for the holiday wine tasting! The event was scheduled for 7-9pm, and we should thank the good folks at The Center for putting up with us until 11pm! Guess we were all just having far too much fun. There were a few queries on the wine selections, so here is more information on some of what we tasted and why…
The theme of the evening was holiday wine pairing. We had two very challenging holiday dishes to work around: Cranberry Sauce and that ol’ “Pumpkin Somethin’. These dishes present a challenge for wine pairing because of the sugar and acid content of the dishes.
“Food reactivity” is another way to phrase the science of food and wine pairing.
Human senses are very much about the context or environment they are used in, which is probably what makes food and wine pairing so dang interesting. Components in one flavor can and do accent components in another, kind of like if you drink orange juice after brushing your teeth in the AM. The OJ tastes all jacked up (highly acidic) because your sweet receptors are desensitized having just experienced the hyper-sweet of the toothpaste. If the sensing of food and wine is contextual, then no wonder the cloves bouncing around with our juicy Grenache/Syrah blends from the Languedoc Roussillion showed so well (more on the region)
In general when food and wine pairing, there are two routes: Compare and Contrast.
If you choose the comparison route, then you are looking for components within the wine that match with components in the food. When in doubt, marry the taste and texture of the wine with the taste and texture of the food. As an example, big bold flavors of wine fit well with big bold flavors of food, like a bold Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine and a thick juicy steak. For even more excitement try using a bit of black pepper when you grill the steak, it will highlight the subtle nuance of black pepper in that Cab. Sauv. When you get this one right, there is a sort of lyrical unfolding of flavors and a harmony and excitement going on with the food and wine. People exposed to this mystery often bounce back and forth from their wine to their food looking for similarities.
Comparison works well as a strategy because some of the same compounds exist in both the wine and the food, so when we change our “tasting environment” the similarities in our flavors are highlighted. Good times, but not the only strategy.
So what if I don’t want to follow the Herd on this one? Do not despair, fellow contrarian, there is always another option. Contrast as a food pairing strategy can be very effective. In fact, most folks are pretty familiar with this idea already. It works kind of like a bubbly glass of soda and a burger with fries. The bubbles and acidity in the soda clear the palate, freeing up our taste buds for a fresh experience of that juicy burger. A little bit of residual sugar in the beverage can be nice also to keep up with the sugar in the ketchup (er, “tomato coulis”) while the bubbles help break down the grease from the fries, aiding digestion. The wine geek alternatives are wines that have some bubble, bright, clear acidity and a touch of residual sugar. Champagne of course a favorite with just about anything http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champagne_(wine), some other options include Moscato d’Asti, an inexpensive sparkler http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sparkling_wine from Spain called “Cava”, or wines made from the delicious Riesling grape like the J.J. Prum, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese that we enjoyed at our tasting.
It was wonderful to see you all out there! As always, I welcome your wine comments and questions!