Pairing Off: Fruitcake

Each week, Pairing Off attempts to find just the right bottle of wine to go with ordinary food.

Yes, it's the season when newspapers, magazines and blogs come up with as many ways as possible to mention eggnog, wassail and fruitcake.

Can't be helped, really. This is the only time of year when people buy fruitcake, for the most part. Instead of taking my advice from the previous post and ordering from Collin Street, I headed over to a Target Supercenter, figuring I'd find tins stacked near every checkout aisle.

My reasoning was solid. Though the Corsicana bakery sells millions of fruitcakes and a few hardy home cooks prepare them from scratch, most people grab the grocery store variety--and these flippant cakes with the sickly green jellied things poking out at odd angles are what come to mind when someone mentions fruitcake.

So what pairs up with one of these monstrosities?

Well, the wine guy at Goody Goody in Addison--after making a choking sound and letting me know (in no uncertain terms) that he hadn't touched one since he was four--resorted to a Viognier.

Actually, he pointed me toward a 2006 from Michael and David Phillips out of Lodi, California, called Incognito--which I think was some sort of veiled message.

The Incognito breathes oak, with pear and a touch of vanilla riding alongside. When sipped, the somewhat harsh woody impression you felt on the nose sinks away, leaving a more welcome realization of depth and soft mango. The wine is creamy, with nice fruit and a long, dried apricot finish--which would work well if I'd purchased one of those good fruitcakes.

Curiously, the Target stocked only a few sad slabs of fruitcake wrapped in cellophane. The candied fruit resembled tarted up paste and the bread smacked of honeyed pumpernickel. But it carried a wealth of pecans and had yet to dry out.

Pitted against this, a tropical flavor emerged in the wine, akin to pineapple. The cool oaken sensation transformed into clean white pepper. And the apricot finish fell away, leaving an acrid, soapy (yet oddly pleasant) taste.

Although the wine scared easily when confronted with cheap fruitcake, the pairing did work to some extent. The Viognier cut through some of that horrid candied taste, but allowed just enough character to survive.

A proper pairing complements rather than covers. And--as much as is possible--it complemented.

Though I wouldn't do it again.

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