Olives and Wines: The Perfect Pairings

November 16, 2020  |  By Liz SanFilippo Hall
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The olive harvest in Sicily, as experienced on a food tour of ItalyThe olive may be a small fruit, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in variety and flavor. All those different flavors are due to a number of factors: from how the olives thrive in many climates and soils (from Morocco to California) to how they’re cured. And when it comes to curing, there really is a wide range of ways to turn this bitter fruit into something that we at The International Kitchen love to snack on, particularly when they’re paired with some wine and cheese.

Learn about Italian olive oils on a culinary vacation in Italy.

Plate of olivesDepending on the olive producer, after the olives are plucked from the trees, they are cured, marinated, or fermented with either water, brine, oil, or lye. Some methods even include curing the olives out in the sun. These different methods may have an impact on what wines pair best with the olives, but, generally speaking, most olives have a pungent or salty taste. And no matter how they’ve been prepared, you’re going to want a wine that balances out that intense flavor.

Olives and cheese on a culinary vacation in ItalyFor starters, if the olives you’re enjoying are particularly briny, sip on a dry sherry or other dry wines; very light and crisp white wines can balance the olives’ flavor too.

Learn to cook authentic Spanish food in Spain’s olive country.

Add the Cheese Please!

Olive and wine pairings can become more complicated when you also consider what cheese you’ll be serving with your olive and wine tasting. If you’re serving asiago cheese, for one, go with a Pinot Grigio along with cerignola olives or super supreme whole green olives. Cheddar cheese? Think more along the lines of picante green pitted olives with tawny ports as well as Burgundys or Barolos.

Try a recipe for Provencal tapenade.

Olives ready for pressingWhat’s inside those olives matters too. If they’re stuffed with, say, blue cheese, go for a full-bodied red. On the other hand kalamata olives, no surprise here, go with feta cheese, as well as a range of dry Greek wines, light reds, and Pinot Noir. Alternatively, if they’re stuffed with gorgonzola, opt for full-bodied and robust reds like Chiantis and Bordeaux.

Discover French olives on a culinary tour of Provence.

Harvesting olives during your Greek culinary tourDown on the beautiful island of Sicily – where you can pick out a plethora of olives from the local markets during a cooking vacation – choose a Zinfandel to go with their famous jumbo green olives. Sicilian green cracked olives also go well with Marsala wines.

Enjoy an authentic southern Italian fish recipe featuring olives.

Are you planning on dining on an olive medley or olive salad? Then the possibilities seem endless, but a versatile wine, like a dry red such as a Barolo or Chianti, or a dry white could work well.

Olives at market during your gastronomic holiday in ProvenceWhat are your favorite wines to drink while you savor the flavors of an antipasto of olives?

You can explore olives by traveling to many of our destinations. Some even offer the possibility of joining in the olive harvest, such as our Farm-to-Beach Gourmet Getaway in Greece and Living the Real Tuscan Dream!

By Liz Hall

Learn about pairing wine with fish and seafood.

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