Entertaining: Choosing the right wines to enhance your food
First, remember in wine tasting how important it is to get a good idea of the aroma of the wine. Sniff the wine several times before the first taste. Second, when you taste wines, the wine has to cover your whole mouth and tongue.
Basic characteristics of wines that affect food pairings:
Some wines have relatively high acids. This makes wines crisp, tart or sour. The taste buds around the edges of your tongue have a tangy or biting sensation and you tend to pucker when you drink acidic wines. Wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris (Grigio in Italian) Chenin Blancs, Rieslings (pronounced REESLING) and Tabor Home Moonlight White (a Seyval Blanc), First Bloom (A Vidal Blanc) and Catawba Blush (the blush like a white Zin) have this effect. These high acid wines are often very fruity as well. Some light bodied red wines have higher acids also but because they are more complex they usually do not have the real puckering character of high acid white wines. These wines are made to serve with food and the tartness is reduced with food.
Some whites, Chardonnay and Tabor Home Iowa LaCrosse most often, have been fermented and aged to reduce acid and make create more complex flavors. They tend to have a slightly buttery or caramel taste and if they have been aged in oak they have some smoke, woody or vanilla flavor components. Wines with low acids, both white and red, are referred to as soft.
White Zinfandel wines and other Rose wines are usually semi sweet wines. They have lower acids than white wines.
Some red wines are lighter bodied. Pinot Noir, Gamay (Beajolais wines), our Barn Dance Red. The fruit characters are easy to taste. They do not have a lot of tannins and pair well with barbeque sauce, marinara sauce and grilled fish such as salmon.
Full-bodied red wines are more complex. The fruit characters are not as easy to taste. They may have tannins that give the wine that drying mouth feeling. Some describe this as bitter. These are cabernet sauvignon, some merlots, Syrahs, and our Tabor Home St. Croix. The tannins are not as apparent with foods.
Basic food pairing rules
Use delicately flavored wines with delicate flavored foods, and rich, powerful food with big, full-bodied wines.
Spicy foods pair well with acidic wines. Catawba Blush tastes so much less acidic when paired with the Chicken blackened with Cajun seasoning. Spicy does not work with most full-bodied red wines because the spice make your mouth more sensitive to alcohol and the wine may have a hot sensation.
Acidic foods including salads that contain vinegar pair well with acidic wines. Acidic foods do not pair well with wines that have any sweetness or red wines that have tannins such as cabernet sauvignons or merlots. Acidic foods make a rich, buttery, oak-aged chardonnay taste very dull and heavy. Acidic foods can make complex red wines with tannins taste fruitier. Wines like cabernet that have a lot of tannins will taste bitter with acidic food so be careful.
Salty foods pair well with acidic wines. The saltiness will reduce the sour perception and a fuller taste of the wine and more fruitiness of acidic white wines will be more apparent. Sauces and gravies and soups are often very salty.
Sauces that have some sweetness, like the apricot, brown sugar, mustard glaze pair well with wines that are semi-dry. Semi-dry means less than 2% residual sugar. Tabor Home First Bloom is a semi-dry white. It pairs well with glazed smoked pork chop. The rule is the wine should be sweeter than the sauce or else the wine will taste too tart or acidic.
Dishes that have high fat content including meat, ground meat and sausage, and this includes tomato-based sauces with meat, pair well with wines that have some tannins. All red wines have some tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon has the most tannin, merlots have less, and Pinot Noirs have less than most merlots. Syrah (it is Shiraz in Australia) can have tannins like merlots or lower tannins like Pinot Noir, but generally less than cabernet.
Dishes with cream-based sauces and cheese sauces pair best with white wines that have relatively high acids. Wines can be dry or semi-dry. In the cases of fatty or creamy or cheesy sauces, the role of the wine is to cleanse the palate by removing proteins and fats from the taste buds so the taste buds can perceive flavors. Cheesy dishes do pair well with rich chardonnays.
Peppery dishes pair well with red wines that also have some peppery or spicy characteristics. Our JackSon Red pairs well with a garlic pepper bistro steak. Syrah and red zinfandels have peppery characters.
Pesto with pasta is very popular now. To me, there are two styles of wine to pair. One is Pinot Gris or similar wines such as our Moonlight White. The second is light bodied softer reds such as Syrah or our Jackson Red. Blush or Rose wines would not pair well.
Desserts do pair with wines that are sweet. The wines need to be dessert style wines and sweeter than the desserts. If you want to offer a dessert plus wine as a menu offering, it would be best to make the dessert and try it with the wine. If the wine is fine alone but tastes too tart or puckering along with the dessert, then the wine is not sweet enough.
Suggestions for serving wine
- A bottle of wine is about 30 oz. The normal size wine serving is 6 oz. So there are about 5 servings per bottle. Do not fill glasses to the rim.
- Red wines are best served at cellar temperature, and white and fruit wines served slightly chilled. The colder the wine, the less aroma can be perceived.
- The host should be able to say three or four things about the wine. 1) Dry or not, 2) tart or soft, 3) light or full-bodied, 4) tannin or not (for reds only).