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Wine pairing from SOMM Wines: The curious case of the coconut cake

Wine pairing from SOMM Wines: The curious case of the coconut cake

Krista Matthes is owner of SOMM Wines, located just off the square in Fairfield, Iowa. Find the recipes she mentions at the bottom of this article.

Coconuts are quite the conundrum. Contrary to what the name suggests, coconuts are not actually nuts but rather stone fruit grown in tall trees in tropical countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and India — and they present an intriguing wine pairing challenge for this seasoned sommelier!

At my wine store, SOMM Wines in Fairfield, Iowa, guests often ask me to pair wines with their favorite recipes. I love to flex my creative muscles and introduce them to the indigenous varietals grown alongside the recipes’ ingredients. For example, a structured Sangiovese drinks superbly with a Tuscan tomato-based pasta dish. The earthy acidity of the tomatoes highlights the rustic tannins of the red Sangiovese grape. If wine is not produced locally, I like to showcase opposing flavors, allowing both the food and wine to shine singularly. A classic example of counterparts is a sweet German Riesling with spicy Thai food. For this coconut cake recipe, I aim to balance and match the sweetness of the cake. I sell only one wine that provides both effervescence and decadence — Moscato d’Asti.

Another reason guests solicit my help with wine selections is that reading a wine label, especially from Old World countries, can feel intimidating. Wine buyers aren’t sure if they are looking at the grape, region or producer’s name, but don’t worry, your personal sommelier will assist you to better understand wine labels.

First, discerning the information on a wine label is like playing darts — each piece moves you from the outer rings closer to the bullseye. Second, labels must show the wine’s producer, the region where it was bottled, and sometimes (but not

always) the varietal. In today’s example, Moscato is the varietal, d’ means of, and Asti is the region. Bravo! That’s two very important pieces of our puzzle.

Finally, let’s narrow down to a singular producer. The only Moscato I carry is Saracco Moscato d’ Asti, Piedmont, Italy 2020 ($17.99). Saracco means “in the clouds” in Italian. The Saracco family has farmed the land since 1900 but did not bottle their wine for sale until the 1980s. (Before that they sold mostly to makers of vermouth and Asti Spumanti.) Moscato grapes were originally farmed to provide a simple table wine for the winemakers to enjoy. With its regulated low alcohol content, not to exceed 5.5% ABV, it was a smart wine to serve with meals that would not slow down the farmers. This also explains the residual sugars in the wine, having not been fully fermented into alcohol. The science of winemaking is relatively simple. Sugar + yeast = alcohol. More residual sugar, less alcohol. The spritz created by fermenting slowly below freezing in pressurized tanks is just a bonus to this irresistible drink.

This is where our pairing takes flight. The wine’s residual sugar and tropical notes of orange blossom and peach match the cake and tropical coconut, while the effervescence lifts the textures, allowing a refreshing and memorable final course of the evening.

SOMM Wines

Address: 102 E Briggs Ave., Fairfield, Iowa

Phone: 702-528-8101