Friday, July 11, 2008

Swirl Girl Wine 101

Brought to you by: Swirl Girl

In America, the basic task of putting food and wine together in a harmonious way is a mystery. Too often, wineries and wine professionals have over-analyzed or rhapsodized about wine using unfamiliar, often esoteric language that can be intimidating. Add to this the fact our cultural cuisine is ripe with a myriad of flavors and foods from around the world - what we are often faced with as consumers is confusion. We often opt for simpler beverages that take no thought. What’s a person to do?

In order to alleviate that confusion - I am going to take you on a cyber-sensory journey of wine and food that will make you a more SWIRL Savvy.

First and foremost, wine is food in a glass. It is another component to the meal. In other cultures, specifically European and Mediterranean cultures, wine is seen as another course, as part of the meal; another flavor to be enjoyed. Theirs is a population essentially weaned from the breast to the bottle. They grow the food - they make the wine. They seem to live longer and have fewer incidents of heart disease and high cholesterol than we do here in the U.S. And, have been doing so for centuries. Ours is a relatively young country whose cuisine has borrowed flavors from the Old World as well as from non-wine producing areas like Asia, India and Latin America. What secrets do the Old World cultures possess that we don’t?

All of that being said let’s talk a bit about some food and wine pairing basics:
Eat what you like and drink what you like...

Flavor is 100% subjective. Just ask anyone with a child who won’t eat certain foods. What I liked as a child, I might not like today (like Gummie anything). When I was a younger drinker, anything other than Boone’s Farm Apple wine was too strong for me.

My palate has changed (thank goodness) and so have my choices. I have learned and read about and tasted enough to know what I like now. So- the bottom line is I drink what I like. Why do you think Baskin Robbins makes 31 flavors of ice cream?

Stick with the basic tenet that white food goes with white wine and red food goes better with red wine. This is a guideline that usually works. But, keep in mind the preparation of the protein, the other ingredients added to the protein and the texture of the protein. Take chicken for example. It can be sautéed, braised, roasted, grilled, fried, sauced or spiced. Even white meat and dark meat have a different degree of chicken-ness. Think of the bridge ingredients (the sauce, the spice, the starch) of the overall dish to help you pair the right wine. This is where the ‘blurbs’ on the back label of a wine bottle come in handy. These descriptions describe the flavors, aromas and textures of the wine, and sometimes there are suggestions for pairing that wine with different foods.


Mirror Flavors: If the wine is described as ‘toasty’ or ‘oaky’ you should pair it with a dish that is grilled. If a wine is described as ‘herby’ or ‘peppery’ then pair it with a dish prepared with herbs or a peppery dry rub. Remember that the basic flavors identifiable to the palate are Sweet, Sour (or acidic), Salty, Bitter and Savory (or Umami). All of these basic flavors, with the exception of salty are important to wine.

Food changes the taste of wine and wine changes the taste of food. All wines are changed by the dominant taste in the food to a lesser or greater extent. That means that the first thing you put in your mouth will affect the next thing you put in your mouth.

Think about the last time you brushed your teeth before you had your morning orange juice. The orange juice tastes pretty bad, right? The dominant sweet taste from the toothpaste emphasizes the dominant sourness of the orange juice, making the OJ taste really sour. So, if you are eating a spicy dish (think Jerk seasoned or Thai spiced)and drink a big oaky wine (think California Cabernet), the spice will be accentuated and overwhelming. Next time you have that spiced dish, try a wine with more fruitiness and some sweetness like a California Riesling, which will counter the spice and take away some of the heat. (That is why rice is served with so many spicy cuisines like Japanese, Thai and Mexican. Rice is a palate neutralizer)

Body = Weight, Texture and Mouth feel. Body refers to how the wine feels in your mouth. This can easily be illustrated if you think about milk. Whole milk has a different mouth feel than 2% or skim milk right? So, if you think about the different types of

white wine varietals, which would mean that Chardonnays have a different texture than a lighter, citrusier Sauvignon Blancs, or even a Pinot Grigio, right? So, it goes to say that if you pair like textured dishes with like textured wines, it should be a good pairing. (Example = Chicken Picata served with a lemony Sauvignon Blanc or zesty Bar-b-qued ribs served with a zesty Australian Shiraz)

In the weeks to come, I will educate you more about food and wine. You will become the master of your own SWIRL Savvy-ness. We will go through some basic flavor profiles of both food and wine. We’ll learn how to sip, swirl, savor, and enjoy wines the way the good earthly winemakers intended us to do it. We will journey to some wine growing regions and learn about ‘terroir’, grape varieties, and the winemaker’s influence which all have an impact on the finished product. You will get some suggestions for some of my favorite sippers and learn how to pick out the pearls from the veritable sea of wines available to you.

If you have any questions or are in need of a wine epiphany immediately, you can email me at Wendy@swirlgirlevents.com or via my blog at www.swirlgirlspearls.blogspot.com.

