Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mother Said...

Every person on this earth that has a mother most likely grew up hearing a few (or many) little cliche rules that moms just love to say:

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." (Sorry, Mom, but that one just isn't true)

"Birds of a feather flock together." (I'll pass that one on to my kids!)

"Eat your vegetables." (I use that one on my fiance all the time)

And of course, the golden rule, "Love your neighbor as yourself." (You can't argue with The Bible, folks!!)

Sound familiar?

Well, the world of wine has a few little rules of its own. If you remember my last post, I encouraged you to make the most of your wine purchases by creating a perfect food and wine pairing.

To help you with this, I'd like to share with you a few of the golden rules of wine and food pairing:

Rule #1: Don't segregate.

There is a silly and outdated rule that states: "White wines belong with white meats, and red wines belong with red meats".

Throw that out of the window, baby!!(Don't worry, I have authority to say that, and every other sommelier will tell you the same).

The issue of the matter is not color, but balance. The goal of food and wine pairing is to choose a food and wine that perfectly compliment each other. A poor food and wine pairing would cause either component to outweigh the other, like a huge Cabernet with a light flaky fish.

The being said, consider the WEIGHT of the food and wine (how well it coats your mouth). A feminine, delicate Gamay from Beaujolais, although red, would be a great compliment to a light, white fish.

So remember, segregation was made illegal in 1954.

Rule #2: Acid needs acid.

Remember Mr. Acid? Acidity in wine makes your mouth water, cheeks pucker, and gives the sensation that resembles what it would feel like to chomp on lemon slices. Acidity is a lovely component of wine, and without it, wine would be what wine snobs call "flabby" (real profound, huh?)

There IS a way to make the most of acid in both wine and food, and that is to match them together.

Have you ever wondered why Italian red wine tastes so delicious with Italian food? That is because of the pH levels of Italian staples. Rustic Italian ingredients, like tomatoes, lemons, and capers are highly acidic. That's why they go brilliantly with Chianti, which is made from the super acidic Sangiovese grape. Mangia Mangia!

If you aren't an Italian food/wine person (which, how could you NOT be??-I guess Olive Garden has ruined some people's taste for Italian food, and rightly so), pair a nice Sauvignon Blanc with some fish smothered in freshly squeezed lemon.

Your mouth will be happy :)

Rule #3: Weight needs Weight.

Refer to Rule #1. A heavy wine (one that is high in alcohol & tannin) needs a heavy food (lots of fat, salt, and protein) to stand up to it.

Hello... Red wine+fat filled cheese= awesome!

That's also the reason why a big, bold, Cabernet is the classic sidekick to a hunk of beef. Just like Batman and Robin, but more edible.

Rule #4: Fish hates tannin.

See Rule #1 again. This is why most heavy red wines don't go well with fish. Fish generally has an oily texture and body.

Take my weird analogy:

You just got your carpet scotch guarded. The next day, you spill oil on it. If the scotch guard does its job right, it will hopefully prevent the oil from seeping into the carpet. It serves as a blocker, and will force the oil to just puddle up on the carpet, rather that leak into the nooks and crannies.

Think of tannin in wine as the scotch guard, and the oily fish as the spilled oil. The tannin will serve as a blocker, and will force the oily fish texture to just puddle up on your tongue, rather than be absorbed and enjoyed. Not appetizing.

Therefore, the golden rule is: don't pair fish with tannic wines. On the flip side, acidic whites and light reds (like Pinot Noir and Gamay) are great pairings to fish!

Rule #5: Spice+Alcohol= FIRE!
Don't be scared when it comes to pairing spicy food with wine. But remember, drinking a wine with high a high alcohol content while eating spicy food is like pouring gasoline on a blazing fire.

'Nuff said- and do you really want that sensation in your mouth?

So, spicy Asian food with a big, tannic, Napa Cab= a bad idea.

Rule #6: Sugar+Spice= Something Nice

If you DO like spicy food, there is a solution!

Pair spicy food with a wine that has some residual sugar in it (many German and Austrian wines fall under this category, as well as wines from Alsace).

Spicy Asian food with a Riesling or Gewurztraminer is a beautiful thing.

When it comes to spicy Mexican food, my professional suggestion is to just grab a margarita. On the rocks, with salt, please!

Rule #7: Sweeter is better.

When it comes to pairing dessert with wine, always remember: the WINE must always be SWEETER than the dessert. This is why bitter dark chocolate and port are a brilliant pairing. The syrupy quality of Port balances out the bitterness in the chocolate. And vice versa.

Don't believe me? Thinking about pairing a sweet dessert wine with a double layered caramel & chocolate cake? Think again, or bring along some pepto bismol-you'll have a big 'ol stomach ache.

What is my personal favorite food & wine couple, you ask? Potato chips and Champagne. AKA: A little slice of Heaven.

Now please, go invite all your friends over for dinner! Your flawless food and wine pairings will be sure to impress.
Bon Appetito, Wine-O's,

Your Fearless Tutor, Stacey

PS: Next post: "Taking the Snob out of Sensory Evaluation"- how to REALLY taste wine like a pro!
PSS: Encouraged readings: "Perfect Pairings" & "Daring Parings" by Evan Goldstein
PSSS: Go to this cool wine & food pairing tool for some additional assistance (although after reading this post, I hope you won't need it!)


Lisa said...

Re: Rule #5
Get ready for a laugh...
...ah, the crap you sommeliers come up with! ;)

*MY* professional recommended pairing with Mexican food is Mexican beer! A couple of Bohemias, please...

And as far as courses go, a cheese plate with some Madeira, and then dessert with coffee! Perfect!

P.S. My deep dark secret... I don't like Italian reds...... I hope we can still be sisters.....

Candice Sytsma said...

Awesome Stacey!!

Question: How do you know how acidic a wine is? One of my favorite dishes is chicken or fish with lemon/caper sauce... so sauv.blanc goes well with that? But how do you know (other than the fact that you're educated on it!) how acidic different wines are?

Loved #6! Tom and I were out to dinner with my dad the other week, and he ordered a spicy dish and asked the server what kind of wine to have with it. His recommendation? SWEET! My dad LOVED it. Now i know why :) ..but yes, I would definitely go with a margarita with Mexican... one food with which wine does not sound appetizing.

Loving your posts girl! Keep it up!

Stacey Szumiak said...

Hi Candi!

I'm so glad you are enjoying reading!! It has been such a fun outlet for me and i'm glad to get some feedback!
Unfortunately, there isn't a way to tell by looking at the bottle if the wine is acidic. I wish it were that easy. Wine is all about memorization.
Here are some other grapes to try:
Viura, Verdejo, Albarino ( all from spain)
Torrentes (Argentina)
Chenin Blanc (S. Africa, Loire valley-France).

I hope this helps! if you have any questions, feel free to ask!