How to become a wine connoisseur
What wine do I serve with salmon? Barbecued chicken? Aunt Ednas meatloaf?Wine lovers are often confused, or even intimidated, when it comes to matching foods with wines. Regardless of how definitively some expert declares a proper or perfect wine pairing, just remember: There are no correct answers. Its all a matter of taste your taste!Well, what wine do you serve with Aunt Ednas meatloaf? One rule most folks apply is: Red wine with meat, white wine with fish. Thats not a bad start, but rules were made to be broken!This week Im throwing the rules out the window and replacing them with tips to guide you in your never-ending journey through the world of wine and food. Grab a fork and a corkscrew; with a little practice youll be pairing food and wines with confidence! Chef Mick Rosacci, Tonys Meats & Specialty FoodsChef Michael Angelo (Mick) Rosacci and family own and operate Tonys Meats & Specialty Foods and Tony Rosaccis Fine Catering in Littleton and Centennial. More recipes at http://www.TonysMarket.com. Drink what you likeIts OK to drink any wine with any dish; however, youll certainly enjoy some combinations more than others. The taste of a wine is greatly affected by the food you drink it with. A good start is to drink your favorite wine with a variety of dishes, noting how the taste changes with each dish. Certainly, some will be more rewarding than others, but youll end up learning more from bad pairings than good. The secret to wine pairing is an understanding of the wine, the dish, and their interaction. Drink and think; theres no teacher like experience. Branch outWhy limit yourself to a just a few wines or grape varieties? Theres a great big world of wines out there just waiting to be enjoyed. Thoughtful experimentation is crucial to understanding wines. Unless you branch out, youll miss more than you can imagine! Taste, taste, TASTE!Here are some ideas to help you on your way. Connect with a great wine clerk (one who listens and has extensive experience) and let him guide you. Tell him in your own words what you like, dont like, and what you are comfortable spending. Hint: Youll rarely, if ever, find a great wine consultant in a discount store. Get a map of a country that interests you, and then spend a month touring its wine regions bottle by bottle. Take France for instance the wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Loire, and the Rhone are dramatically different from one another. Taste and understand why, then call your travel agent and let the serious study begin! Do more comparative wine tasting. Tasting several bottles side-by-side will teach you far more than opening them one at a time. Do blind wine comparisons with friends wrap the bottles in newspaper, labeling them A, B, C, and so on. Then do some thoughtful tasting and discussion. Dont peek until the end of the night! Think profile over varietyLets say you like merlot. You have probably noticed that every bottle you taste is different. Its not that some are good and some are bad; rather, you prefer a certain taste profile to others. What I may think is a great merlot, you may not, and vice versa. Dont get hung up on just one or two grape varieties, think about the taste profile you prefer, then look for other wines with a similar profile. Understanding wine taste componentsFocus on the following components as you taste every wine; understanding them and their interaction with foods is key. Body, or mouthfeel, of a wine is how rich, thick, or heavy it feels in your mouth. Acidity, just like a sweet tart berry, acidity can be very refreshing. It also plays an important role in balance. Tannins have an astringent effect on the tongue, and add depth, texture, balance and cellar-worthiness to wines. Fruitiness is key in a wines taste, aroma and balance. Fruitiness can give the impression of sweetness, but dont confuse the two. Sweetness plays an important role in the balance of acidity and no, sweet wines are not only for beginners! Dryness is the opposite of sweetness, and also has a notable interaction with acidity levels. Oak barrels are traditionally used to store wines, and they add a woody flavor and aromas, as well as flavor and mouthfeel from naturally occurring vanillin. Light wines with light tastesAs a general guide, match lighter-bodied wines to lighter foods, and fuller-bodied wines with heartier, more flavorful dishes. Take salmon, for instance: Even though its a fish, salmon pairs beautifully with Pinot Noir (a red wine) because both are fairly light. For the same reason, a hearty grilled beefsteak pairs beautifully with a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. Preparation style over type of meatWhen it comes to wine pairing, the preparation style is more important than the type of meat. For example, a garlic-and-herb-crusted steak will affect the taste of a wine quite differently than a sweet and spicy teriyaki steak. In both cases a full-bodied, full-flavored wine is a good choice but youll probably be much happier serving a dry red wine with the garlic and herb steak, and a slightly sweet white wine with the spicy teriyaki steak. Match or contrast?You can either complement or contrast a dish with your wine. Rich dishes that are high in fat, or dressed in a creamy sauce, can be complemented with a rich, smooth wine or contrasted with a snappy wine high in acidity. Spicy dishes can make a dry wine taste hot or highly alcoholic, but sweetness and fruitiness puts out the fire with a refreshing splash. Salads with vinaigrette dressings are complemented well with wines of higher acidity. Full-bodied dishes, such as our garlic-herb steak, can be nicely complemented with full-bodied, full-flavored wines both white and red. Slightly sweet dishes, such as those slathered with barbecue sauce, or marinated in teriyaki, are complemented by fruity to slightly sweet wines. In this case a dry wine would taste tart and out of balance. Desserts call for a wine of a similar weight and just slightly more sweetness than the dessert; if not, the wine will taste tart. For instance, a lightly sweet fruit tart can be great with a light-bodied, slightly sweet wine, and a rich caramel cheesecake with a full-bodied, very sweet bottle.
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