Thursday, July 14, 2016

Wine-pairing challenge: Chicago dogs

I don't usually like absurd food-wine pairing stories (what wine goes with ramen? what wine goes with Swedish fish?) but this actually happened this week: I was offered a wine-pairing challenge, and I accepted.

My friend Liz lives in Oakland near Berkeley. But she sides with the Berkeleyites: she doesn't have a TV. And naturally she's not from Berkeley; nobody is. She's a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, which means this is her best year ever.

Seriously, Cubs fans, who even needs television? Since its debut at the 1939 New York World's Fair, television has not shown the Cubs celebrating a championship. Bad TV! In fact, radio, which goes back to 1916, hasn't handled one either. The last Cubs title was announced, literally, by men climbing tall buildings holding signs.

But Liz wanted a TV this week because she wanted to watch the All-Star Game, with the National League fielding an all-Cubs infield. Rather than fly to San Diego, which she considered, or buy a set and hook it up to Dish Network, she opted for the cheaper alternative of coming to my house with a Chicago dog assembly kit she ordered from Vienna Beef in Chicago.

An ordinary hot dog is not a difficult wine pairing. It's sausage: wine goes with sausage. Mustard and onions, no problem. (Adults should not put ketchup on a hot dog.) Cheese and chili, fine. Sauerkraut -- I was recently in Alsace, we can work with that.

But a Chicago dog is a Level 5 Wine Pairing Catastrophe.

In addition to cheap yellow mustard and a tomato slice, it has a dill pickle slice; sport peppers, which are also pickled; and neon green relish that scares me. Celery salt is shaken on top of the whole thing.

If I were going to do a Top 10 Difficult Wine Pairing Ingredients list, dill pickles and pickled peppers would be on there. There's also the overall bleacher-bum gestalt of the thing. You can't have Dijon mustard because that's too fancy. You can't get garlic dill pickles because they're too high falutin'. In fact, who in their right mind would even consider wine with a Chicago dog?

Which of course made it interesting.

I had a few options lined up. The obvious, Spatlese Riesling from the Mosel. A Soave. A pink sparkling wine I expected to be slightly sweet, and a sparkling red wine I expected to be very sweet.

Buy it here
But the winner was the one I projected all along: Prosecco Cartizze, in this case from the large producer Mionetto.

I had had the bottle sitting around for a long time because I never found the right opportunity to open it. You expect to make mimosas with Prosecco, share it with your non-oenophile friends, or perhaps pour it over your head to celebrate a championship if you are a San Francisco Giants fan.

But Prosecco Cartizze costs too much for that. Most Proseccos cost less than $10. This one goes for nearly $35. Cartizze is a small area inside Valdobbiadene where the best grapes are believed to come from. However, the nature of these grapes is that the wines are considered best with residual sugar. Most Prosecco Cartizzes are at least slightly sweet; some are very sweet. I went to Valdobbiadene once and tried some dry Prosecco Cartizzes, and no, they aren't very good.

So I had this bottle of Prosecco that's slightly sweet and pricey and there was just never the right opportunity for it, until Tuesday. But like the Cubbies, it was just waiting for the right moment. It was perfect! This version was barely sweet; it was elegant, more Champagne-like in its mouthfeel than you expect Prosecco to be. You need a little sweetness for the peppers and pickles, and this was delicious. Buy it here.

I realize most Cubs fans would have just had an Old Style, but you know what Cubs fans: how's that working out for you, championship-wise, stocking Old Style in your fridge waiting to pour it over each others' heads? Maybe a little Chicago-dog-friendly bubbly is what you need to change fate. Though this is an even year, so good luck with that.

Follow me on Twitter: @wblakegray and like The Gray Report on Facebook.


W. Blake Gray said...

It's available anywhere that wine can be shipped to, 36 states I believe. Though I can't argue that they get good European wines before the rest of us. But I've got some great California wines here that New Yorkers never see.

Unknown said...


How did the Spatlese Riesling from the Mosel pair?


Unknown said...

Paralleling your Cartizze experience, I found that an off-dry to lightly sweet Vinho Verde with good spritz worked brilliantly with a variety of compounded dogs; it's cheaper, too!

Liz Barrett said...

As a Chicagoan, a Liz, a huge Cubs fan, and a wine lover (and wine snob, to be quite frank) - this post is awesome! As for the best bev pairing: sorry, wine, it is Goose Island Green Line IPA.javascript:void(0)