First of all, I want to mention that it’s really great that Daniel is using local resources as his ingredients. It’s really sad that people are so urbanized and removed from nature that they don’t even trust the fruit that grows on their local trees! Just like Daniel used the local quinces for the Yinzer torte recipe, I have often thought about using the ginkgo “stinky” fruit that falls from the female trees that are common all over Washington, D.C. Stinky Gingko Fruit – unfortunately, it is SO stinky, that it will probably never happen!
The first point I want to make is that I am not a proponent of pairing dessert wines and dessert. The way I see it, there’s a missing synergy. In my book, I Drink on the Job (www.idrinkonthejob.com), I have a complete chapter on pairing wine and food, and the principle that comes to mind is “1+1=1/2”. It seems weird, but when you put a sweet food in your mouth and then you drink a sweet beverage (it could be any beverage – fruit juice, cola, etc.), the sweetness is significantly reduced. The pairing rule I often learned was that the wine should be at least as sweet at the dessert, but I don’t see how it makes a difference–sweet and sweet mostly cancel each other out!
Another point is that the Yinzer torte is made with highly acidic quince fruit turned into a butter emulsion. So now you have acidity – and yes, you do want to match acidity in a dish with an equally acidic wine, or the wine will taste really flat! You could easily pair this dish with a traditional dessert wine like a Sauternes or a Hungarian Tokaj, and that will do just fine. But let me throw you a few curve balls:
- I prefer to have contrast to a sweet dessert dish. Just like many people really enjoy coffee with sweets because the tannin in coffee contrasts the sweetness of dessert on your palate, I would rather pair this with a spirit – and my spirit of choice for this dish is either a Cognac or a Calvados. Cognac is distilled from grapes and has a nice fruit component. Calvados is distilled from apples and has that fruit component as well. You could have a whisky or a Scotch, but definitely avoid a really smoky/peaty version of the latter – there are no smoke components to this dessert (unless you’re puffing on a cigar at the time!),
- Change the dish a bit to make it go better with wine–this is called a pairing “bridge”. For example, you could put some chopped walnuts on top and maybe serve with a slice of blue cheese and now Ruby Port goes perfectly! Crunchy nuts would also add texture which makes food more interesting on the palate. Add a caramel sauce, and now a Tawny port, which is port that has been pre-aged in barrel will work with those flavors. You could even bridge this dessert by making a dessert wine reduction, and that would bring the flavors together.
- Add fresh whipped cream with a little liqueur in it like Cointreau. OK, it won’t match better with any wine, but certainly it will make the dish all the better, and isn’t pleasure what you’re really after?
Consider yourself paired!