Contrary to popular perception, the perfect wine pairing doesn’t have to come from a bougie, masterfully created feast matched with a sommelier-selected bottle of pricey wine. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a bag of chips and a banging bottle of juice, keeping in mind that you still want to make sure you’re considering the flavour combinations as you would with any other food and wine pairing. And with so many flavours of chips and snack foods on the market, the possibilities are endless. Over the holidays, I spent a weekend experimenting with different pairings and came up with some dangerously delicious combinations.
Before we get into the pairings, it’s important to identify some basics when it comes to matching wine with food.
Firstly, wine loves salt. Just as you would add salt to your food to help bring out the flavours, eating salty food with a glass of wine helps to bring out the fruity flavours in the wine. Secondly, fatty and oily foods love high-acid wines. Again, if you think back to standard cooking techniques, you would add a squeeze of lemon or an acidic component to a heavy dish to lighten it and enhance the flavour. Well, a high-acid wine like riesling, chardonnay or sangiovese serves the same purpose. Thirdly, when pairing wine with sweet foods, the wine needs to be as sweet or sweeter than the food or else it will appear flavourless.
Now, onto the pairings.
2015 Marcus Ansems Chardonnay, Naramata, B.C. $36 - $40
Marcus Ansems is the namesake, premium offering from Daydreamer Wines and as is the case with all Daydreamer wines, produced using sustainable methods that pay respect to the quality and character of the fruit. The wine is full bodied with racy acidity and shows classic chardonnay notes of green apple skin, salted lemon zest and juicy pineapple with a slight bitter finish reminiscent of walnut skins.
For the chip pairing, we decided to go classic with Old Dutch salted kettle chips. As with the techniques employed to make the wine, this pairing is intended to merely elevate the flavours created by the winemaker rather than to distract. The salty chips bring out the tropical fruit flavours and the acidity in the wine makes it easy to destroy an entire bag of chips--ooops--without leaving your palate feeling heavy or coated.
2018 Lake Breeze Alize, Naramata, B.C. $28 - $33
Part of the Lake Breeze Cellar Series, this wine is a stunning and rare example of 100 per cent roussanne from Canada. The Okanagan is proving to be a great place to grow Rhone varietals, with a number of wineries producing quality white varietals like roussanne and viognier and this is no exception. Juicy and floral, this wine has hints of ripe apricot and peach flesh with green thistle and apple blossom notes with classic oiliness on the palate common to the varietal.
I had initially thought that this wine would pair well with sour cream chips or something equally decadent but the prevailing flavour was a humble sweet potato chip from Hard Bite. The earthiness of the chip enhanced the floral notes in the wine while the heavy dose of salt brought out all the ripe orchard fruit and made the wine feel full and weighty on the palate. This may have actually been one of the most successful food pairings I’ve had to date.
2017 City and Country Similkameen Rose, Similkameen Valley, B.C. $28
City and Country is an urban winery that sources fruit from all over British Columbia while producing wine in both Alberta and B.C., with its newest location having just opened in Calgary. Its Similkameen rosé claims to be a rosé for red wine drinkers, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to credit it with the weight or intensity of a red wine, this is a juicy little number with candied cherry and strawberry notes reminiscent of Sunkist fruit snacks with tart apple skin notes that definitely held its own when paired with highly flavourful Hard Bite wild onion and yogurt chips. I had other chip flavours slated to pair with this wine but the bittersweet onion flavours from the chip and creamy yogurt paired perfectly with the sweet fruit notes and crisp acidity of the wine, proving that sometimes the most out of the box pairing is also the most palate pleasing.
2018 Rosewood Nebulous Pet-Nat, Beamsville, ON $25 - $38
Rosewood is, for all intents and purposes, a family-owned natural wine producer that has been making wine in Niagara for more than ten years. Its Nebulous Pet-Nat is a hazy blend of pinot noir and gamay with loads of sediment and a hint of fizz. Initially, this wine had some funky notes of overly ripe cheese, toasted popcorn kernels, strawberry stems and wet clay that eventually developed into notes of wild strawberry, hay and a hint of sweet vermouth.
Now, this was a challenging pairing. After trying everything from ketchup chips, carrot dill chips, salt and vinegar and everything in between, I finally decided to try the all time Canadian snack food: Hawkins Cheezies. The umami from the sharp aged cheddar paired perfectly with the cheesy notes in the wine while the salty snack helped enhance the fruit flavours, showing that in certain cases, the sum is really greater than the parts.