What's the best wine to serve with bell peppers?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Which wine is the most correct to serve with bell peppers?

—Carla M., Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Dear Carla,

I wouldn’t say there is a “correct” wine pairing, just as I wouldn’t say there is an “incorrect” pairing. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have some advice.

Bell peppers and wine have a funny relationship. Both bell peppers and wines that taste like bell peppers have an organic compound called pyrazine. It’s considered part of the personality of some grapes, and of the wines made from those grapes. But the more exposure grapes have to sunlight, the less pyrazines there will be. So, the bell pepper, “vegetal” note found in some wines is sometimes tied to undesired unripe flavors, and it can be considered a flaw when it’s an overpowering element. That said, I expect (and like, to a degree) a little bit of bell pepper in my Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Other people, not so much.

So if you’re sitting down and just eating raw bell peppers and throwing back some wine, what would you drink? Strangely enough, I’d recommend some of the wines that I mentioned as having the same bell pepper notes. Bell pepper flavors can be very strong, and in my experience, similar flavors in wine and food tend to cancel each other out, and you’re left to appreciate the wine’s other characteristics. If you’re cooking the peppers, you’ll also need to consider the rest of the dish to find a wine pairing that works for you.

—Dr. Vinny

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