About UsWine ReviewsArchivesAdvertiseContact Us


Posted by Robert Whitley on October 19, 2016 at 11:02 AM

Wine Pairing A Two-Way Street

 If you have even a passing interest in wine, you've no doubt heard that wine enhances the dining experience. Entire books are dedicated to explaining which wines go best with what foods. For the most part, wine-pairing advice is well-thought out, and it will no doubt impress family and friends when you follow the suggestions.

But there is another part of the equation that isn't talked about often, and that is the sometimes-tremendous difference in your perception of a wine once you've enjoyed it with food.

Don't believe it? Take this simple test. Next time you visit your favorite wine shop, pick up a bottle of Chianti. Take it home, and pour a glass. If you don't wrinkle your nose at the first few sips, you are the exception.

Chianti is a red wine from Tuscany that is typically high in acidity. While the acidity may soften over time, most consumers don't lay down their Chianti to age until that perfect moment will arrive. Many red wines, particularly Old World reds, also seem imbalanced between fruit and acidity. They taste tart when young and generally aren't embraced as casual sipping wines.

Now, pour another glass of Chianti, and chomp on a few olives. Maybe throw a few bites of cheese into the mix, or a slice or two of prosciutto or salami. Something miraculous will happen: The tart, acidic characteristic that made you wrinkle your nose will disappear, and the purity of the black cherry and red-fruit flavors in the wine will blossom.

The wine that seemed awkward, disjointed and maybe even downright unpleasant will take on another personality — reflecting smoothness and roundness, and notes of flowers and spice that you hadn't even noticed the first time around. Try it with a roasted chicken or pizza, too.

Pairing food and wine isn't always about finding the right wine for a specific dish. Sometimes, it's about finding the right foods for the wines you want to drink.

E. Guigal, Côtes du Rhône ( Rhône Valley, France) 2011 ($15, Vintus)
 A whiff of smoke, a dash of mixed herbs (especially fennel), and plenty of ripe plum and cherry notes all add up to a truly tasty wine.  Deliciously soft and juicy, it evolves into a satisfyingly firm and lengthy finish.  It’s hard to think of another red wine at this price that is anywhere near as satisfying. 91 Marguerite Thomas

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Vines on Ice: Glacial influence on Great Lakes Vineyard Sites
Wayne Belding

If you travel throughout the north-central United States, you know you are in Great Lakes country. Agriculture in many forms thrives on the lakeshores. The large lakes have a profound influence on all agricultural endeavors, but particularly for grape growing. Wine grapes, more than fruits destined for the table or processing plant, are scrutinized to determine the perfect time to pick. Many microclimates around the Great Lakes owe their viticultural prowess to the presence of these massive bodies of water.
Five Obscure Gems
Robert Whitley

Even those with a mere casual interest in wine know the term "wine country" applies to Napa, California, Sonoma, California, parts of California's Central Coast, parts of Oregon and parts of Washington. Beyond those well-established viticultural boundaries, however, there is a blossoming culture of winemakers who are not content with the conventional wisdom on the topic of what conditions are best suited for winegrowing.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Mushrooms Stuffed with Lamb and Rice

It must be the fall season--cooler weather, falling leaves, shorter days--that is making us crave comfort foods. Lately we've been dining on spaghetti Bolognese, shrimp and grits, chili and such. Comfort food, like a comfort animal, is said to increase positive feelings and help provide a sense of emotional, as well as physical wellbeing. Each country has its own notions of comfort food, but here in the United States we turn to simple, somewhat retro dishes that are often anchored by rice, potatoes, pasta, beans or cornmeal. Adding further comfort, and certainly pleasure to these meals, is the fact that this kind of fare is especially good with wine.
On My Table
A Favorite and Six Fellow-Travellers
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Such a fascinating exercise it was -- blind-tasting a dozen Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs, all but one from the fine 2014 vintage and each the basic Pinot Noir bottling from its producer, ranging in price from $19 to $32. I had no role in selecting the wines, which were sent to me by the Oregon Wine Board, and I tasted without any awareness of which brands were included. On the whole, I found good quality across a range of styles: some wines quite light and elegant, some dry and others ripe-fruity to the point of suggesting sweetness, many showing a subtle presence of oak but few with notable tannin. From the high baseline, my favorites emerged. To my delight, most of them were wines from my long-time favorite Oregon producers.