I had a killer craving for Käsespätzle last night. I usually drink beer when I’m eating Deutsch, but I decided to think outside the beer box and try to pair the Käsespätzle with a wine. But which wine? More and more, I’m trying to do pairings by thinking about food and wine weight instead of consulting food and wine rule books. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Food Notes: Käsespätzle (or Cheese Spätzle) is a German dish made with Spätzle (egg noodles/dumplings), Gruyère cheese, and caramelized onions. It’s the German spin on Macaroni & Cheese. When we’re in Germany, Käsespätzle is one of the first things I seek out. File this in your back pocket: Käsespätzle is one of the few vegetarian dishes you can order in Germany without raising any Teutonic eyebrows.
For my pairing, I used Wolfgang Puck’s recipe: Spätzle with Gruyère and Caramalized Onions.
If you have never made homemade Spätzle before, you should know it’s a PITA. It’s so worth the effort, but I don’t always have the time (or desire) to stand in my kitchen and babysit a modified colander full of oozing dough. So if you don’t have a Spätzle maker, you can cheat and use dry Spätzle from the store. I promise it won’t wreck your dinner. And Wolfgang Puck doesn’t care.
See? Voila — Käsespätzle! You can also substitute Emmenthaler cheese for the Gruyère. I’ve done that many times and it always turns out yummy. But never skip the caramelized onions or the nutmeg — they are magical.
Wine Notes: I really wanted this wine pairing to work. But I also really wanted to use a wine I already had in my wine fridge. I decided on a McPrice Myers Viognier, 2009. It was that or a Sauvignon Blanc, and something about that felt all wrong. The McPrice Viognier is no wallflower wine . . . it’s a full-bodied Viognier, very high in alcohol at 15%. If you’re into delicate, restrained wines, this probably won’t be your thing. Great big tropical nose, with flavors of apricot and orange. This wine is all about texture — it’s almost unctuous. And it’s low in acid, without being flabby. Did I mention it weighs in at 15% alcohol? Hot, hot, hot.
Pairing Notes: Did it work? Wunderbar! This is a substantial dish (the Germans don’t do light food), so it needs a substantial wine partner. The sweetness of the caramelized onions is a delicious contrast to the Spätzle and cheese. And that sweetness combined with the spice of nutmeg are the magical threads that tie the food and wine together. The wine heads off in a different and gorgeous direction. Flavors morph to almond, vanilla, toast and . . . nutmeg! Unexpected bonus — the Käsespätzle neutralizes some of the high alcohol “heat” that was pulling my focus in the wine by itself.