A Pour for Poi

Pairing wine with an unusual dish

Tourists in Hawaii may find themselves at an entertaining luau where a featured traditional dish is poi – the root of the taro that has been cooked and mashed, and sometimes fermented. Long a mainstay of indigenous culture, poi has only recently been replaced in daily meals by rice. While not a daily staple, this local Hawaiian dish still holds cultural relevance and reverence.

I had never had poi, and my guests, Kiki Aranita and Chris Vacca of Poi Dog, were about to change that. I wanted to find a wine to pair with this unusual dish, but that presented challenges.

According to Kiki, this poi would be a bit sour and thick. Another helpful piece of information is that poi is often served with a salted meat or fish – especially the longer it has fermented.

Provided the wine is tasty (the most important aspect!), texture and flavors are the important characteristics to think about. So, how does the wine feel in your mouth? Is it creamy? Thin? Oily? Vermentino has a “thicker” feel, which I thought would be pleasant with the sticky poi. Next, try to figure out the type of flavor that will complement the food. If the food is sour, then I don’t want floral or tannic (too much contrast), but I might want light fruit or herb (a good complement to sour). In this case, since the poi is eaten with salty foods, I decided a wanted a wine with briny flavors.

Vermentino fits this characterization pretty perfectly, especially one from near the sea. The brine and clean, crisp apple/almond notes subtly flavored the poi.

Try these:

La Corsa Dueluglio Vermentino from Maremma*, Tuscany ($20-$25, a little tough to find)

Moris Farms Vermentino from Massa Marittima, Tuscany ($16-$20, slightly easier to find)

Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino from Sardinia ($10-$15, easier to find)

Cecci Vermentino La Mora from Maremma*, Tuscany ($10-$15, easiest to find)

*Read more about Italy’s Maremma region, and the La Corsa winery, here. http://winingarchaeologist.com/2015/09/04/ancient-world-modern-wine/