As you may have gathered from my various blog and Instagram posts, I am somewhat of a wine enthusiast. It is my go to cocktail of choice and I absolutely love learning about all about wine. With that said, I am certainly not anywhere close to being an expert, master or sommelier. I am just your average wine lover, who enjoys the occasional glass of vino post work and/or in social settings.
Over the years I have acquired a fair amount of knowledge pertaining to wine consumption, pairings and purchasing, that have not only helped me to develop a more sophisticated palette, but have also helped me to select the perfect wines to serve when entertaining. Today's post covers a variety of aspects pertaining to wine. This is a great piece for those of you who are looking to expand your wine knowledge and/or palette.
One of the primary purposes of wine/food pairings is to create a balanced coupling where the wine that is consumed during a particular meal, doesn't overpower the dish. For instance, a big/bold/heavy Cabernet Sauvignon might not be the best wine to pair with say, a light fish course. Why? Heavier red wines have a higher level of tannins which give the wine a dryer taste. Lighter foods like fish should be paired with fruitier varietals that have lower tannin levels (like a white wine) so that the flavors of the food can still be enjoyed. Red wines are actually best paired with red meats and fattier foods. Why? Pairing a bold red wine with a dish that has a higher fat content (ex. Red Meats and certain cheeses) will mellow out the tannins thus giving the wine a fruitier flavor and not overpowering the food.
That being said, if you are a white wine only kind of person, then definitely stick with what you like to drink. Personally, you will never catch me drinking a riesling. I don't care how well it pairs with a particular dish, I am just not a fan of rieslings and would much prefer to drink a pinot noir, sauvignon blanc or chardonnay with a lighter flavored dish. Pairings are merely suggestions on how to get the most out of your food/wine dining experience.
Wine is Completely Subjective
The first wine tasting I experienced featured a series of wines from the Ridge Winery in California (heaven!!). I was seated next to a close family friend of my parents, whose husband was a serious wine enthusiast so you can only imagine the fabulous wines she had had the privilege of tasting over the years. The best piece of advice she gave me during the tasting was to remember that wine is completely subjective. Yes there are experts who rate the best wines every year, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you are going to think that they are the best wines. Drink what you like.
I really couldn't agree more with this philosophy. I remember having a bottle of wine the summer after my first wine tasting that was supposed to be an extremely fancy bottle (it was a 1982 French Wine). After one sip my conclusion was that it taste like band-aids. Not kidding. Sure it could have been a turned bottle or more likely my inexperienced palette, but I wasn't a fan of a bottle that experts would have marked as a great wine. Remember, you are the one drinking that bottle of wine not the experts so you should get something that tastes delicious to you!
I am often asked if I have any go-to wine favorites. Of course I do! Here are a few of my favorite domestic wines organized by grape varietal that range in price from very affordable (aka "Party Wine") all the way to a few splurge wines ("aka Special Wines for Special Occasions"). Note- the only non-domestic wines listed are Sauvignon Blancs because in my opinion (and I'm sure plenty agree with this notion) the best wines in this particular varietal are from Australia and New Zealand. You can also find more wine suggestions on my Pinterest board entitled "All About Wine."
- Pinot Noir: Napa Cellars, La Crema, Meiomi, A to Z
- Zinfandel: Napa Cellars, The Prisoner, Ridge (Geyserville, East Bench, Lytton Springs), Grgich Hills, Frog's Leap
- Merlot: Kunde, Ridge, Shafer, Stag's Leap
- Cabernet Sauvignon: Hess, Joel Gott, Napa Cellars, Oberon, Obsidian Ridge, Worthy Sophia's Cuvee, Ridge, Beaucanon, Cadence, Chimney Rock, Silver Oak
- Chardonnay: Stag's Leap, Grgich Hills, Au Bon Climat, La Crema
- Sauvignon Blanc: Matua, Kim Crawford, Cloudy Bay, Craggy Range
- Rose: Whispering Angel, Miraval
A Few Additional Wine Tips
In addition to the information above, here are some extra wine tidbits that I have found to be extremely helpful.
- Never buy a wine to cook with that you wouldn't want to drink. Cooking with bad wine will only yield poor tasting food.
- Some wines are meant just for drinking and others are meant for drinking and cooking. For example- I would not recommend cooking with Silver Oak, but rather use a wine like Hess for cooking.
- Test a food/wine pairing yourself! Take a sip of wine and then a taste of food to determine if you think the pairing works well together.
- Don't be afraid to ask your local wine retailer for their advice on which wines to purchase. This is their business, so you can bet that they are going to be a wealth of information when it comes to food/wine pairings and even straight wine drinking.
- Temperature is key when serving wine. Never serve a warm white wine or a cold red wine (Pinot noir scan be served on the cooler side but not cold). The temperature of wine when served is critical for achieving the best flavor.
My wine advice/knowledge certainly extends far beyond the information in this post, however I have found these tips to be a great starting point when thinking about the various aspects of wine. I can assure you that while this may be the first post on wine, it certainly won't be the last! As always, if you have specific wine questions that were not covered in today's post, feel free to contact me with your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.