Roussanne sings with seafood – this month's food and wine match

An excerpt from Daring pairings by Evan Goldstein

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daring pairings by Evan Goldstein

daring pairings by Evan Goldstein


When roussanne sings with food – and it sings often – it reminds me of viognier. As with viognier, roussanne’s food-friendliness is underrated. The best wines are rich, silky and balanced, with a panoply of unique flavors.

I love roussanne with exotic dishes, from North African tagines to pork marinated in cumin and ginger. If the flavors in your dish are less exuberant, use textures that will pick up on the richer texture of the wine. Thick and creamy soups, slow-cooked root vegetables (like parsnips and carrots), rich cream- and butter-infused pastas and grains (risotto and polenta), oily nuts (especially macadamias and cashews), and richer preparations of fish and white meats, such as veal, are all great tablemates for roussanne and roussanne-based blends.

Roussanne matches well with rich shellfish, as the texture and ripe fruit bring out the sweet flavors of scallops, crab, and lobster. Few wines match better with crab cakes than roussanne. And bring on the butter and cream, because this wine can both match them in texture and, with its balanced acidity, cut through their richness.

With aged bottles from older vines, opt for recipes that incorporate nuts, reconstituted dried fruit, and white meat, rather than seafood or fish.


Pairing Pointers

Roussanne goes well with:

  • By itself. roussanne is mouthfilling and not overly acidic; it can be a refreshing change from the ubiquitous preprandial glass of chardonnay, though its similar texture will appease chardonnay loyalists.
  • With rich-textured root vegetables, tubers, and winter squashes. Roussanne is very good with yams, mashed potatoes, roasted turnips and rutabagas, and savory dishes of manioc and tapioca. Something like a buttery fennel gratin or butternut squash ravioli with sage and chopped, toasted hazelnuts can also rock.
  • With many traditional holiday foods, especially goose, turkey, and honey-glazed ham (even when studded with cloves and served with pineapple and cherries!).
  • With rich, unctuous purées (soups or vegetables), especially those enriched with cream or butter. Blends that contain marsanne are especially good, as marsanne adds baby fat to the wine’s texture.
  • With the exotic. With dishes from Thai curries to Indonesian satays and from mild Jamaican jerk chicken to North African chicken with apricots and almonds, roussanne and roussanne blends are seamless pairings.

Nebbiolo isn’t good with:

  • Dishes that are charcoal- or pan-grilled or pan-blackened, as smoky and seared foods overwhelm and detract from the wine’s charm.
  • Too much heat. Roussanne is high in alcohol, and serving it with chiles or Sriracha sauce makes the wine seem more alcoholic while crushing its enjoyable flavors.
  • Very light recipes. Very simple sand dabs or plain roasted quail can be crushed by a viscous, oak-aged example of this wine. If the wine is full, the dish needs to be full as well.
  • Foods that are overly sweet. Roussanne’s ability to pair with the exotic leads some cooks to go over the top. A little hoisin sauce, for example, can pair well with the wine, but too much can make it taste thin and bitter.
  • Strong-flavored fish. Especially with a round and fruit-forward blend, stay away from pungent fish such as sardines, anchovies, and mackerel, as well as fish sauces like the intense Southeast Asian nuoc mam.


The Cheese Plate

FRESH – Fromage blanc, Petit-Suisse (France) – dry
SEMI-SOFT – Crescenza (U.S.A.), young Mahón (Spain) – dry
SOFT-RIPENED – Camembert, Éxplorateur (France) – dry
SEMI-HARD – Fontina (Italy), vacherin fribourgeois (Switzerland) – dry
HARD – Mimolette (France), aged St. George (U.S.A.) – sparkling
WASHED-RIND – Époisses (France), Taleggio (Italy) – dry


Reproduced with permission of University of California Press © Evan Goldstein 2010 


Read our full review of Daring Pairings here »

Daring Pairings by Evan Goldstein is published by University of California Press (Berkeley and LA; 2010; hb 353 pp) and retails for RRP US$34.95 or RRP A$55.95 in Australia.

It is available from online from Australian distributor Inbooks: for A$45. Inbooks offer free postage within Australia to subscribers and Members here »

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April 08th, 2011
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