I’m not new to drinking wine, nor am I new to wine tasting at wineries. I am however new to tasting wine and writing about it. I’ve never written a legible wine note before in my life. Even though Eric Asimov
suggested wine writers resist writing tasting notes for a year, I felt compelled to learn how to do it nonetheless.
I decided when I began this blog over a year ago that Iwanted to explore how wines are paired with foods, so DeLong’s pocket wine tasting terms did nothing to help me determine what wine would be best suited for what food.
A brief search on Google this afternoon revealed pairing advice on DrinkWine.com (no author noted on site):
Match the weight & texture of the food to the weight & texture of the wine
Balance the intensity of flavors in the food and wine
Example: A mildly flavored food like roast turkey pairs well with light-bodied white and red wines like sauvignon blanc and Beaujolais, but in the context of a Thanksgiving dinner featuring stuffing, cranberry sauce, and other strongly flavored side dishes, an intensely flavored white like gewürztraminer or a rich, fruity red like syrah or zinfandel would be preferable.
[I disagree with the second example above, and had an amazing magnum of Cotes de Ventoux for a Thanksgiving dinner a couple years back. The wine didn’t seem to pale at all next to the more substantially flavored side dishes.]
The five basic tastes are sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami (the recently discovered fifth taste found in savory foods like mushrooms, tomatoes, soy sauce, and aged cheeses and meats). Salty and sour tastes in food make wines taste milder (fruitier and less acidic), while sweet and savory (umami) tastes make wines taste stronger (drier and more astringent).Example: A simple cut of beef tames the tannins and brings out the fruit of a young cabernet sauvignon, but chocolate (which some people enjoy with cabernet) will accentuate its tannins and diminish its fruit.
Seasonings, such as salt, lemon, vinegar, and mustard, can be used to achieve balance in food-wine pairings, either to make the wine taste milder (salt, lemon, vinegar) or stronger (sugar or umami ingredients).
[This is what I did tonight with my tempranillo. I wanted to pair its slightly sweet, light fruit with my acidic pasta sauce, which included onions and garlic.]
Flavors are combinations of tastes and aromas, and there are an infinite number of them. You can fine-tune food and wine pairings by matching flavors in the food and the wine.Example: … Grilled steak in a pepper sauce will go beautifully with a peppery zinfandel.
Sometimes, the best choice is to counterpoint flavors rather than matching them.Example: Pairing a spicy dish like Jamaican Jerk Chicken with a high-alcohol red wine may seem logical, but, in fact, the heat in the dish will ignite the alcohol in the wine to produce an unpleasantly hot, harsh impression. A better choice is a low-alcohol, fruity wine like riesling or gewürztraminer, which will both frame and tame the spicy flavors of the dish.
[I personally have done both pairings above, and so I can agree with the Thai food/gewurtzraminer pairing.]
Tonight it was more important to me that I have something I wanted to drink, versus something that was completed tied into what I was eating, especially after what happened this past weekend
The pasta was conchiglione, and the basis for the sauce was a mid tier brand. I added some of the tempranillo, some EVOO, some seasonings, red onions and fresh sliced garlic. I served the pasta al dente.
The tempranillo was just what I wanted: sweet, juicy, not too heavy. It was perfect with the sauce because it *wasn’t* complementing the sauce; it was a nice contrast.
Linda Blakely 2008
Notes: 8/2/11, at home, listening to J. J. Gray & Mofro, “Georgia Warhorse.”
Codice 2008 Vino de La Tierra de Castilla.
Appearance: Medium purplish/ruby with wide ruby rim.
Nose: low intensity, young, spicy, dark fruit (cherry?)
Palate: mildly tart on the tongue, first notes are mildly jammy, fruitywith a quick finish.
I’m concluding this wine would have been perfectly paired with a black cherry reduction sauce over pork loin and roasted root vegetables.
The idea of pairing wines with food has always been an interesting vocation, an idea that needs more food for thought.
While writing and thinking about this post tonight, I began thinking of oysters on the half shell. A couple years ago, my friend Doug and I went to an oyster bar on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. I remember walking there and he telling me that champagne is what is supposed to be paired with oysters. We ended up having beers with our oysters.
Now I’m curious to see which wine would be best suited for oysters on the half shell.