Friday, March 30, 2012

Wine Pairing Suggestions for Salt Cod (Bacalhau)

Salt cod (bacalhau) and red wine
With the approach of Holy Week (Semana Santa), Brazilians' culinary thoughts turn primarily to two things - chocolate and salt cod (not necessarily together). These two foods are symbolic of the Easter season in Brazil, and in past years Flavors of Brazil has highlighted these food at this time of year. (Click here to read more about salt cod and here for Easter chocolates).

Although Brazilians drink much more beer than wine throughout the year, it's traditional to serve wine at the Good Friday and Easter feasts. As salt cod's traditional link to the Easter season is an inheritance from Portuguese culture, wine is the customary beverage, as Portugal has always been a wine-loving nation.

The problem is that pairing salt cod (bacalhau) with wine is a tricky business, and one can go seriously wrong. Salt cod's high salinity and complexity of the way it is normally cooked with other flavors such as onion, tomatoes, potatoes, olives, olive oil, etc. make it difficult to find a wine that stands up to the strong flavors and that complements them.
Salt cod (bacalhau) and white wine

In a recent article on the website of Prazeres da Mesa magazine, a number of Brazilian wine writers highlight some interesting suggestions. Here's a bit of what they had to say about suitable varietals to serve with salt cod (translations by Flavors of Brazil).
Chardonnay (unoaked) - This white wine has a consistent structure and an agreeable freshness. It works well with dishes containing flaked salt cod which normally retains more salt than filets of salt cod.

Carménère -  This Chilean red-wine varietal stands up well to salt cod dishes which contain green peppers, a notoriously tricky flavor when it comes to wine pairings.

Pinot Noir - This grape, known for its smoothness and balance, is recommended when salt cod is roasted or served with few other flavors.

Vinhão (also known as Souzão) - From Northern Portugal's Douro regions, red wines made with this grape combine exceedingly-well with salt cod dishes that contain a lot of olive oil.

Touriga Nacional - Another Portuguese varietal, Touriga Nacional red wines are the perfect accompaniment for salt cod dishes containing cream, or other rich casseroles.


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