eat them in the garden under the stars with a nice red wine, grilled vegetables and fresh bread. A perfect summer evening.
We'd had a spectacular 1990 Penfolds Bin 389 with the steaks, and followed that with a rather nice 2006 Stefania Uvas Creek Cabernet Sauvignon. It was still early, so I went to open something else, and pulled out a bottle of 2005 Fortino Santa Clara Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
The nose had lots of sweet blackcurrant with a whiff of nail varnish in the background, but on the palate it was tart and tannic, with flavours of sour blackcurrant, oak and a 'green' streak that I didn't care for. We decided on reflection that we'd drunk enough for the night so I recorked it and put it in the fridge, thinking I'd probably cook with it.
The following night Alison had a tennis match, so while she was out I made a curry. I love hot, spicy Indian food with loads of methi (fenugreek) and fresh dhania (coriander/cilantro) but pairing it with wine is always problematic as the food tends to overwhelm them. Some people recommend spicy off-dry whites like Riesling or Gewurztraminer, but I'm not a huge fan of off-dry whites - I'll usually just have a beer or water.
Anyway, I spotted the opened bottle of Fortino Cabernet and thought 'why not?'. Surprisingly it worked; the green streak was masked by the herbs and the tomato and vinegar took care of the tartness. The blackcurrant fruit showed through quite nicely.
So the moral is, if you happen to open a bottle of wine and it's not to your taste, you don't have to decide between suffer it, throw it away or cook with it; with a bit of imagination the right food can make all the difference.