The pleasures of summer are coming to a close. School is starting back, and the vegetables are beginning to change. But there's still time to enjoy my favorite vegetable in the summertime: corn. I cherish the moments that I can have grilled corn, corn on the cob, Mexican street corn, creamed corn—I could go on and on. I remember the day my mother taught me how to eat corn on the cob. It was a hot summer day in Annapolis, Md., and we were having a barbecue. I was 8 years old, and in my mind, my mom "forced" me to eat this terrible-looking thing.
However, once I finally got past the torture, I tasted this glorious vegetable. At the time, I used to smother it with butter and salt. Now I try to watch the calories, but my goodness was this sweet corn tasty. To this day, I can’t get enough of it. Once I found my passion in wine, I wondered which variety would pair well with corn. Most people think of just the protein when pairing food. However, the vegetables are just as important. The flavor profile of corn is typically sweet, savory, rich and sometimes buttery. It all depends on how it is prepared.
A grape variety that stands out in my mind when I think of this type of flavor profile is chardonnay. Chardonnay is one of the most well-known white grape varieties in the world and is perfect for corn. There are many different styles of chardonnay, and I find that chardonnays that have nuances of butter, vanilla and baking spices work best.
You may have noticed that I did not use the term "oaky." Most people assume that when you say a wine is "buttery" you are going to use the term "oaky" as well. A master sommelier once told me to never use the term "oaky." He said that "Guests most likely have never licked an oak tree, so why use a descriptor that they cannot relate to?" You can relate to the smell of fresh pine needles but not the taste of fresh oak. When vintners use oak barreling in white wine, the wine will typically give off nuances of butter, vanilla and baking spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. So those are the descriptors you should use when you are describing a wine that is supposedly "oaky."
Here are a few of my favorite wines that would pair best with corn. Check them out at your local wine shops and try something new.
—Steele Winery Cuvee, ’10, California, $18
—Shannon Ridge High Elevation, ’12, Lake County, $22
—Laetitia Estate, ’09, Arroyo Grande Valley, $24
—Concha y Toro Amelia, ’10, Casablanca Valley (Chile), $31
—Martinelli Bella Vigna, ’09, Russian River Valley, $40
—Grgich Hills, ’06, Napa Valley, $42
—Wild Yeast Miner, ’09, Napa Valley, $42
—Hanzell, ’09, Sonoma Valley, $75
—Kistler McCrea Vineyard, ’09, Sonoma Mountain, $94
Michelle Richards is a certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Along with hosting wine tastings for local organizations, she serves up wine goodness at St. John’s Restaurant. Your can contact her by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
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