February 2015 Archives

Montreal's Culinary Mosaic: A Simple Guide to Food & Wine Pairing

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Photo: Ron Fletcher Photography

Wine--a combination of richness, depth, balance, textures, flavors and aromas, all of which ever so perfectly appeal to the senses. Since its ancient beginnings, this lavish beverage has been a regular accompaniment to meals all around the world, and with so many varieties available, it's easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to pairing a meal with just the right wine. Do you ever walk up and down the aisle and stare at the wines not knowing where to start? The minute you step into an SAQ, or any other liquor store, a number of questions come to mind: Red or white? Dry or sweet? Bold or light? While the process may seem daunting at first, it's actually pretty simple.

I've been working at the SAQ for almost five years now, acquiring quite a bit of wine expertise along the way. Needless to say, I've become a sort of go-to person for anything wine-related among my friends. Let's face it, Montrealers love to wine and dine, so I'll regularly get text messages come lunch or dinner time: "We're going to that new Japanese hotspot, will this wine go well with sushi?" or "We're having Mexican tonight, should I go for a white or a red?" All of this got me thinking about the one thing Montreal is guilty of lacking: a simple and easy-to-use guide to food and wine pairing... À la Montréal.

This is where Jonathan Thivierge comes in. Jonathan, 32, eats, sleeps and breathes wine, and has been working at the SAQ since 2003. A co-worker and true wine connoisseur, I chose to recruit his help in order to provide you with memorable wine recommendations that should leave you more than satisfied. If you're looking to purchase some wine and happen to be in Montreal's Plateau Mont-Royal area, look out for the guy with the new corkscrew tattoo on his left forearm!

Montreal, this one's for you. We're taking you on a journey to discover the world's best cuisines, combining all of their particular flavors with those of our wine suggestions--but wait, there's more. We've paired our top picks, all of which are available for under $25, with dishes you'll easily find in some of Montreal's most popular bring your own wine restaurants. Once you've read this guide, all you'll have to do is decide where you're eating and head over to the nearest SAQ before enjoying wine and food combinations that were practically made for each other. Simple, isn't it? Now, let's begin!

Pairing Wine with Mediterranean Cuisine


When you think of Mediterranean cuisine, the first thing that comes to mind is a sea of fresh flavors--grilled seafood and meats, vibrant vegetables and melt-in-your-mouth cheeses. Mediterranean dishes are often high in salty, acidic or citrus tastes, which you'll want to balance out with a slightly salty, unwooded white wine such as a Chardonnay. The Mediterranean diet does not include many dairy products, other than cheese and yoghurt. Strong cheeses require bold wines, whereas mild cheeses, such as bocconcini, require light Italian grape varieties including Soave or Trebbiano. Also popular are grilled meats. Although Portugal is not geographically a Mediterranean country, Portuguese cuisine does feature Mediterranean influences, mostly focused on grilling. Due to the great deal of similarity between the two cuisines, red Portuguese wines will inevitably suit Mediterranean-style meat dishes. Exuding spicy, floral and fruity aromas, a red Chaminé is most definitely an interesting candidate.


Photo: Lili Koi

Pasta with tomato sauce and basil - You can find a similar dish at Il Piatto Pieno:

Trimbach Pinot Blanc, $17.90 - Fresh and crisp with subtle minerality and light floral aromas.

Zenato Bardolino, $14.05 - Simple, light and velvety. Best served slightly chilled.

Photo: Roman Espiritu

Pizza Mediterranea (fresh tomatoes, olives, onions and feta cheese) - You can find a similar dish at Restaurant Deuxlux.

Tsantali Agioritikos, $16.60 - Fresh with minerality and pear/floral aromas.

Taurino Riserva Salice Salentino, $16.95 - Dry and fruity with refreshing acidity and prune/fig aromas.

TIP: The toppings make all the difference when it comes to pairing pizza with wine. For meatier pizzas, select a dry and fruity red resembling a Chianti Classico. Vegetarian pizzas will pair well with light and fresh white grape varieties, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet or Trebbiano.


Photo: Oddur Thorisson / Via mimithorisson.com

Boudin maison - You can find a similar dish at Les Canailles.

Chardonnay Campagnola Veneto i.g.t., $13.65 - Dry and unwooded with hints of ripe green apple and pear.

Domaine Langlois-Château St-Florent Saumur, $17.55 - Light and fresh with soft, yet present tannins. Red pepper and red fruit aromas with a subtle spicy note.

Photo: Crissy

Filet mignon tartar - You can find a similar dish at La Prunelle.

Albis, $12,95 - Very light with low acidity and floral and fruity aromas.

