I recently had a wine-tasting host ask if it would be possible to do a fruit-only wine tasting, where the only food served would be fruit. She has a lot of friends with special dietary needs and thought that a fruit-only wine tasting could be a fun alternative. I said I was game, but I wanted to spend some time coming up with specific suggestions. In this article, I’ll share what I came up with.
What I Normally Recommend
When I work with my wine-tasting hosts, I advise them to buy the following wine-friendly appetizers:
- 3-4 cheeses
- Water crackers or sliced baguette
- Dark chocolate
- Berries, grapes or pears
- Potato chips (good with sparkling wine)
- These foods are great because they complement the wines without overwhelming them. They work well with a wide variety of wines. And they give people the chance to see which cheeses and fruits pair best with different wines.
Two Challenges with a Fruit-only Wine Tasting
Finding a palate cleanser. I needed to find a fruit that would serve as a palate-cleansing water cracker to help people get ready for a new wine. Normally I would think that an apple could serve this purpose. But I know that apples can be challenging in wine tastings because of their acidity. So I decided to use a Bosc pear for this purpose. What I like about Bosc pears is they’re firm and not overly flavorful.
Dealing with the sweetness of the fruit. Whenever your food is sweeter than your wine, the wine can turn sour and astringent. How do you deal with that?
A Documented Experience from Sunset
I was thrilled to find an article by Sunset Wine Editor Sara Schneider about a fruit-only wine tasting that she did. She said the tasting was very challenging. Here is what she served:
- Two stone fruits – apricots and white peaches
- Three berries – raspberries, strawberries and blueberries
- Fresh figs – green and purple
Schneider used the fruit as the basis for her tasting. She started with the stone fruit, where she had three successes (off-dry Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Viognier) and three failures (Grenache Blanc, Albariño, Gewürztraminer). She then went to the berries, where she had two successes (Grenache, Rosé Cava), and three failures (Sparkling Rosé, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel). She finished with her figs, where she had two successes (Sèmillon, Tawny Port) and two failures (Rosé Cava, Zinfandel).
Instead of using the fruit as the basis for the tasting, I’m planning to use the wine. So we’ll go wine by wine, trying all the fruits with each wine. On the wine side, I’m going to recommend these wines, which typically go with these fruits:
- Sparkling Wine – Grapes, peaches, strawberries
- Riesling – Apricots, pears
- Sauvignon Blanc – Green apples
- Chardonnay – Apples, pears, peaches
- Pinot Noir – Figs, strawberries, cherries
- Cabernet – Cherries
- Zinfandel – Blackberries
Pulling all of this together, here are the fruits we’ll need: grapes, peaches, strawberries, green apples, pears, figs, cherries and blackberries, along with Bosc pears as the palate cleanser.
Based on Schneider’s experience, I will tell my friend that this will be a “fun” learning experience where we are likely to find some combinations that are fantastic along with some combinations that really don’t work.
If you’ve done a fruit-only wine tasting, please share your experiences here. Thanks.
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