Believe it or not, sourdough bread did exist before it became one of the biggest quarantine trends of 2020. In fact, there are ancient texts that wax poetic about sourdough starters, the mix of flour and water that develops live cultures and, as the name implies, serves as the bread’s starting point.
Within each starter, a swarm of yeast and bacteria creates acids that give sourdough its characteristic flavor. The complex taste is difficult to achieve with commercial yeast or chemical leaveners, and pairing it with the right wine can help you appreciate it even more.
Acetic acid, the primary component of vinegar, is what puts the sour in sourdough. Amplify this note with a wine that has a similarly prominent high-acid component like Chablis. Made from 100% Chardonnay, it’s laser sharp, but it also has a mineral note that would work well with the woodiness of just-baked bread.
Lactic acid is also present in sourdough. Creamier or more yogurt-like than acetic acid, it’s something that expert bakers sometimes choose to highlight in their loaves. With notes of stone fruit and mandarin orange, Viognier blends with this quality like a savory version of peaches and cream, or a Creamsicle.
Bread will almost always retain a hint of the yeast’s pleasant piquancy. Wine aged on the lees, the spent yeast cells left from fermentation, imparts similar characteristics. A traditional-method sparkling wine that spends 36 months on the lees, Northern Italy‘s Trento Riserva has high acidity and bready, nutty flavors that would complement that yeastiness.
While sourdough is delicious straight from the oven, torn into pieces and slathered in butter, its flavors magnify when it’s sliced and toasted. Malbec‘s black-and-blue fruit flavors are accompanied by toasty notes of tobacco and cacao that offer a surprisingly sympathetic pairing with toasted sourdough.