Olives and Wines: The Perfect Pairings
The 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 people all the world over love to snack on, particularly when they're paired with some wine and cheese.
Depending on the olive producer, after the olives are plucked from the trees, they'll be cured or marinated 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, you're going to want a wine that balances out all that flavor.
For 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.
Olive and wine pairings can become more complicated when you also consider what cheese you'll be serving with your olive and wine tasting too. 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.
What's in 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, as well as light reds and Pinot Noir. Alternatively, if they're stuffed with gorgonzola, opt for full-bodied and robust reds, like Chiantis, and Bordeaux.
Down 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.
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.
What are your favorite wines to drink while you savor the flavors of an antipasti of olives?
By Liz Hall