Château Nénine, $19.95 - Slightly woody with fruit and vegetable aromas.


Photo: This is Why We're Fat

Souvlaki pita with tzatziki - You can find a similar dish at La Brochetterie Parthenon.

Kourtaki Retsina of Attica, $10.55 - Light, very refreshing and strongly acidic; perfect for tzatziki!

Boutari Naoussa, $15.60 - Light and slightly woody with spicy and fruity aromas. Nice acidity and soft, yet present tannins. Best served slightly chilled.


Photo: 1773

Braised lamb shank in a Port wine sauce - You can find a similar dish at Bitoque.

TIP: We do not suggest pairing such a dish with white wine; however, if you really must, choose a rosé or better yet, our suggestion featured below.

Carmen Chardonnay, $13.75 - Dry with pleasant acidity. Fruity, buttery and woody notes.

Barco Negro Douro, $15.95 - Bold with fairly present tannins. Refreshing acidity and fruity aromas.

Pairing Wine with Asian Cuisine

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The vast continent of Asia is home to several cultures that have over the years each developed their own ethnic cuisine, often characterized as a blend between traditional and contemporary flavors. To the northeast, you'll generally encounter dishes including rice, noodles, seafood, soybeans, vegetables and sushi. Light white wines, such as Mirassou, Kung Fu Girl or any white wine produced in the Alsace region of France, will generally pair well with the dominant flavors of these dishes. However, for sushi, you'll want to select a white wine with a little more acidity. Let's not forget the sake! Sake and food pairing requires a bit of imagination; however, within reason, it's hard to have a total miss. Naturally, there are some foods that will most likely not go well with sake, such as red meats, intensely spicy foods and richly flavored sauces.

TIP: Sake can be enjoyed in a variety of ways; however, it's always best to serve it cold. Heating it can potentially destroy its flavors, leaving you with nothing but the taste of alcohol.

Northeast Asian cuisine also emphasizes the use of sweet, salty and often spicy sauces when cooking--but remember--the sweeter the dish, the sweeter the wine. Who can resist the deliciousness of fried dumplings drenched in peanut butter sauce? If you're in the mood to try something different, don't be afraid to pair this dish with soju, a Korean plum wine made with soju and honey. Spicy food lovers, remember to avoid all wines that are high in alcohol.

Southeast Asian cuisine is all about discrete spices and seasonings, and a delicate balance of cooking methods including stir-frying, steaming and boiling. A classic, unwooded chardonnay is ideal for sipping or with the world-famous pad Thai. Red wine does not typically pair well with Northeast and Southeast Asian cuisine; however, if you really must, select a light red, such as a Pinot Noir or a Barbera d'Asti; served chilled of course.

Finally, Southwest Asian cuisine generally harbors some rather intense flavors brought upon by frequently used spices, such as chili pepper, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, curry etc. It is rather difficult to pair any wine with these flavors; however, beer is definitely a go-to option. A light refreshing beer will compliment the spiciness of your dish without overpowering it.


Photo: Ruocaled

Korean seafood pancake - You can find a similar dish at La Maison de Seoul.

Pfaff Gewurztraminer Cuvée Bacchus, $20.20 - Semi-dry with refreshing acidity and notes of honey, lemon and ginger. Very aromatic.

Mirassou Pinot Noir, $15.95 - Semi-dry with jammy fruit aromas, low acidity and soft tannins. Best served slightly chilled.

TIP: If you're feeling a little adventurous, pair this dish with soju or makkoli, a milky rice wine.


Photo: Zeetz Jones

Any type of sushi - You can find a similar dish at Yuukai.

Domaine du Salvard Cheverny, $17.55 - Crisp with lively acidity, citrusy notes and aromas of honey and tropical fruits. Nice minerality.

Domaine Thymiopoulos Jeunes Vignes de Xinomavro Naoussa, $18.60 - Light, fruity and refreshing with hints of minerality. Best served slightly chilled, and perfect with red tuna sushi!


Photo: Mila

Butter chicken - You can find a similar dish at Bombay Mahal.

Marcel Cabelier Arbois Chardonnay, $19.70 - Your go-to wine for butter chicken! Almond aroma and buttery notes that will gohand-in-hand with the creaminess of butter chicken.

Domaine Champs Perdrix Bourgogne Pinot Noir, $19.30 - Light and refreshing and pinot noir with soft tannins and strawberry/cherry aromas.

TIP: Beer remains our number one suggestion for butter chicken. Try it with Damm Inedit.

