Bernie Pacyniak

Many wine experts, while acknowledging that knowledge and experience enhance the joys inherent in wine tasting, also emphasize that individual pleasure and choice should remain the guiding principle. Hence, red wine with meat and white wine with fish are rules of thumb that typically work well, but it’s good to experiment.

These kinds of food pairings have extended themselves into confectionery, especially chocolate. One company, however, in conjunction with the 80th anniversary of producing its Panda Soft Liquorice product, decided that licorice should take its rightful place among the hallowed barrels of wine and confectionery pairing.

At this year’s International Sweets & Biscuits Fair (ISM) in Cologne, Oy Panda Ab, the Finnish licorice company founded in 1927, offered the media and visitors an opportunity to sip and chew, or is it chew and sip? As you can imagine, I couldn’t resist the offer.

Wine and licorice together, a bit far-fetched you say? Not really, the folks at Oy Panda point out.

As Mirja-Riitta Helenius-Piironen, international marketing manager of Oy Panda explains, many red wines boast “notes of licorice.” Consequently, it’s not so strange that a bite of Panda licorice will intensify the wine to a rounder, deeper flavor, she says.

 To emphasize how well the two really go together, the company enlisted connoisseurs from AMKA GmbH to create ideal pairings for ISM.

Panda Natural Licorice was teamed with a Mount Riley Pinot Noir from New Zealand. Its Natural Blueberry Licorice companion was paired up with a Campo Alto Valpolicella Ripasso. And to demonstrate the extreme flexibility that licorice has in wine pairings, the sommeliers at AMKA opted to offer two selections for Panda Soft & Fresh Licorice: a Darling Cellars’ Premium Kroon from South Africa and a Castello Banfi Vigne Asti Vino Spumante.

Helenius-Pirronen only had a few suggestions to those sampling the wine and licorice: First, she advised individuals to try the wines and the licorices on their own prior to pairing them. As Helenious-Pirronen says, “You’ll want to know the individual essences and textures of each.”

Then, join the two together, first chewing a bit of licorice, then sipping the wine, she continues. Being both a licorice and wine lover, I was indeed curious what the result would be. And, despite my initial skepticism, the pairings worked. Licorice does have a rounding effect on the reds.

However, I wasn’t keen on the Spumante and licorice coupling.  But that’s me. Remember, there are no set rules; it’s all about individual palates and pleasures.

According to Oy Panda, the best possible manner for consumers to experience the compatibility between licorice and wine is to throw a tasting party, inviting friends over and keeping an open mind (along with open bottles of wine and open bags of licorice).

Didn’t know licorice could be so much fun, did you?