Pairing Wine with Middle Eastern Cuisine has become our most loved blog post.
We wanted to bring it over to our new website and we are determined to make it even more lovable. Not that it needed much work.
Back in 2016, I was asked to create a wine guide to go with an e-cookbook titled :
MIDDLE EASTERN SMALL PLATES Traditional Dishes for the Modern Kitchen.
The stunning cookbook was created by Ksenia Prints from AT THE IMMIGRANT’S TABLE.
To give you a bit of backstory, Ksenia is the person who encouraged me to enter the Cono Sur Food & Wine Pairing Competition, which I won, and subsequently went on to represent Canada in Paris, France. Needless to say, she’s changed my life in many ways. She’s a true talent and has a mega-watt smile that just lights up your life. I’m sure once you spend a little time on her website you will discover her ability to tell the most captivating stories, both with words and food.
Since the original pairing guide was published, two major things have happened :
- Food & Wine pairing has become way more popular than ever. It isn’t just something for special occasions anymore.
- Equally, the world of cuisine has undoubtedly reached a turning point…vegetables are all the rage these days! People are welcoming veggies into their lives in unprecedented ways.
As a Sommelier with almost two decades of experience, my pairing ability is now based entirely on vegetarian cuisine. As a pescatarian, my ability to pair food and wine has not only improved with age, but I am reaching a stride that simply astonishes me. I’m super stoked to share a deep passion with you and bring much needed value to the whole food and wine pairing mystery.
That’s why I’d like for you to meet, PAIRING WINE WITH MIDDLE EASTERN CUISINE 2.0
In this new guide, I promise to give you enough information that you will feel both confident (like reading a Forbes magazine) and excited to deep dive into this exciting opportunity to bring vibrant food & wine into your life.
Firstly, I’m going to let you in on a little secret:
You can drink almost any kind of wine with any kind of food and have a good time.
More importantly, you can have an extraordinary experience without much effort or expense. Sounds great, right?
Let’s start to deep dive and take a look at Middle Eastern Cuisine in its glory and truest state; it stands to reason that the same region would offer up wines that would make a perfect foil for Middle Eastern dishes.
Many people in the wine industry still claim that wines from the Middle East are a surprise to them. I’m not really sure why. This region is actually where the entire wine industry began – since the beginning of time. Not France, like we are led to believe. The French perhaps can take credit for the marketing and the commercialization of wine. As far as joie de vivre goes, they win that hands down, but if you take the time to look for wines from the Middle East you will find, as I do, wines of very high quality and character. Many are organic and have won awards both on the home front and abroad. Surprising? Not at all.
Jordan is one of the largest wine-producing regions in the Middle East, but the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon is responsible for producing over 7 million bottles alone. Why not search them out at your local wine store?
HINT: They should be in the section titled Middle East and European. Some stores have a specialty section with small lots of wines from ‘exotic’ locales like the Middle East, so it doesn’t hurt to ask what is available.
The recipes for Middle Eastern Small Plates will make your pulse quicken with the wonderful eclectic mix of ingredients. When I read the description of ‘pungent and brash’ with flavours of harissa, raw garlic and cilantro for the Moroccan Carrot Salad, my mouth watered and I thought “Yup, a nice fruity red will hit the spot.” I’ve tried gorgeous examples of Cabernet Sauvignon blends from Morocco and similar regions, priced under $15 that would pair so well with the carrot salad as well as the following dishes from the e-book:
- Roasted Eggplant Duo
- Eggplant Rolls
- Matboucha and Mushroom Boureka.
You may say, “What about me? I only drink white wine. You, my dear, are in for a real treat.
Sauvignon Blanc would be a great match for the Labaneh Balls. Goat cheese and Sauvignon Blanc is a wine and food pairing match made in heaven. After all, claims say that goat cheese is the first cheese made by man and that it all went down in the Middle East, so we are standing on some very hallowed ground. Sauvignon Blanc is a crowd pleaser and very refreshing. It would also pair wonderfully with:
- Green Falafel
- Hummus Mesabacha and Mushroom Bourekas.
Some of the best examples of Sauvignon Blanc come from France (the Loire Valley) and New Zealand.
I want to include a wine that will shake things up a bit, ’cause that’s what I do’. I immediately thought about Gewürztraminer. Despite its home in Alsace, Gewürztraminer has a decidedly Middle Eastern feel to it. Gewurtz is a spicy, exotic wine that is hard to spell and pronounce, but is simply divine.
FUN FACT: There is a small pocket in the Golan Heights near Mount Hermon that grows these grapes, for those who want to make the geographic connection.
I’d pair this wine with the Labaneh Balls, Roasted Eggplant Duo, Eggplant Rolls, Green Falafel and the Hummus Mesabacha. It would even be awesome with Mushroom Bourekas.
So if you were trying one or more dishes from the Small Plates collection and wanted one wine to go with everything, then Gewürztraminer is for you.
Now let’s venture to the other side of the region near the Turkish and Cypriot side and consider Greek wines. Boutari and Apelia are two brands that are accessible and readily available. They offer great food friendly wines in both red and white with exceptional bang for your buck, and they pass my helpful guideline below.
My only cautionary terms for pairing food and wine is to veer away from the trendy “Big Reds” that have:
- A. too much alcohol and
- B. too much oak.
A good majority of these wines are not necessarily wines that should be anywhere near food. In my opinion, these wines, if not used appropriately, are basically only good for making you pass out on the couch. (And, believe me, there are much cheaper ways to get drunk!).
If in doubt, you can always stay on the conservative side and select a fruity red like an Italian Merlot or Sangiovese.
As I was working on this guide, I stopped to have a glass of red wine. I passed a mirror and caught a glimpse of myself. I had the gorgeous glow in my complexion that comes from passionate living and a little bit of wine. We’ve revisited these Small Plates recipes over and over. We’re convinced that your taste buds dance; even better than those Instagram GIFs.
Our deepest wish is that you get hooked into the fun and enjoyable experience that is Food & Wine Pairing.
You can access Small Plates when you CLICK HERE.
We hope you enjoy the spectacular work of Ksenia from At The Immigrant’s Table.