Are you a wine connoisseur or a novice? Do you like wine, but have no idea how to pair it with food? How critical is the choice? What do you need to know about vintage?
Vintage, despite the misconception that this term denotes a wine of many years or of a particular quality, actually refers to the winemaking process itself of picking and pressing to obtain the final product. A product deemed to be vintage is simply one made of grapes that are grown and harvested in the same year. The only application of this terminology that actually refers to a particular quality is used for Port wine that is produced by the Port houses during a particularly good year.
While it is true that some wines are designed to improve when aged in the bottle, the majority of wines are made to be consumed when young and fresh and can be expected to be past its best and become decreased in quality if not consumed within a few months of being produced. Some experts say that the vintage is not necessarily as important as some make it out to be, especially in light of newer processes and technologies so as allow wineries to produce, even in “undistinguished” years, good and very good wines. In a blind taste test with 240 experienced wine drinkers testing wines aged from 4 to 17 years, only Bordeaux wines were able to be qualified reliably, with the rest giving mixed results considered by the administers of the experiment to be no better than random chance. When the test was repeated with wine experts, the results were the same.
There are some things you should know about serving wine and how to ensure maximum enjoyment. For example, the shape of the wine glass is directly related to how the wine will taste. Each wine has its own distinct characteristics that the shape of the glass will highlight, sending the wine to the key areas on the tongue and nose to draw out the maximum flavor in the wine.
The serving temperature will affect the taste as well. Whites should be warmer and reds cooler. White wine served too cold will have much less flavor than one served at room temperature and reds too alcoholic tasting when warm. Make certain you know the proper temperature for the wine you are serving. Remember that the longer the bottle is open and subjected to the air, the faster it will spoil. For the best result, wine should be consumed within two or three days after opening.
Food and Wine Pairings
Naturally, there is a For Dummies book for wine. So for a cheat sheet, pick up Wine All-in-One for Dummies. Here are some additional tips. Consider the weightiness of the food. For example, a light flaky fish goes well with a lighter wine like a Riesling and a meal of beef and potatoes a heavier vintage like a Cabernet. Don’t be afraid to ask in the store about a pairing with your menu.
The origin of the grapes should match the origin of the meal. Meat goes well with grapes from the same type of area, away from the coastal regions, and fish pairs with wine from coastal areas. Consider the age of the wine when choosing. During the summer growing season many dishes you serve may be directly related, like serving fresh vegetables which would pair with a fruitier wine like a Chardonnay.
It is not always a given that red goes with meat and white with fish. The above factors are a more reliable combo. Don’t over-think the situation. In the end, what matters most is what you like. Who cares if the “experts” say your chosen food and wine don’t mix; it’s up to you to choose.[Image Credit]