Valentine's Day falls on a Saturday this year and if you find yourself planning a romantic rendezvous, here are two wine suggestions. First, let's start with what not to do. Don't pair Champagne , or any Champagne-style sparkling wine with a box of chocolates. Wine and chocolate do pair nicely, but sparkling wine and chocolate do not. Sparkling wines are mostly dry and high in acid. This makes them pair nicely with rich, salty foods like potato chips, tater tots and macaroni and cheese.
A glass of wine has about 150 calories as a general rule. If a bottle of wine had a proper ingredient list, rather than just the almost useless statement “contains sulfites,” then we’d all know what’s in a bottle, how it’s altered, how much is a proper serving and the caloric intake. This week, I’m going to fix that. Here’s what’s in your wine. The main ingredients are water, alcohol and sugars. Water makes up well over 75 percent of wine.
In the wine world, there are different categories: still wine, also known as dry wine; dessert wine also known as sweet wine; fortified wine, often referred to as an after-dinner drink; and sparkling wine known as champagne or bubbly. All of these descriptors are correct when defining a general style of wine except for champagne. The word champagne is often used to describe a specific style of wine and that style is sparkling. But while champagne is a sparkling wine, not all sparkling wine is Champagne. This is a crucial concept to get right.
Cabernet sauvignon is the most popular red wine grape in the world. It is planted in France, Spain, Australia, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and the U.S. It often produces soft, supple, velvety wines that can have aromas of blueberries, raspberries, licorice, cedar, tobacco and chocolate. It pairs wonderfully with a wide variety of foods from cheddar cheese to grilled steak and baked potatoes. It’s often called the king of wine because producers like to grow it and sellers know we will buy it. Cabernet is king. But just like most royalty — it has some secrets.
Thanksgiving dinner preparation usually falls into one of two categories: 1. you make all the food and invite all the people and are in charge of everything (you might have helpers but you are the boss; the French word for boss is chef) or 2. everyone is assigned to bring a dish/contribution to the meal. Either way, I think you’ll either be selecting the wine or giving the wine order. Here is some advice for pairing wine with Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving dinner is a minefield of competing tastes and flavors.
If you go out to a restaurant and order the house white there’s a very good chance it will be a glass of chardonnay. Chardonnay is a white grape that comes from an impossibly small village in the Burgundy region of France. The village’s name? You guessed it, Chardonnay. Why is chardonnay, which is quite possibly the most famous white wine in the world, named after a hamlet of only 176 inhabitants in rural France?
Some of the most delicious and most food-friendly wines made anywhere in the world are German rieslings. Riesling is a noble grape, meaning it translates a sense of place where it is grown. The best places on our little blue globe to taste this exceptional grape are the German river valleys of the Mosel, Saar, Rewur and Rhine rivers. Riesling evolved in Germany. It is a native plant, and it is very cold-hardy because of the hardness of its wood. This is fortunate because Germany isn’t particularly warm. When it comes to grapes, warmth is what matters.
I like to drink wines seasonally. This means I’m often more keen to drink lighter white wines during warm months, and in the cooler months my preferences turn toward deep reds. A perfect wine for fall is pinot noir. Many years ago, when I was traveling in New Zealand, which makes some very good pinot noirs, I couldn’t pronounce the name of this wine. It took a German chef who I was traveling with to teach me how to say this French word in English.
I’m sure you’ve noticed the little shelf-talkers at the liquor store. These are the little tags that hang under the bottles on the shelves, and they say something like, “Rated 93 by Wine Spectator” or “Rated 91 by Robert Parker” — or something to that effect. These are very effective tools in marketing a wine. I mean who wants to buy a wine rated 72? Everyone wants to buy a wine rated 93. Have you ever wondered how they come up with these points? They use the five S’s or some slight variation.
Just because a wine label says “Contains Sulfites” doesn’t mean you’re allergic to it, or that because you got a headache, a flushed face, hot flashes, a scratchy throat or a stuffy nose after drinking wine that it was the sulfites that caused the reaction. Because it wasn’t. Sulfites are not a problem. A sulfite allergy doesn’t manifest as any of those reactions, and they certainly don’t give you a red-wine headache. Here are some truths for you to chew on. Sulfites are a group of food preservative chemicals, one of which is SO2, also known as sulfur dioxide.