Let's say that in your post-apocalyptic wanderings, you stumble across a home or restaurant with a particularly sturdy—and well stocked—wine cellar. Suddenly you have a plethora of varietals at your fingertips, but your daily diet still consists of SPAM, small rodents, and MREs. How do you know which wines will best bring out the flavor of your post-apocalyptic cuisine?
Rats: Giant rat and cane rat (although, EmpressZombie notes in the comments, they are a very different species from brown rats) are a staple of certain West African cuisines, but the world's most famous wine-producing region has also been known for rat consumption. During the Franco-Prussian War, many French folks ate black and brown rats, and in the famed Larousse Gastronomique contains this rodent recipe:
Grilled Rats Bordeaux Style (Entrecote à la bordelaise)
Alcoholic rats inhabiting wine cellars are skinned and eviscerated, brushed with a thick sauce of olive oil and crushed shallots, and grilled over a fire of broken wine barrels.
I can only imagine that you would pair these wine-thieving rodents with a wine from the region, perhaps a nice Bordeaux Merlot to pair with rat's rabbit-like gaminess.
Squirrels: There are many foodies who consider squirrel the unsung meat, claiming the furry little critters taste a bit like boar or maybe a cross between duck and lamb. Squirrel is frequently braised in a dry red wine, such as a Claret, but a according to What to Pair with Wine's Joel Baxter the strong flavor of wild boar demands a complex wine like a Barolo or a Shiraz. If your squirrels fall more to the lamb-duck end of the flavor spectrum, opt for a Pinot Noir, which pairs well with both animals.
Possum: Another meat that was once popular in certain regions but has since fallen out of style. If prepared correctly, possum can have a flavor similar to dark chicken meat and is similarly versatile. The amateur wine buffs at Texas Wine Camp grew up eating possum and have a few wine recommendations: Merlot to pair with a tomato dish, Chardonnay for possum in cream sauce, and for baked herbed possum, a Sauvignon Blanc.
Photo by Ryan Snyder.
Slugs: A handy thing about slugs is that they take on the flavor of whatever you feed them—and you'll probably want to feed them for a while before you eat them so you don't end up eating garbage-infused slug. When Ron Zimmerman of The Herbfarm, a Washington restaurant that specializes in locally sourced Pacific Northwest foods, served up basil-and-carrot-infused slugs at one diner's request, he paired them with an acidic Chenin Blanc.
Crickets: Crickets are one of the more unusual ingredients you'll find in a Mexican taco, but it's also one of the more pedestrian ingredients on this list. (It's the only one, aside from SPAM perhaps, that I've been served in a sit-down restaurant.) Crickets have a woodsy, nutty flavor that a couple of different sources (including WineChix and a Redwood Creek wine consultant at an entomophagy dinner covered by the Chicago Tribune) recommend pairing with a Pinot Noir. Of course, given that crickets and grasshoppers are often served with a hefty dose of parasite killing lime juice (make sure you serve up your crickets well-done), some Tequila or Mezcal might be more appropriate.
Tarantulas: Tarantulas are abundant in much of the world, but one of the regions that treats giant spider meat as a delicacy is Cambodia. During the Reign of the Khmer Rouge, many Cambodians were forced to turn to whatever source of food they could find, and tarantulas proved especially tasty. Some Cambodians also use it to infuse rice wine or make rice wine and jackfruit cocktails. If you can only find spirits made from grapes and have access to a bee hive, you can, as suggested at that entomophagy dinner, fry the crawlies in a honey glaze and serve with a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Photo by istolethetv.
SPAM: What to drink if you come across a trove of everyone's favorite pink canned mystery meat? Robin Garr, the 30-Second Wine Advisor, recommends pairing SPAM with the same wines you'd drink with ham: Beaujolais, lighter Pinot Noir, or a Loire Cabernet Franc. She also suggests that a pink wine like White Zinfandel might be a fun match for your pink meat.
MREs: If you're lucky enough to be dining on pre-cooked military rations, you'll have to match the varietal your drinking to your specific packaged meal. Your best bet for advice here would probably be A Would-Be Sommelier in Afghanistan, a blog in which a wine-loving US Navy anesthetist runs through the MRE menus and pairs them with the ideal drink. For example, for the Asian Beef Strips, he recommends a Barsac from the Bordeaux region or a Spanish Rioja.
Dog Food: Much like with MREs, the wine pairing you choose for your dog food depends on the specific dog food you're planning to consume. A 2009 study found that participants had difficulty telling Newman's Own dog food from pork liver pate (which you can pair with a White Burgandy or a Chianti or Pinot Noir). And BusinessWeek once staged a gourmet dog food taste test complete with wine pairings. The sweet Nature's Variety Sweet Potato and Molasses went especially well with a Riesling. If all you've got on hand is dry kibble, we recommend finding the strongest, most pungent wine you can, chugging half of it before your kibble dinner and then using the rest to rinse out your mouth.
Human Beings: As Hannibal Lecter taught us, just because you've gone cannibal doesn't mean you're a complete savage. Human meat, however, isn't uniform in taste and texture, so it's the perfect excuse to explore your newly acquired vino collection. The Huffington Post has an excellent piece on which wines to pair with which cuts of human flesh: a Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay for the brains, a Shiraz for the tongue, and for the liver, a Barolo—not, as Dr. Lecter would have us believe, a Chianti.
Photo Credit: Indigo Fish/Shutterstock.