Can I just say I have thoroughly enjoyed this series! I have learned so much about wine, discovered great places around the city of Atlanta, spent quality time with friends and met new fascinating people including true wine connoisseurs! If you need to catch up on the previous articles please visit the wine section on the website.
I was excited to attend this tasting because this is probably one of the most frequently asked questions in regards to wine. If you are having a dinner party, BBQ, or simply serving a simple meal for two, which wine should you serve? I previously attended a wine tasting event with the African American Wine Tasting Society and was happy to make my return for this event at the founder’s wine shop “The Wine Cellars, Inc” located in Smyrna, GA. It is a very quaint and rather large wine store with a lounge and bar area perfect for the many wine lovers in attendance. I was quite curious as to how we would learn food and wine pairings since I could not imagine there being all different types of foods from steaks to fish to pasta to spicy foods or desserts being served. But the owner Renee Rowe was genius in presenting cups of salt, sugar, lemon, blueberry and pepper to represent the various food groups. She recommended we put a fingertip of each on our palate then taste each of the 5 wines presented. A very detailed handout was given on food and wine pairings so before I get to each wine and my thoughts on the pairings, I will share some of her useful information with you.
1) Food and wine pairings are a modern phenomenon based on the idea that finding the right combination of texture and flavor between the two will lead to a more desirable dining experience. Most experts believe getting it right comes from finding the right balance between the “weight” of the food and the “weight or body” of the wine. Heavy wines such as a Cabernet Sauvignon may drown out the taste of a light fish or another example is the taste of a light wine such as a Pinot Grigio may be lost to elements of a heavy stew. If the focus of your pairing is the wine then choose a meal of a lighter consistency and vice versa. If you would like your dish to be the focus and shine then choose a wine of lighter weight.
2) Complement and Contrast are two other features to consider with food and wine pairings. One may choose to have the dish and the wine complement each other as in an earthy Pinot Noir and an earthy mushroom dish. Another approach is to have contrasting tastes such as an acidic Sauvignon Blanc with a rich creamy sauce dish. If you love “salty/sweet” (as in kettle corn popcorn or peanut butter and jelly) then this may be the better of the two for you.
3) Sweetness of wine. The sweetness of wine is determined by the amount of residual sugar left in the wine after the fermentation process. Wines may be bone dry to dessert sweetness depending on how much sugar is fermented into alcohol (with bone dry wines all the sugar is fermented into alcohol). I found it interesting to note that sweet wines need to be sweeter than the dish they are paired with. Sweet wines also balance out spicy, hot foods frequently food in Asian cuisine.
4) Flavor of the dish vs. the main ingredient. I have always thought that one should pair a wine with the meat being served. For example, red wine with red meat or white wine with fish or chicken. However, Renee recommends pairing the wine with the flavor of the dish in terms of the cooking method and the sauces and seasonings used.
5) Different wines for different palates. It is important to note that different wines will taste different to different people. There are a variety of aromas and flavors in each individual wine and these can all be perceived differently based on someone’s experience with wine and their palate. Renee suggests trying the same variety of wine from different regions of the world. You can also purchase a wine essence tasting kit to practice. This principle was very obvious to me at the wine tasting since the many attendees had various opinions as to which wine paired better with which of the samples provided!
So onto the Wines! Remember the 5 essences provided were salt, pepper, sugar, lemon and blueberry.
1) Chloe Pinot Grigio: This was a full bodied white wine although a little bitter to me. It paired well with blueberry and sugar.
2) Ghost Pines Chardonnay: A light smooth white but also a bit bland. However, maybe because of that it paired well with everything! It didn’t overpower any of the essences provided.
3) Parducci Petite Sirah: Interesting fact-in case you didn’t know-Renee mentioned that petite Sirah is a completely different grape than Sirah. And although you may like Sirah you may not like wines made from petite Sirah since it has a different taste. I enjoyed this wine although it was a bit tart so it definitely did not go with lemon. I thought it went best with salt, blueberry and pepper.
4) Drops of Jupiter Red Blend: This was a lighter tart, red that went best with sugar but also was compatible with salt and lemon.
5) Kreusch Riesling: A very citrusy mildly sweet Riesling that was perfect with the lemon! (Rieslings are one of my favorite wines! Read my Riesling wine tasting here. I love to pair it with lemon tarts). It also went well with the pepper and sugar.
All the wines were available for purchase at The Wine Cellars, Inc. They have wine tastings every Saturday! Be sure to visit their website for more information. If you would like to join the African American Wine Tasting Society or attend their monthly wine tasting events please visit their website .
I hope this article helps you with your next attempt at pairing wine with your dishes and desserts. The main take away points for me were- to pair the wine with the flavors of the dish and not the main ingredient or meat, that I prefer contrasting tastes and that everyone will taste something different depending on their palate. Therefore, when entertaining, be sure to have different choices of wine available for your guests!