Pairing corn with wine? A few suggestions

Potager owner-chef Paul Warthen accepted our challenge to create a four-course menu featuring Olathe sweet corn, so, naturally, wife Eileen, a certified sommelier, stepped up with wine pairings. It wasn't easy, but here are Eileen Warthen's wine-with-corn picks, with comments.

Image of bubbly
Always a safe choice with food: bubbles!

Corn Consomme: Haykin Family Cider’s “Summer” ($12 for 375 ml)

“Because of the extremely delicate tendencies of this summer soup, the best pairing would be something crisp and elegant… and bubbly! Haykin Family Cider from Aurora has a cider called “Summer” with apples sourced from Masonville Orchards utilizing the earliest fruit of the season. These flavors present a lively and sprightly acidity. The brightness will go well with the sweetness of the consomme without overpowering the nuances of the spices. At Potager, we rotate the cider selections we pour from Haykin Family, often choosing ciders on the drier side with refreshing acid to pair well with our seasonal menu.”

Huitlacoche Cavatelli with Corn Puree and Shaved Summer Vegetable Salad: Le P’tit Paysan Chardonnay ($19 a bottle)

“This dish is all about the interesting textures, so the wine must pair well with all the different mouth-feels. The sweetness of the corn is on display here, but there are also earthiness and herbaceousness that should not be disregarded. For this pasta, a textured but high-acid Chardonnay should do the trick, something with just enough oak to give it a little weight but nothing with so much oakiness that it leans toward buttery. The perfect balance is what we are looking for here, and Ian Brand’s introductory label Le P’tit Paysan is just the Chardonnay to do it. Le P’tit Paysan is on our by-the-glass list at Potager because it is a small production, sustainably-farmed, cooler climate Chardonnay from Monterey, California. Some people scoff at California Chardonnays these days, claiming they are all ‘too oaky and buttery,’ but there are some great French-style, mineral-driven options out there, like this one from the San Francisco Chronicle’s winemaker of the year. The texture of the wine with the creaminess of the puree and the heartiness of the pasta is a match made in heaven.”

Gargouillou with Summer Succotash, Charred Salsa, and Corn Cakes: Domaine Pecheur Poulsard (about $23 a bottle)

“This dish is so fun because it showcases the flavors of summer. What a great color palette to work with! For beverage pairing, you really could do anything here: a crisp summer pilsner, a bright, high-acid white wine, or my personal favorite, an earthy, terroir-driven red like Domaine Pecheur Poulsard from the Jura region of France. A lesser-known grape varietal, Poulsard is appealing as a summer red because of its wild red berry flavors and pleasant airiness. I suggest chilling this wine slightly to enhance its refreshing quality while maintaining its earthy aromatics and fresh style. The pairing of the light, almost mushroomy red and the charred character of the salsa just screams summertime. Each component of the gargouillou will interact with each sip of this unique red in a fun way!”

Cherry Cornbread Upside Down Cake with Corn Ice Cream: Vietti Cascinetta Moscato D’asti ($16 a bottle)

“Finishing your meal off with such a yummy dessert calls for a simple, crisp, not-too-sweet after dinner wine like Vietti Moscato d’Asti. Frizzante in style, this wine has flavors of ripe stone fruit while maintaining a fresh, bright minerality that will pair beautifully with the tart and sweet cake. Again, too, the texture of the slight bubbles with the heartier cornbread is a delight for your mouth.”

And a few last words from Eileen:

“Wine and food pairings don’t have to be serious or strict. Especially in the summer, they should be fun and lively and enhance the flavors without taking too much effort. When in doubt, drink bubbles!”

She still works the occasional shift at nearby Joy Wine & Spirits, where most of her selections can be found. Says Eileen, “The staff at Joy is amazing at keeping a great selection of small producer wines, similar to how we model the list at Potager.”

See our ode to corn, along with Paul’s menu, at denverlifemagazine.com/buttered-salted-beloved/

Potager Restaurant & Wine Bar
1109 Ogden St., Denver

Joy Wine & Spirits
1302 E. 6th Ave., Denver