Red wine with snake meat, white wine with bat?
If you were ever a fan of Survivor, the reality show where contestants survive on some pretty funky foraged foods, you might have wondered if the right wine might have made that meal a little more palatable.
We asked two gutsy, irreverent wine professionals to recommend wines to pair with "extreme" food choices. We even included suggested preparations. Our panel included Corey Bunnewith, consultant and proprietor of Beverage Influential and former cellar master at Balthazar, and Chenin Carlton, owner of Basket Case Wine in Oregon.
Wines for Snake
Taste profile: Described by some as "like a Cornish game hen, with a hint of gamey flavor."
Preparation: Often served in chili, or barbecued.
Corey Bunnewith says: Totally speaks to me, barbecued snake, rich and sweet with game. It says go out on a limb. Chilean Carmenere. Emiliana is a progressive producer that totally kills it with a 100% Carmenere from the Colchagua Valley called "Adobe." Why? Acidity, spice, and plump tannin. This pairing is all about being cohesive rather than contrasting the main flavor profiles.
Chenin Carlton says: I have actually had snake. It was many many years ago during Wild Game Week at the Napa Valley Grille. I think it was King Cobra? I remember trying it with a Zinfandel. So on that note, I'd go with Syrah. The blackberry fruit and spice of the wine are great to pair with strong gamey flavors. Syrah likes barbecue (like Zin) and the smoky-char flavors from grilling also pair well with Syrah.
Wines for BatTaste profile: Described as "like chicken," but with some sweetness to the meat.
Preparation: Served in Thailand roasted on charcoal, then mixed with fresh herbs, a little sugar, spicy paste, and fried.
Corey Bunnewith says: Vouvray, yes. Funky minerality, touch of sweetness, plush acidity, with a solid flavor profile of fresh lemon oil, peach flesh, and Jonagold apples. Francois Pinon, "Cuvee Tradition" 2007.
Chenin Carlton says: I'm a bit leery but here goes. I'd go with our Shy Chenin (Chenin Blanc). It's a very versatile dry white wine with nice fruit flavors and good acidity. The fruit flavors also go nicely with spices as well as tame their heat. The crisp acidity of Chenin Blanc pairs will with fried food. We also love this wine with herbed french fries and buttery popcorn as the acidity cuts through the oil and cleanses the palate.
Wines for Grasshoppers
Taste profile: Described as not tasting like much, this is more about crunchy texture than taste.
Preparation: Often dry-roasted and encased in semi-sweet chocolate.
Corey Bunnewith says: Chocolate and crunch. Robert Sinsky, you are my hero. Late harvest Pinot Gris, 2006, Los Carneros. How do I put this—match made in heaven. Thirst-quenching acidity and salty dry roasted grasshopper. Chocolate and ripe bramble berry and red fruit. You need to try this.
Chenin Carlton says: Going with your dry-roasted and dipped in chocolate description, I'm going with our Basket Case Cabernet Sauvignon. I've paired it with lots of chocolate and it's always been a hit. How can a little crunch hurt? Hershey's Crunch anyone? Although I do think it's better with dark chocolate than light chocolate. Maybe a grasshopper-bat mole?
About the author: Kara Newman has written about wine and spirits for such publications as Wine Enthusiast and Sommelier Journal magazines, and is the author of Spice & Ice, which explores 60 tongue-tingling cocktails.
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