Pairing Wine with Caribbean Cuisine


Caribbean cuisine instantly takes you to sunnier climes--simmering stews, fresh seafood, chicken, and steak--all prepared with the colorful flavors of the islands. Generally very bold and spicy, these dishes involve a fusion of traditional ingredients and seasonings, often influenced by the types of cuisine in the many homelands of this region's population. Pairing wine with Carribean cuisine is no easy task; however, beer is generally a great match. A light refreshing beer will balance out the pronounced tastes of these dishes without overpowering them, and will be perfect for toning down the spicy heat without compromising any flavors. Typical dishes including ingredients, such as white fish, chicken and coco milk, will pair well with a medium-dry white wine from the Alsace region of France. Also popular are sweet additions such as the BBQ guava sauce. For any dish involving papaya, guava, or any other sweet fruit, opt for a fruitier wine like a Viognier. If you choose a red wine, it's best to keep it light. Pairing a bold red with any of these dishes can modify, or potentially destroy, the vibrant flavors brought on by the variety of spices and seasonings.


Photo: Clint McMahon

Jamaican jerk chicken - You can find a similar dish at Anancy.

Irurtia Gewurztraminer, $14.80 - Dry and refreshing with notes of pear, pineapple and honeydew.

Paolo Conterno Bricco Barbera d'Alba, $19.50 - Dry with soft tannins and spicy, floral and fruity aromas.

TIP: This dish is extremely spicy! We suggest pairing it with a light refreshing beer, such as Red Stripe.

Photo: Paul Douglas

Ackee & cod - You can find a similar dish at Anancy.

Torres Vina Sol, $12.50 - Dry and refreshing with floral and fruity aromas.

Jean-Paul Brun L'Ancien Beaujolais, $20.40 - Dry, light and fruity with lively acidity. Best served slightly chilled.

Pairing Wine with Latin American Cuisine


Tortillas, tamales, tacos, fajitas, quesadillas, guacamole, pico de gallo, chimichurri, and some flaming chilli pepper--when you bite into a Latin American dish, you know you're in for a fiesta of fun, delicious flavors. Most Latin American countries fabricate and drink beer, making the latter the perfect option for a perfectly balanced dining experience. However, don't entirely rule out a Gewurztraminer from Uruguay when it comes to finding the ideal match for your fresh guacamole. Served chilled, this white will enhance the richness of the avocado. If you're in the mood for a simple dish like grilled vegetables and chicken with chimichurri sauce, opt for a very light and fresh white wine.

Nothing embodies Latin American cuisine quite like an authentic taco. Tacos generally have a wonderful clash of flavors, so they can be difficult to pair with wine. Let's use the beef taco as an example. In this dish you'll find cheese, peppers, onions, guacamole and sour cream; however, the spicy salsa definitely dominates. You'll want to go with a light red, such as a Pinot Noir, Barbera d'Asti or Beaujolais. Keep in mind that Latin American cuisine is definitely spicy, so you'll want to select light reds and whites in almost any case.


Photo : Brenda Benoît

Seafood ceviche - You can find a similar dish at Madre.

Domaine Gerovassiliou, $19.80 - Refreshing with spicy, floral and fruity aromas. Nice acidity and some minerality.

Les Deux Clochers, $14.70 - Very light red with fresh acidity, soft tannins and floral/fruity aromas. Best served slightly chilled.


Photo : Betty Crocker Recipes

Chicken Burrito - You can find a similar dish at El Amigo.

Rapitala Catarratto/Chardonnay, $13.75 - Dry with low acidity and fruity aromas.

Donnadieu Cuvée Mathieu et Marie, $17.80 - Dry with intense spicy and fruit aromas. Firm but pleasant tannins.

Pairing Wine with Middle Eastern Cuisine


So much cultural diversity seeps into Middle Eastern cuisine. Some commonly used spices include cinnamon, cumin, coriander and black pepper. Garlic, parsley and mint are also popular ingredients in many dishes and salads. You'll rarely encounter seafood; instead, you'll find several varieties of meat and vegetable dishes rich in the above-mentioned spices and fruits such as dates or figs. Over the past few years, Lebanese wines have gained much popularity. Now internationally acclaimed, they come in many different styles, each displaying profound and complex character. When it comes to pairing Middle Eastern dishes with just the right wine, you know you can't go wrong with a flavorful red from Lebanon. If you prefer white wine, your best bet would be to go with very a light refreshing grape variety, such as a Saumur, Muscadet, Soave or Trebbiano.


Photo: Marta

Couscous - You can find a similar dish at Les Deux Oliviers.

Les Frères Couillaud Domaine De La Ragotière
$14.75 - Delicate with refreshing acidity and floral/fruity aromas.

