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A Waste Of Taste

Avoid bad wine pairings and keep your mouth happy

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Ever tried drinking orange juice or milk after brushing your teeth? Remember the gag response? I have experienced plenty of wine moments like that. Like the time I regrettably gulped some stale wine that had been open in my friend's fridge for three months, as opposed to the three days that her roommate reported (he giggled with guilt). Or the time a bottle of French sauvignon blanc was so turned I thought I was sucking on a moldy piece of bark. And then there are the numerous times when a food and wine pairing has simply killed the juice -- the kind of coupling that makes you want gnaw on your foot rather than endure another mouthful. Some things are better left alone:

Anything seasoned with vinegar. Plenty of people will argue with me, but I just think salads, with their vinegary acidic dressings, are better with water. I've never tasted a great wine pairing involving salad. Wine tends to fight with salad, and the salad always wins. And try eating a dill pickle -- or anything pickled -- then washing it down with a white. I assure you, it's so truly vile that you'll never look at a pickle the same way again.

Asparagus. Many people call it "wine-challenged" or "wine killer" since its compound -- sulfurous amino acid methionine (the one that makes your pee smell funny) -- tends to make whatever you're drinking taste like grass, in a bad way. Sure, there are ways to disguise it, by grilling the vegetable and dousing it in some cream-based sauce, but avoiding it with wine is best. Don't shun it from your table when wine is served, but don't make the mistake of following up a bite with a sip. Otherwise, the gag response might occur.

Deviled Eggs. I experienced this and my mouth lived to tell about it. Go with coffee or tea, just don't go near these puppies with any wine. I think the mayo kills it, or maybe the mustard, or the sulphur created when you cook the yolks. Whatever it is, put down the wine and back away.

Flaming Hot Salsa. I've often said to drink sweet wines with spicy food, but by spicy, I mean flavorful, slightly piquante spicy. Not ass-kicking hot. Habanero, smoked jalapeno hot should not see the liquid nature of wine. Not only will the flavor of the wine be killed, your tongue will be so numb you won't be able to taste it anyway. To tame the flame, drink milk -- it calms the capsaicins, the chemicals that attach to your nervous system and send it aflutter.

Recommended Wines

Campo Viejo 2001 Rioja Crianza (Spain) Hearty yet fruity at the same time. Gushing with fragrant roses, tart raspberries, wet mud and ripe blackberries. Not your average, cheap Rioja, which normally sucks. Worth more. Sweetness = 1. $10. HHHH

Aura 2004 Verdejo Rueda (Spain) The tart, white Verdelho grape might be an acquired taste, but I'm sure digging its clean, refreshing flavor. So limey it makes your mouth pucker, with acidic, steely grapefruit and a nutmeg, orange spice aftertaste. Sw = 1. $17. HHHH

Branham 2002 Zinfandel Napa Valley (California) Somebody slap me upside the head and get me out of the clouds, since I'm floating after trying this wine. Seductive, sultry cherry and blackberries with soft tannins yet enough oomph to impress you. Sw = 2. $26. HHHH

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