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1 2 | t h e c l e v e r r o o t ANYONE WHO LOVES FOOD and loves wine knows that the marriage of the two can be the ethereal equivalent of 1 + 1 = 3. Although, I have to admit, on any given night, I think it's probably more important to match wine to mood than to food. With one big exception—or, rather, eight of them. When any of the following eight "killer" foods are involved, I pay attention. Because any one of them has the potential to make wine taste as bland as tap water, as metallic as tin foil, as bitter as burnt coffee or as stewed as canned spinach. Watch out. ARTICHOKES Artichokes contain cynarin, an amino acid that can produce the impression of cloying sweetness and an unpleasant, metallic taste in wines. Drink Cabernet Sauvignon or other high-tannin wines with artichokes and the wine will taste hollow at best, and possibly like a tin can. ASPARAGUS Asparagus contain mercaptan, a skunky-smelling compound associ- ated with spoilage in wine. Want your $25 wine to taste like Two Buck Chuck? This is the way to go. (On the bright side: some wines—notably Sauvignon Blanc—can work well enough if you grill the asparagus and slather them with fruity extra virgin olive oil). CRUCIFEROUS AND LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts and related vegetables release sulfur compounds when cooked, contributing off-flavors to wines. With these foods, your great Cab will taste like canned green beans. Pinot Noir will taste like a swamp. Hello, chefs: Can you please stop putting the protein on a bed of wilted spinach? EGGS Eggs also contain sulfur and release sulfur compounds when cooked, often contributing an off-flavor to wines. On the really disgusting list of food and wine combos: eggs and oaky Chardonnay. CHILES Hot chiles contain capsaicin, which can make wines high in alcohol taste unpleasantly hot, and accentuate über-dryness in tannic wines. Zinfandel and chiles can blow your head off with heat and alcohol. WHITE WINE VINEGAR Vinegar and foods pickled in vinegar contain high con- centrations of acetic acid, which makes wine taste bitter, astringent or sour. Make that salad dressing with lemon instead of vinegar—or use a higher-grade aged vinegar like top-notch Sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar. RAW GARLIC AND RAW ONION Raw garlic and raw onion are both so strident and palate-coating that they make most wines taste like nothing—or like garlic and onions. Smart cooks sauté garlic or onions before cooking with them if they intend to drink wine too. The perfect answer for that raw-onion-laden guacamole or a burger loaded with raw onion? Drink beer. CHOCOLATE Only one partner is going to win in this marriage, and it isn't the wine. Chocolate is such a powerful, deep and complex flavor that it neuters most wines and makes them taste blank. The only wines that work with chocolate are wines that are more powerful, deep and sweet themselves—like the fortified wines Port and Madeira. Risky Relationships THE EIGHT KILLER FOODS THAT MAKE WINE TASTE TERRIBLE by Karen MacNeil Karen MacNeil is the author of The Wine Bible and the editor of WineSpeed. Reach her at The Winemaker's View I asked a dozen Napa Valley winemakers to tell me the worst foods ever served with their wines. "Grape- fruit salad and Cabernet" seemed pretty bad, fol- lowed by "banana cream pie and Cabernet." Many winemakers mentioned chocolate. Said Pam Starr, winemaker and co-owner of Crocker & Starr, "The worst pairing is red wine with chocolate. The acid and sugar of the chocolate de- stroy the flavors of red wine. If you need to eat chocolate, get yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy the chocolate. But don't ruin my wine with that decadent dark stuff!" ■cr PAIRINGS

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