Swirl Girl’s Pearl for today: I just love this wine. It is the Bonterra Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. Retails for about $13.00 in your local grocer or wine store. It is 100% Organic which means it is made from grapes that are farmed using sustainable farming techniques without the use of herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides. It has wonderful citrus and tropical aromas and flavors that remind me of tropical fruits. Goes great with pastas, soups, seafood of all types - Or just in the glass by itself as an afternoon Swirler!! I don’t know about you, but if I can do something good for the environment while I am enjoying something delicious and refreshing.....I get double points for the day.

34 comments:

Nonna said...

I'm so glad your doing this posting about wine, because I know nothing about it, but have wanted to learn a little!

Have a great weekend!

Heather said...

I really want to be more wine savvy. What would go best with mac-n-cheese? I'M KIDDING!! Thank you so much for doing this! It sounds like the Bonterra Vineyards SB would be a good summer wine.

Sheri said...

THANK YOU! About all I know about wine is that I like the "Kangaroo Juice" Riesling. I can't remember the brand name, but there's a kangaroo on the bottle. I used to date a guy who was REALLY into wine, and I just always let him chose. He never steered me wrong, but it'll be nice to be able to make my own decisions!

Jen said...

This is so awesome. The only thing missing is a tasting room. Isn't there some kind of virtual wine tasting that we can do where we really get a taste?
Anyway, I love this post. I really enjoy learning about wines and such, being the Foodie that I am, it is all my cup of tea or should I as, glass of wine. I was left really wanting more and more and more.
I see wine in my future tonight. :)

Veronica said...

I really enjoy reading about wines-since I really know very little. I would love to take a wine course someday. But for now I will just suck up (ok, it's wine I'll sip) the information Swirl girl shares.

Heather said...

Thanks for the "Wine for Dummies" course...exactly what I needed. I never know which wine to pick, so I always stick with Beringer White Zin (which is good, but gets a little boring after awhile). And thanks for not suggesting that perfect $100 bottle of wine...sticking to my budget is hard enough! Looking forward to the next "lesson".

Rhea said...

I know nothing about wine. This helped.

Thanks!

Memarie Lane said...

Excellent tutorial. I always wondered about this, but there never seems to be any practical advice out there for newbies. I look forward to reading more about it.

Stumbling...

Jenn said...

That was a great post! I wish I knew more about wine...one of these days!

Jeni said...

Hey! Forty years after the fact, I still like Boone's Farm -Apple or Strawberry Hill -fine with me!

Deanna said...

Good morning!

KimmyJ said...

Thanks for the Wine 101, looking forward to more installments, going to buy the Bonterra today!!

Kristy said...

what a great post! awesome info here! thank you!

Sidney said...

While I just knew I liked certain wines, I feel like I can make more educated choices now. Thank you for a wonderful post!

Lynda said...

What a wonderfully informative post - thank you!

Mrs. D said...

Great post... always great to get wine pairing pointers!

Dawn@Embracing the Ordinary Life said...

This is a GREAT segment...I love to pare good wine with good food...and have all too often chosend incorrectly...Thanks for the info...and I'll be adding your suggestion to my next grocery list!

HRH said...

This is genius. Thanks.

Lula! said...

She rocks. I mean, the girl was in a Jon Cryer movie, AND on a Merv Griffin game show. So the fact that she knows wine doesn't surprise me at all.

FABULOUS stuff. I learned more than I did from 3 vineyard tours in Napa & Sonoma. Serioulsy.

Karen said...

Wonderful. I don't know an awful lot about wine and I suspect that some bad pairings have probably put me off it a bit...

This is good!!

Molly said...

Mmm, is it bad that I want wine with my breakfast now?

Molly said...

Mmm, is it bad that I want wine with my breakfast now?

Molly said...

I must really want it, I commented twice!

Jessica said...

awesome, I look forward to more 101 Wine Weekends. LOVED THIS. I'll be stopping by.

LaQuintamomof3 said...

Thank you so much. I do love my wine-- though I don't consider myself wine savvy-- I just know what I like and don't like. I can't wait to use his info!

Amy said...

Very interesting! Thanks...

Cristin said...

I've always loved wine but am just starting to learn about it. I do know what I like but that's about it! I look forward to more Swirly lessons!

Emily said...

Checking in!

Tiffany said...

We are going to learn so much from Swirl Girl!

Apple Joos said...

Okay, you lost me at esoteric, hahaha. I'm wine illiterate and as sad as this is to say, I have NEVER had a wine I actually cared for other than Arbor Mist and I know right now you're probably scoffing at me like I do when someone buys Rose Art over Crayola. "HA, That's not a crayon. That's a stick of colorful wax pretending to be a crayon." So, if you could give it some attention in a future post, where can those of us who cannot stomache wine at all start off? I mean, You're jumping in at 3 and I'm still back at .25 on a scale of 10.

Apple Joos said...

I wanted to add that we have about a bottle of wine a week. We're still trying to find one we like so I've tasted a TON of wine, but the closest I've come to sort of maybe kind of liking one was a late harvest Framboise, extra sweet. Should I just stick to Kool-aid?

Insane Mama said...

so...what goes with nuggets?

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