Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What to Pair with Great Vietnamese Takeout

By Liza B. Zimmerman

There are so many amazing Vietnamese restaurants in this country and so few of them offer great wine lists. That is all the more reason to BYOB, when you can, or order in at home to pair the food with a fantastic bottle of your choice.

The subtle, herb-driven flavors of this cuisine call out for wines with bright acidity and a touch of residual sugar. Big, oaky reds with tannins can make a lot of the dishes taste dull and matelatic: a flavor profile you definitely want to avoid.

Pairings from the Source
My adopted town of San Francisco is home to a high-end Vietnamese restaurant called the Slanted Door. They not only have amazing Bay views but also feature a fantastic wine list that works beautifully with some of the soft, and sweet, flavors in this classic cuisine.

Wine director, Chaylee Priete, who also oversees a handful of other restaurants within chef Phan's group, says that it is, "easy to overpower Vietnamese food with the wrong wine. It has to be something that cleans the palate, therefore wines with acid. It has to be something that counterbalances the heat." Residual sugar for her is the key, and I agree, also staying away from tannic wines is essential.

Cool-climate, well-balanced wines such as Grǖner Veltiner from Austria and some of the medium-dry white wines from German would be ideal. You could slip in a handful of fairly dry Rieslings from Alsace and some  off-dry Gewǖrztraminers as well. The important rule is to keep the pairing high in acidity and low on tannins (which is easy with many of these clean, refreshing picks).

Other Ideas
Bubbles go brilliantly with almost everything, including Vietnamese food. Go with Champagne if you are on a big budget or classic California or regional French sparklers if you are not. Many of the rosé Champagnes will be a bit sweeter: hence they could stand up to sweeter marinades on meat and Vietnamese Clay Pot dishes which are generally made with carmel.

Simple cremants from many regions of France will be fantastic with these flavors. There are also great domestic alternatives such as Gruet from New Mexico and Tk from California

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.
Photo credit: Food & Wine

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