Popping a cork with the hot corn

Popcorn and Wine
I never thought I would write a column on corn and wine pairings, let alone my baffling and surprising moment of matching wine with popcorn.

My interest was sparked while reading Andrea Immer’s book, Great Tastes Made Simple. Immer declares corn is one of the most fundamental wine foods and she has yet to find a wine that it doesn’t flatter.

Corn is one of America’s largest crops, grown from sea to shining sea and found in many varieties of food, from popped to polenta. And corn, according to Immer, has an ideal partner in one of America’s favorite wines, chardonnay.

After she discovered the affinity of chardonnay and corn she dug deeper into the many regional cuisines celebrating corn — from country grits in Charleston, S.C., and Cuban arepas to New Mexican blue cornmeal breading for fried calamari and even toasted-hominy croutons.

But the most surprising pairing is popcorn. Try Immer’s popcorn test for an eye-opening tutorial. You can use already popped corn or make it yourself. For my experiment, Iused a microwave buttered popcorn and a creamy, buttery full-bodied chardonnay, which, with the popcorn, made an even more flavorful, buttery blend. The saltiness of the popcorn brought a refreshing flavor to the wine. It wasn’t the magical pairing reminiscent of say, port and Stilton or goat cheese and sauvignon blanc, but I agree popcorn and chardonnay are a good (and nonplussing) match.

Light-bodied corn dishes such as fritters, hush puppies, corn salsa, buttered corn on the cob and cornbread should work well, too.

The value chardonnay is the wine Immer paired with popcorn during her taste tutorial. 

THE VALUE

  • 2011 Lindeman’s Bin 65 Chardonnay, Australia (about $8 retail)

THE SPLURGE 

  • 2010 Estancia Monterey County Chardonnay, California (about $15 retail)

For fuller-bodied corn dishes such as corn pudding, polenta, cheese grits, creamed corn, corn casserole, corn chowder or creamed hominy, try these. 

THE VALUE

  • 2010 Toasted Head Chardonnay, California (about $15 retail)

THE SPLURGE 

  • 2010 La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, California (about $25 retail)