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Dear Dr. Vinny,

How can foods be used to manipulate a wine to hide or diminish a flaw? For example, let’s say a Pinot Noir I just purchased has a pronounced tart, sour cherry note. What food pairing would lessen that impression?

—Amy G., Spooner, Wis.

Dear Amy,

Interesting question. There are two main strategies to pairing wine with food: either match or contrast flavors. I’m guessing matching won’t work here, since if you don’t like tart wines, you’re probably not going to enjoy tart foods, either.

So I’d take the contrast approach, which is particularly easy when it comes to wines with a tart or sour note, which can signify a jolt of acidity. Just as a squirt of lemon juice can brighten a dish, a Pinot Noir with a tart note would compliment the richness of salmon, pork, duck or cheddar cheese. I’d avoid too-heavy or too-sweet sauces, overly spicy preparations or bitter greens, which might make the Pinot seem shrill. I’d also stop short of trying to pair it with richer meat or game, which never works for me with Pinot Noir’s lighter body.

In the end, if you find a good pairing, the Pinot Noir will still have a tart, sour cherry note, but it will complement the flavors it’s matched against, and there should be some balance in your mouth. Good luck!

—Dr. Vinny

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