Massaya Classic, $16.80 - Dry and spicy with refreshing acidity and firm tannins. With 15.5% alcohol, this wine definitely comes with a kick, so it's best served slightly chilled.


Photo: Ramon

Lamb tajine with dried fruit - You can find a similar dish at L'Olive Noire.

Gerald Et Philibert Talmard Mâcon Uchizy, $20.05 - Dry with refreshing acidity and floral/fruity notes.

Château St-Thomas Les Émirs, $17.95 - Dry with soft tannins and spicy/fruity aromas. A must with lamb!


Photo : Via Canadian Living

Unfortunately, Montreal does not have a bring your own wine Lebanese restaurant; however, if you're planning on enjoying dishes including hummus, tabouleh, falafels etc., the wines below are perfect options.

Bouchard Père & Fils Bourgogne Aligoté, $17.65 - Dry with light floral, fruity and mineral scents. Delicious with hummus or tabouleh!

Clos St-Thomas Les Gourmets, $14.70 - A softer version of its cousin Château St-Thomas Les Émirs. Dry and fruity with refreshing acidity. Great with falafels!

Pairing Wine with Vegetarian Cuisine


Traditional vegetarian/vegan dishes are all about freshness and the perfect combination of spices. If you plan on having rice, salad, grilled vegetables, tofu, grilled squash or eggplant, you'll want to go with light and refreshing white grape varieties, such as an unwooded Saumur, a Muscadet or a Trebbiano. Salads come in all shapes and sizes; however, if you're in the mood for a quinoa salad, opt for a classic Carmen Chardonnay, or something a little funkier like a great Robertson Winery Chenin Blanc. Any and all grilled vegetable dishes will pair phenomenally with L'Orpailleur, a delicious Quebec white wine. Grilled Portobello mushrooms, or any mushrooms for that matter, are perfect with a woody white wine. The wild and somewhat woody aromas of the mushrooms will exquisitely complement those of the wine. With all things chili, choose a red Louis Roche Saumur Champigny. The wine's vegetable notes will impeccably reflect the flavors in the chili. Tomato-based dishes, such as bruschetta or again chili, require a light red wine. Go-to options include the Zenato Valpolicella Classico Superiore, the Canti Barbera d'Asti Superiore or the Beni di Batasiolo Langhe. Last but not least, the vege burger. You'll definitely want to go with a chardonnay from France's Burgundy region for this one. Although many varieties exist, the Albert Bichot Chardonnay Vielles Vignes will suit the flavors of the burger to a tee. Unfortunately, Montréal does not have any bring your own wine vegetarian/vegan restaurants, but you can definitely pick up some of these ingredients and stop by an SAQ to test out our suggestions with a home-cooked meal!

Photo : Aleksandra

Photo : Cathy Chaplin

Pairing Wine with Montreal Cuisine


Montréal is all about authentic comfort food. We're in the cold for more than half of the year, so we like to stay warm by eating heavy--burgers, poutines, smoked meat sandwiches, you name it. With over 20 active breweries, we also know how to make great beer, so it comes to no surprise that beer would be our go-to choice for pairings with the above-mentioned dishes. Come spring, we flock to rural sugar shacks to indulge in fatty, yet oh-so-delicious sugar shack-style meals drenched in maple syrup. You'll want to balance out the sweetness of the maple syrup in such dishes with an oaked white wine like the Château St Jean Chardonnay. With its finish evoking notes of maple syrup, this wine is sure to make a wonderful pairing. Pork dishes are also very popular in Montréal. For these, you'll want to go with a neutral white wine like a Chardonnay, a Saumur or a Bourgogne Aligoté. Last but not least, we also enjoy adding our Montréal twist to meals typically enjoyed by our cousins in France--braised red meats, stews and anything with gravy. With such dishes, opt for a red Bordeaux like the Château Pelan Bellevue.

Classic hamburger with cheese - You can find a similar dish at Terrasse Lafayette.

Château St Jean Chardonnay, $19.95 - Bold with woody and fruity aromas.

Dupéré Barrera Côtes du Rhône Villages, $19.50 - Nice acidity, floral aromas and notes of pepper, chocolate and jammy black fruits. A sure shot every time!

Photo : Glenn Keefer

Grain-fed veal chop - You can find a similar dish at Le Quartier Général.

Château Pajzos Tokaji Furmint, $14.05 - Dry with refreshing acidity and floral, fruity and floral notes.

Pont Neuf Vin De Pays Du Gard, $16.50 - Organic. Dry with spicy, fruity and vegetal aromas, refreshing acidity and smooth tannins.