Wine has played a kingly role in the history of the world.
People have drunk it in majestic rituals and it has lived in the palace cellars. It has survived through the medieval times and has been used by the priests to cleanse the body and cure devotees their common maladies. Whereas it used to be enjoyed only by kings and noblemen, today wine is ubiquitously consumed by people all over the world. A buffet or a fine dining experience will not go well without a Chardonnay, for instance. Most people drink wine to loosen themselves up, after a hard day’s work. Others imbibe wine as a form of epicurean art.
A meal will always be more enjoyable if paired with a great tasting wine.
The complication arises, however, as soon as you peer into the wine list and begin to squint in confusion. Of the thousands of wine choices now available, which of them should you set on the dinner table along with your steak? Which should you drink to wash your tongue after a fruity dessert? The common dictum is to drink white wine with fish, chicken and other white meat, and to complement a rich lamb or veal dish with red wine. This idea is tried and tested and people have agreed that it works. But do you know not all types of red wine are for rich, red meat alone?
Red wine is indeed majesty of liquor.
Not only does it go well with almost all kinds of meal, it also plays an essential role in our health. The latest news is that red wine actually combats Alzheimer’s disease by preventing the build-up of plaque in the brain. Red wine contains resveratrol (a natural compound) which scientists say fights the slow degeneration of the nervous system’s components as it combines with other anti-oxidants. Pinot Noir, for instance, has been discovered to be chock full of resveratrol. It has been reported, too, that this red wine compound can also help battle other degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.
Now let’s go to the nitty-gritty.
Basically, there’s a wine for every meal but the bottom line is to rely on your sense of taste. Different people have different palates and even the connoisseurs cannot agree on one rule when it comes to the perfect wine for a dish. However, the distinct characteristic of each wine should dictate which meal it should harmonize with.
For example, Cabernet Sauvignon being a varietal wine (which is a blend of one dominant grape and other less distinct flavors), Petit Sirah and Bordeaux can jibe well with red, heavy meat dish such as lamb, beef (most dish with spicy sauces) and other intense-flavored cheeses. Because of its full body and strong tannic taste, it can balance the feeling of greasiness in the cheese and the meat.
Sweet, sour, fruity, acidic, smooth sharp, crisp – Oh my.
You can recognize a particular wine’s characteristic through its acidity, its body, the tannic content, its sweetness, its aroma as well as its overall balance. Chardonnay harmonizes with poultry and cheese. There are many variations of this white wine that can run from sweet and fruity to sour. It can even be paired with seafood such as oysters and can be served as aperitif. Chenin Blanc is also a white sparkling wine and goes well with fish and chicken. Most fish meals usually get paired with white wine but there are exceptions since fish dishes are prepared differently. The general rule is that wines that blend well with fish and other white meat contain high acidic flavor. The sharp, crisp hint of acid enhances the flavor of fish like a drop of tangerine juice would.
Pasta dishes & wine – An easy pair.
Wines that work well with pasta dishes are Merlot and Pinot Noir or Pinot Grigio. Pinot Noir makes a wonderful combination with steaks. It is a Burgundy wine that gets darker as it ages. It also matches well with fowl whereas Merlot is a good chocolate complement.
Advanced pairing, great combinations to enhance flavour.
Desserts are best paired with Rieslings, Port wines, or Madeira. Most oriental food and white meat dishes won’t go wrong when matched with a Riesling. Spicy Mexican foods on the other hand are best eaten with Shiraz. Shiraz (also called Syrah) is a versatile wine; it complements many popular meat dishes such as chicken (tenderloin, rib or prime) as well as pork, beef and duck. If you like our regular fast food dishes like burgers and pizza or any meal with red spicy sauce Red Zinfandel is the perfect complement. A medium bodied wine such as Red Zinfandel will always taste better with red meat while White Zinfandel which is a newly-developed wine in the market goes in tune with pasta with light sauce, fish and most light dishes.
If you like ham and sausages a wine called Gewurztraminer will serve you well. This is also best for Asian foods and is known for its fruity flavor. Another wine that is in perfect harmony with pasta chicken and fish is the Sauvignon Blanc, more popularly called Fume Blanc. Most grilled dishes like fish and vegetables as well as exotic spicy foods go with Rose. Turkey served on Thanksgiving should be paired with a white burgundy wine called Chablis. If smoked salmon is served on the dinner table, it’s best to enjoy sparkling wines.
Waiter, I’ll have the … how do you say it?
Apart from knowing which wine to drink along with your meal, it also essential to know a few important vintner’s terms. If you’re buying wine you must recognize whether it’s brut, demi sec, sec or off-dry. These terms refer to the sweetness of the wine. Demi sec wines are a bit sweet and brut wines are not sweet at all. You will have a fair idea of the sweetness of it before actually opening its cork if you look at the label that’s printed under the brand of the wine.
Because wine selection can be baffling, it is essential to understand some rudiments that you can use in your own dinner hosting or restaurant visits. If you have no idea at all as you gaze at the wine menu board which wine is what, ask your local chef or connoisseur. These people have fair enough experience when it comes to wine tasting, preparation and serving that you can bet they can give you what you are asking for. Once you have received some expertly advice, do the wine tasting yourself. Remember that one person’s taste bud is different from another so you will have a notion of what really appeals to your taste.
The purpose of a good wine is to enhance, not bury.
A wine’s purpose is not to overwhelm or overpower the dish served with it, but to complement, highlight or contrast its strengths and hints of flavor. For most people this requires a really fine and discerning taste bud. Some wines take time to mature and in this process their tastes change and either mellow out or grow more intense. You should be aware of this aging process of each wine. Some of these wines absorb the flavor of their storage barrels such as oak. Other wines can have complex taste through their color and smell. The rule is to sniff the wine for a good nose (a vintner’s term used to denote the overall smell of a wine, including the aroma and the bouquet) and if you like the nose, it is highly likely that you will also adore its taste.
“Wine Connoisseur” is just a friendlier term for “English Major”.
It is important to experiment with different wines. Connoisseurs may have a fairly good idea of what wine suits their taste, but you can’t ask for a connoisseur’s help each time you will prepare a meal with a wine. Experimenting helps you open up your wine vocabulary and expand your wine knowledge. It will give your taste buds a chance to explore the art of wine expertise. When trying out many different wine brands and learning each wine characteristic, make sure that you take note of each wine’s uniqueness. In other words, a single wine tasting session does not make a wine taste consistent. The next time you taste red Bordeaux, for example, when paired with another dish, it will not be the same Bordeaux wine that you used to know. As you expand your tasting capabilities, you tend to forget a particular wine’s characteristic too. That is why keeping an olfactory note of any wine is a must for anyone wishing to explore its complexity.
Your nose knows good wine, trust it.
Finally, trust your own taste when it comes to selecting wine either for aperitif, for dinner or for dessert. Do not be concerned about the “right” or the perfect wine. The key is to find which will complement and highlight the taste of your meal best. As you taste more wines and learn more, your confidence will grow. Don’t shy away from new wines; instead give yourself the opportunity to be an expert yourself. Always exchange wine information with your local restaurateur/wine expert/wine merchant. Try new wines and mix them with various meals. You can break rules for as long as you as a host and your guests will enjoy your discovery. The point is, wine is an enjoyable meal complement and a dinner table’s best friend. It should always stay that way.