The cashew may not be the most common nut worldwide (it’s behind almonds, walnuts and pistachios), but it’s certainly one of the most beloved. The rich, creamy flavor hints at peanuts, almonds and macadamias, but has no substitute.
Its uniqueness starts on the tree, where what we know as the cashew is actually the seed of the much larger cashew fruit. Even stranger is that the cashew is in the same plant family as mangoes and poison ivy. When snacking on cashews or using them as the centerpiece of a dish, pull out some of their subtle flavors with the right wine.
Cashews’ sweetness is subtle, so instead of pairing with a sweet wine, try a white that merely hints at sweetness. Malagousia is a Greek grape variety that yields dry wines that are seductively aromatic with roses, peaches and tropical fruits. It’s an unusual and delicious match.
Cashews are usually roasted and salted to bring out their full flavor. Txakoli, a very dry and slightly fizzy wine from Spain’s Basque country, acts as a refreshing counterpoint to cashews, while contributing a similar saline tang. It’s a great alternative to beer with nuts.
You’d think that the buttery quality of cashews would pair well with an oaked wine, but too much oak can overwhelm their delicacy. Sparkling Crémant d’Alsace cuts through the nut’s richness but offers ripe fruit and, as it ages, its own buttery notes.
While cashews don’t have the tannic woodiness of, say, walnuts, they can recall “sweet” hardwoods like maple and cherry. German Pinot Noir, aka Spätburgunder, tends to bring out the grape’s spicy side, with complementary flavors of cinnamon, allspice and clove.
This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!