In the wine world, there is plenty of conventional wisdom about food and wine pairings. Most people know the “red wine and red meat” rule, for example. Other people are guided by the idea of the “white wine with fish” rule. Years ago, that was the extent of my wine knowledge.
I’m inspired to drink and eat more widely after reading “Big Macs & Burgundy: Wine Pairings for The Real World” by Vanessa Price with Adam Laukhuf. Without a doubt, “Big Macs and Burgundy” is the best food-wine pairing book in the world. Don’t believe it? Here are ten things I learned from this beautiful and easy-to-read wine book.
1) The 2 Laws of Food Wine Pairing Are Simple
After reading this 239 page book on food-wine pairing, you could try to memorize all of the pairings (a fun challenge!). Or you could do yourself the favor of learning the principles of food-wine pairing.
- Congruent. A congruent pairing means the food and wine have similar qualities. For example, an acidic dish and an acidic wine can work well (e.g., fried chicken with Meursault, an oaked Chardonnay from France).
- Contrasting. Opposites can also work well in food-wine pairing. This type of food wine pairing works because you get to experience variety. A contrasting food wine pairing champagne with fried chicken is a contrasting pairing.
If you are relatively new to wine, these principles might not mean much. Keep reading, and you will see some of the specific food wine pairings highlighted in “Big Macs & Burgundy: Wine Pairings For The Real World.”
2) Pairing Wine With Spicy Food
I love spicy foods like Indian cuisine. There’s just one problem. The intense flavors in curry dishes can overwhelm many wines. Fortunately, “Big Macs & Burgundy” covers the challenge of pairing wines with spicy foods.
- Indian and African Cuisine. Australian Shiraz and Alsace Gewürztraminer are mentioning. The book puts it this way: “The two cuisines share a similar heat and smoke profile – one that was made for wines that aren’t truly sweet but have a ripeness of fruit that conjures the softness of sugar, along with an equally spice-rich profile to complement the vibrancy of the seasonings.”
- General Tso’s With Beaujolais. This staple of Chinese take-out pairs well with several Beaujolais wines. The recommended entry-level wine is Clos de la Roilette Fleurie.
3) Looking For Wines To Enjoy During The Holidays?
Have you ever saved up to buy a special bottle of wine for an occasion? It is one of the ways to make your wine drinking experience even more special. Aside from Champagne, which always works to celebrate, “Big Macs & Burgundy” gives you plenty of good ideas. Here are some of the ideas highlighted in the book.
- Potato Latkes and Golan Heights Sparkling. Before reading this pairing, I had never heard of Israeli wines. This pairing sounds like it would be fun to try.
- Pumpkin Pie and Rutherglen Muscat. Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite desserts to enjoy in the fall. Rather than a traditional pairing idea, “Big Macs & Burgundy” goes in a completely different direction – recommending a sweet wine from South Australia.
4) Want To Pair Wine With Desserts And “Junk Food”? Check!
Traditionally, most people assume that wine has to go with fine cuisine. That’s not your only option. One of the most fun parts of “Big Macs & Burgundy” is the junk food style pairings. If you want to have a decadent night in on a budget, check out these ideas from the “Fast-Food Fixes chapter.
- Popeye’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich and Chenin Blanc Pet-Nat. Did you know that France makes excellent sparkling wine outside of the Champagne wine region? If not, this food-wine pairing is a great way to dive in—the mild heat on the sandwich pairs well with the refreshing sparkling wine.
- Shack Burger and Australian Shiraz. I last enjoyed a Shake Shack burger in Tokyo. Alas, I didn’t yet know about this fun food pairing idea. Specifically, look for the Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz from the Barossa Valley.
5) Upgrade Your “Netflix and Chill” With These Wine Pairings
Whether you are watching wine movies on Netflix or something different like “The Crown,” “Big Macs & Burgundy” has you covered.
- Stranger Things & Blue Wine. Made in Spain, blue wine is “made by filtering white wine through the pulp of red grape skins.”
- The Crown. Bollinger, a well-regarded French Champagne. Learn more about the Champagne wine region.
- The Marvelous Mrs. Marvel. Naturally, kosher wine is your best bet here. While much of the world’s Kosher wines are produced in Israel, other wine regions join the party. The book recommends Hagafen Cellars Prix Reserve Merlot from Napa Valley.
6) Steak and Wine Food Pairings.
Are you going for dinner at a steak house? The book covers wine pairings for every popular cut of meat. To give you a taste, here are some of the food-wine pairings suggested.
- Filet Mignon. Pair with Yountville Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.
- New York Strip. Pair with St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon
- Porterhouse. Pair this cut with Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.
7) It’s More Than Food and Wine Pairings – “Winesplaining”
The vast majority of “Big Macs and Burgundy” is dedicated to food and wine pairings. It is more than a list of pairings, though. The book also has short guides on various wine topics called “winesplaining” (like “mansplaining “but without the condescending tone) covering both arcane topics (e.g., the difference between hybrids and crosses) and other subjects (e.g., explaining sweetness levels in sparkling wine). That’s not all. The opening chapters equip the reader with a quick overview of the wine world.
Further, the author also includes an excellent page of “Vanessa’s Recommendations” if readers are looking for ideas for glasses, books, and websites to keep learning about wine. The recommended books include “The Oxford Companion to Wine “and “Wine and War: the French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure.”
8) Big Macs & Burgundy Includes Beautiful Photos and Illustrations
Nearly every page of the book includes beautiful images and illustrations. Interestingly, the actual food and wine pairings are depicted as drawings in most cases. I’ve included two examples below so you can see them for yourself.
9) You Learn About The Author’s Wine Journey
I don’t know about you, but I find biographies and origin stories fascinating. Vanessa Price shares her wine journey, which includes time in an unexpected place – Kentucky! I appreciate the thoughtful way that Price balances her considerable wine expertise while staying beginner-friendly. If you’re not interested in this part of the book, don’t worry. The vast majority of the book is focused on food and wine pairing ideas.
10) Big Macs & Burgundy Is Up To Date
Some older wine books refer to wines and wineries that you will probably never find. “Big Macs & Burgundy” is different. You’ll even find cutting-edge wines like sparkling wines made in southern England! Thanks to climate change, the United Kingdom is now becoming a player in the wine world.
Who Should Read “Big Macs & Burgundy”?
Overall, I consider “Big Macs & Burgundy” to be beginner-friendly. Since it is a short book that is very well illustrated, this wine book is a perfect gift for birthdays or Christmas. Since it was only published in 2020, there’s a good chance that your wine-loving friends and family members don’t own it yet.