Food & Wine PairingSo many styles of wine, both Old and New World, so many styles of food available nowadays can make for a great deal of confusion. The traditional system of white wine with fish and chicken and red wine with meat and game is no longer cast in stone.
A golden 'rule of thumb' is to match the weight and body of a wine with the delicacy or richness of a particular dish. For example, a light Sauvignon Blanc from Rueda would be swamped by Lobster Thermidor but would suit perfectly Quiche Lorraine or even a Thai green curry. A fine oaky Chardonnay is recommended for the lobster.
Having a crowd can be daunting. Choose a light, dry white such as Pinot Grigio or a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and have plenty of ice for chilling. A good fruity red with soft tannins should keep everyone happy. Try a Dolcetto d'Alba or an Australian Cabernet / Grenache blend. Above all have fun.
Having chosen your wine, whether for an important dinner-party, or simply self-indulgence, proper serving conditions greatly enhance its enjoyment.
The term 'room temperature' for red wines can be very misleading as it has a huge variant and in many cases is too warm anyway. Most red wines are best served at 'cellar temperature' around 15-16° to embellish the flavour and lift the natural aromas. If a red wine is very cold try decanting it into a warm jug or pouring it into warm glasses. You can also use a microwave but be careful not to cook the wine - 15-20 seconds will usually suffice. Some light red fruity wines benefit from light chilling to around 10° e.g. Beaujolais, especially for summer drinking
Opening the bottle
There is no mystery to tasting wine. Most people can become excellent tasters with just a little practice and by following a few basic ground rules. You will find here the correct structure and basis of appraisal which can be applied to all wines - it's simple and it's fun.
What you will need...
Proper tasting glasses
A sense of smell
Pen and paper
A keen sense of enjoyment
Arrange your glasses in a row, marking them from 1 - 6 etc. from left to right. Pour all the wines to fill approximately one third of each glass - never fill the glasses. Serve the whites lightly chilled but not too cold as this masks the aromas. Reds should be at room temperature and, if possible, opened one hour beforehand - longer if they are more serious wines. Always taste from white to red, from dry to sweet and from young to old. Allow ten minutes per wine and approach your tasting as follows:
The next important consideration is acidity. All wines require acidity as otherwise they will taste flat or flabby. Acidity is that prickle you get on the side or your tongue after you swallow - a type of drool. It should be there, so comment on it. Tannins are present and are a vital component of red wines. These are generally noticed on the gums and roof of the mouth and have a drying effect. Try a sip of cold black tea to demonstrate a tannic effect.
Fruit is next and should be there in abundance. It could be gooseberry or green apples in a Sauvignon, tropical and pineapple in a ripe Chardonnay, soft blackberry and cedar in a mature Cabernet etc.
What you find is what you get and your description is important to you alone as it will help you to identify the varietal in future tastings. Drawing in a little air before spitting highlights the alcohol content of the wine and can merit comment if pronounced. Most still dry wines fall into the 11.5% - 13% alcohol category with some notable exceptions.