Wednesday, March 15, 2017

It's All About That Body

Is your wine tasteless?  Have you noticed that you've had a sip of something fantastic and then you eat a little something and all of a sudden that awesome wine has no flavor at all?  It may be a simple fix- it might be that the wine was simply paired poorly.  One of the biggest errors that you can make when pairing wine with your food is not taking the body of the wine into consideration. 

Body of wine however doesn't refer to waist measurements or how it looks in those jeans- instead it refers to how it feels in the imbibers mouth.  We have a little analogy to help make sense of this.  Skim milk- you know how that feels when you drink it?  Weightless right?  Sort of like water?  But then if you were to drink heavy cream, or maybe when your ice cream melts in the summer- you know how that feels in your mouth?  It coats your teeth and tongue.  It lingers on the surfaces.  Wine will do the same- a light bodied wine washes back like skim milk, and a full bodied wine lingers like heavy cream.  And just like there are gradients between milk types- 1%, 2%, Whole...there are with wine as well.  Every wine will feel different in your mouth.

Apparently I have no photos of Beef Stew...imagination
Now with that much intricacy- that means that you can't just pair any old food with every glass of wine.  That's recipe for disaster.  Lets say you have a light bodied Sauvignon Blanc and you decided to pair that with beef stew.  Beef stew is full of richness.  The beef is fatty and the broth is hearty.  That will coat your mouth all on its own.  Now when you take a sip of that delicate Sauvignon Blanc, well it just can't compete.  It's own body is so light that it is overwhelmed by the richness of the stew and you no longer taste any of its flavor.  Poor Sauvignon Blanc.   Let's say, instead, that we pair that Sauvignon Blanc with roasted chicken or sushi?  Now every flavor of that Sauvignon Blanc can be relished, and so can your food!

That's of course the other side- if your wine is too full bodied, let's look at a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, then your food gets overshadowed.  That fresh Lobster Roll you've been dreaming about all winter.  It's finally in front of you- lightly dressed with butter, but really the lobster is the star, and then you pair it with a big Cab.  Yikes- good bye lobster- your layers of flavor will have to be tasted a different day.

Of course I'm speaking in extremes, but we want to be careful of the body of wine when we're pairing with food.  Make sure that the body of your food matches (as closely as you can) the body of your wine and avoid the unpleasantness.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sweet Wine or Dry Wine? Dry Wine or Sweet Wine?

SEVEN!  We have talked about wine for SEVEN different posts without even tasting it yet..that seems sorta criminal doesn't it?  I mean it's almost rude of me to make you wait that long to taste wine.  However, it's a good thing I promise.  Your primary senses have now been prepped.  You've visualized and breathed in the scent of the wine and through those acts, you know so much.  You've learnt about how old the wine is, you've prepped for what flavors may present, you may even know the type of grape.  You're ready to dive in.

When we taste wine- take a small sip and let it sit on your tongue for just a couple of seconds and it will settle naturally in your mouth, then swallow.  Under 5 seconds for all of it.  Every time, that first sip of wine gets me.  My mouth lights up- it immediately reacts to acidity, to alcohol, to the body, to the tannins and to the flavors that are ever present.  Wine has so many different facets to showcase, your mouth has to play catch up a bit.  We allow it time to catch up by taking it piece by piece- starting with the age old - dry or sweet. 

When we're talking about a dry wine or a sweet wine, at its core, we are talking about how much residual sugar is left in the wine from the grapes that made it. You remember those grapes- similar to the ones you snack on- sweet and bursting with flavor.  Well when you convert the right types of grapes to wine yeast eats the sugar in the grapes and makes alcohol.  Sometimes a winemaker might stop this process a little early and that leaves what we know as "residual sugar".  You'll taste this sugar in the wine and, depending on how much is left behind, you might end up with an off dry, semi sweet or sweet wine.  

Now here's the thing- we want to be mindful of this residual sugar when pairing food with wine.  As a general rule of thumb- always try to match a wine and food so that, if necessary, the wine has more sugar than the dish does.  If your food has more sugar to it than your wine, you may risk making that wine taste bitter or harshly astringent.  

So if you're having a meal with very little sugar- which would account for many of our roasted chickens, salads, sandwiches, soups etc, than the driest of wines will do, but say you prepare lamb with a cherry glaze- you'll want to pair a wine with that with a bit of sweetness to it.  Wines grown in warmer climates, and those Rieslings are great for having a perfect range of sweetness to them.  The other key pairing note?  Spicy food LOVES a sweeter wine!


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