Tangy, pickled Nordic wonderland
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As the weather continues to get colder, my cravings for Germanic and Scandinavian dishes tend to increase. Though originally from Denmark, I first came across Smørrebrød (pronounced smuhr-broht) while visiting Iceland in 2017. These open-faced sandwiches vary drastically in toppings, but typically feature dense rye bread topped with some form of dairy (butter or cream cheese) and pickled fish or vegetables with healthy amounts of dill. Smørrebrød are a staple of lunchtime in Denmark, and other Nordic countries.
What really sets these sandwiches apart for me is the tangy, pungent taste imbued by the pickled items. There are practically infinite combinations of these delicious sandwiches, and I usually just free-style based on what I have available at the time. This particular iteration featured a vegan garlic-scallion cream cheese spread with pickled dill sauerkraut and fresh radishes. Given the tangy, acidic pickled flavor, I knew that I would need a wine that can hold its own and not disappear into the background.
Riesling may seem like an odd pairing to some, especially if your first thought goes to Sweet Rieslings from the Mosel or other areas. I completely agree that a sweeter Riesling would not play that well with this dish, while it could still work if that is your personal preference (more power to you). For me, I want something acidic and crisp to help cut through the pungency of vinegar.
My Recommendation - Alsatian Riesling
Alsatian Riesling is a bit different from its neighbors in the Mosel. Thanks to steep inclines and colder, wetter weather, Alsace tends to produce Rieslings that are much brighter than those from Germany. Alsatian Rieslings are typically more acidic, with fresh citrus and floral notes that pair well with the region's traditionally heartier dishes. I have found, however, that these wines, with their hint of residual sugar, help balance dishes with heavy vinegar.
Why this bottle in particular?
Maison Trimbach is one of the most famous and highly regarded wineries in Alsace, having produced wine in the region since 1626. Their wines are noted for their crisp and acidic nature, with an outstanding presence of minerality on the palate. These wines are the perfect companion to numerous dishes, and I try to keep at least one Trimbach bottle on hand at all times.
Upon first sampling, this is a wine rich in citrus and earth aromas. Hints of honey, slate, and white flowers appear as the wine opens in the glass, with glimpses of petrol as well. The citrus notes on the nose and palate enhance the vinegar from the pickled items, while the earthier notes accent the dill, radish, and rye bread. The very slight residual sugars help to real the pairing back in just as it begins to veer towards acid-vinegar overload. This crisp, dry pairing will brighten up even the darkest of winter days.
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