IMPRESS WITH THESE WINE TIPS
Selecting the perfect bottle of wine for a special occasion - or any occasion - can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Remain calm! Here are a few tips for how to choose, serve and enjoy our beverage of choice, wine.
The first tip? Consider the setting. Will it be a restaurant? Dinner at home? Just sipping on the couch watching a movie? And, if so, are there snacks involved? Is there a fireplace? Are we on holiday away from home? Little factors like these can guide us.
Let’s explore these wine-drinking scenarios in greater detail. In a restaurant setting, take advantage of any professionals you happen to have at your disposal (ie: server, bartender, sommelier, manager.) Always consider the food you will be eating along with your wine and follow these “Golden Rules” of food and wine pairing:
Acid loves acid. Example: salad with a vinaigrette dressing followed by an entrée with lemon sauce. Pair it with a sauvignon blanc or white Bordeaux.
Richness loves tannins. Example: A ribeye steak or osso bucco. Pair it with Cabernet, Red Bordeaux or Barolo.
Spiciness loves a little sugar. Example: Spicy curry or Kung Pao Chicken. Pair it with slightly sweet bubbles or an off-dry Riesling.
Spiciness hates high alcohol and/or tannin. Example: An extra spicy Thai dish with, say, a Napa Valley Cabernet will seem even spicier when it meets the elevated alcohol and tannin of the Cab on your palate. Also, the combination will destroy the harmonious nuances of the Cabernet.
Dinner at home is always fun! One thing to keep in mind at home is that time is on your side. Decant any red wine 60-90 minutes before serving to throw off any unpleasant aromas and make the wine show its best version of itself by the time you or your dinner guests take their first sip.
If you don’t have a decanter handy, double-decant using a bowl or pitcher, a strainer, and a funnel. Carefully pour the wine through the strainer into the bowl or pitcher to remove any sediment, then pour the wine back into the bottle using your funnel. Keep in mind that room temperature is actually too warm for reds, so if you don’t have a climate-controlled wine cellar, chill the wine by laying it on its side in your refrigerator for about 20 minutes before serving.
A great way to simplify wine selection for dinner at home is to pick a wine you or your guests already enjoy, and then build the dinner around the wine, instead of the other way around.
For example, if your dinner date enjoys Italian reds, pick up a Chianti Classico Reserva and make something that pairs well with it; perhaps an Italian-American classic, like spaghetti and meatballs or grilled lamb chops.
A bonus tip for wowing with food and wine: Incorporate wine into your dish. Don’t just pair your dinner with Chianti Classico, include it in the recipe! Splash some of that wine in the base for your sauce to go with either the spaghetti or lamb. The best of both worlds? Prepare spaghetti with lamb meatballs topped with Chianti-infused sauce - have fun with it!
Let’s say you’re going to watch a movie with some wine. If your partner enjoys a rich, oaky Chardonnay, you would be missing a golden opportunity by not pairing the setting perfectly with the wine. Sure, oaked chardonnay pairs beautifully with lobster and drawn butter, but do you know what else pairs beautifully with oaked chardonnay? A fireplace, a blanket, a movie and a big bowl of generously buttered, lightly salted popcorn!
What if you have all of those items we paired with the oaked chardonnay except for the fireplace? You’ll likely score huge points serving your partner something hot and delicious to sip on. Consider German Glühwein! It’s hot, spiced, delicious, quick and oh so simple to make. All you need is a bottle of affordable, dry, full-bodied red wine (I’ve used Malbec in the past and loved the results), an orange, about a quarter cup of sugar and some baking spices. There are hundreds of good recipes and ideas for delicious Glühwein, here is one of my favorites.
Let’s take a moment to debunk a popular food and wine myth: Chocolate and red wine were made for eachother. Well, not necessarily.If you’re planning on enjoying some chocolate, you should keep in mind that chocolate and red wine both have bitterness, or tannin. Bitter chocolate and bitter wine together can overwhelm the palate. If dark chocolate is your thing, do yourself a favor and have some fruit-forward, low tannin red wine with the chocolate, like Zinfandel or Ruby Port.
Lastly, let’s touch on the possibility of a vacation situation. Many of these tips and tricks apply no matter where you’re sipping, but if you’re vacationing somewhere warm/tropical, keep this in mind: “Toes in the sand, rose in my hand.” Rose is perfect for those occasions that include sunshine, sand and warm temperatures. Add anything involving tuna, oysters or even a lobster roll, and you and your significant other may not make it to your dinner plans! *wink wink*
In closing, always remember that Champagne pairs perfectly with all of life’s moments.