Clueless about wine basics? Need inspiration for pairing food with wine? Look no further! An easy-to-follow wine guide from a simple, wine-loving lady.
What's a good wine? This is the question that always seems to haunt me as I end my grocery shopping extravaganza in the wine aisle. I hope no one judges me as I reach for my standard eight-dollar-and-something-cent bottle of vino. Because I haven’t tried all the wine in the world, I guess I really can’t answer my own question, and sometimes it seems like no one else can either.
However, having done a bit of research I’m beginning to think that the answer to the question of “what is a good wine?” is entirely up to the individual pouring a glass. No one can really dictate what “good” is. It’s completely up to you, the biased consumer, and that’s okay.
Whether you prefer expensive, local, or organic wines, or maybe just a bottle right off the shelf at your local chain grocery store, it’s okay to make a decision based on your taste buds.
I’ve been to a handful of wineries and tastings, but things always seem to be removed from my brain after I’ve slept a couple of times (or maybe had too many glasses...who knows). You’re given a tour, told about the production process, and then instructed to swirl, sniff, and pick out the different flavors in a glass. The experts are telling me exactly what to do and when to do it, so why do I feel like I am so bad at this?!
I ventured to do a little research and let me tell you, the world wide web of wine is extensive and there are bunches of grape snobs out there! In reality, most of us probably don’t spend evening after evening in fancy candle-lit restaurants sending the server back for something with a less musty smell. However, you (like me) probably have friends and family over for dinner and a bottle, or sit down on the couch at the end of a crazy day with a glass of your favorite wine in hand praying that the kids don’t wake up. If you identify with any of those things, this post is for you!!
Via Wine Maniacs
Even though we might not be wine connoisseurs, a little extra knowledge in the vino department tucked in our cabinets can’t hurt! At least we will know if we are storing, serving, and pairing our wine ”correctly” (or at least at a level that meets the standards of our friends). No one can tell you what you believe tastes good, but it’s never a bad idea to know how to properly handle wine. After all, it’s a complicated pour!
Wines are made with different types of grapes from all across the world. Many wines are categorized by grape type and/or region. For example, the grocery store I shop at breaks up the wine aisles by country; New Zealand and Spain are usually the most full. An important thing to remember is that there are white wines, which show no color; red wines, which have color based on how long the grapes were soaked; and blush/rose wines that are in between. Wines can be classified on a continuum from dry (say bye to any sweetness) to medium (just a hint of sweetness) to sweet (dessert status). I’m a dry-wine girl, though I won't turn down a glass of something sweet if it’s offered. I mean, really, who turns down a glass of wine? Anyone?
Via Guardian Arms
Here’s a basic list to help you remember what's what the next time you’re staring blankly at the wine list in front of you!
Red Wines: Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah, & Zinfandel
White Wines: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer (tricky to pronounce, but it’s yummy!), Gruner Veltliner, Marsanne, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris/Grigio, Riesling, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, & Viognier
Sparkling Wines (usually white or rose): Asti, Bacchus, Cava, Champagne, Cremant, Espumante, Lambrusco, Pezsgo, Prosecco, Sekt, & sparkling Shiraz
Dessert Wines: Caluso Passito, Malaga, Marsala, Muskateller, Somoswein, & Tokajer
Fortified Wines: Commandaria, Madeira, Port, Sherry, & Vermouth
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking you to commit this guide to memory and take it to the grave, but I hope seeing where it stems from the vine is helpful for you!
The first thing you have to do when you bring home a bottle of wine is find a place to put it. If you’re like me, that is usually the top of the fridge. Let me tell you not all bottles belong on the top of the fridge or in the pantry for that matter . If you are one of the select few with a gorgeous wine cellar in your basement, then I’m waiting for you to invite me over. I will live in your basement, quiet and content (you won’t even know I’m there!). For everybody else, keep this in mind:
White wines are to be kept cool
red wines are typically stored at room temperature in a cool place!
The fridge is a little too cold for white wines as it ranges between 35 to 40 degrees. However, a wine fridge ranges anywhere between 45 to 65 degrees, 55 degrees is said to be the perfect temperature at which to store white wines. Storing a bottle correctly determines taste and longevity! No one likes a spoiled sip!
A few helpful things to remember:
- Keep your wine out of the kitchen! As much as you feel like this is the place for your wine to be, a cabinet in the living room, dining room, or even a closet under the stairs are all much better options. You don’t have to worry about the corks drying out if you’re just looking to store the wine for a couple weeks or months, up to a year.
Sunlight isn’t great for your wine. Temperature influx and UV rays both affect the quality of wine. It’s like leaving grapes in a hot car…you don’t want to pop them in your mouth if they’ve gone bad!
A wine saver is an amazing miniature-bike-looking pump that allows you to place the cork snugly back in its bottleneck home, which makes for a longer shelf life once opened. These are a great and affordable investment if you want to keep your wine fresh longer. Wine lasts roughly 3-5 days after being opened. But on average, wine will last approximately a week longer when corked with a wine saver instead of simply reinserting the cork by hand. There are other types of corks that will keep your wine if a pump is too intense for you! Simple rubber types are also available to make sure no air gets in the bottle.
When considering where to store (and serve) your wine, think about making a wine bar. These can be made with an extra dresser, table or buffet, some space, and a couple of shelves meant for wine bottles. I love the idea and think it’s a great statement piece to add to your home. It also provides a solution for storing the wine out of the kitchen, and is a fun place to entertain and serve your friends! A bar cart is a smaller, more versatile option if you prefer to mix up other drinks, too. I love the look of hanging up wine glasses from the stem—it ensures easy access and it’s a nice way to display them!
Food Pairing for Meals
Another important aspect of wine is pairing it with the right food, or just good food in general. I love to cook and drink wine. I like them together. I like them separately. It goes without saying that drinking a nice glass of red isn’t a disappointing experience, no matter how I look at it! And, no matter how my cooking turns out that day, a glass of wine or two always makes food taste a little better and cooking more enjoyable! After a long day, I look forward to sipping some vino, cooking a nice dinner, and scarfing it down with my pinky up, of course!
Via Dutton Goldfield
I’m no wine connoisseur, but I suppose my consumption of wine with food stems from common sense in my own kitchen: if it tastes good, which it almost always does, then I eat and drink it! As I said before, not everyone likes what I like. Same thing can be said of thoughts…my approach to “if it tastes good, it must be good,” may not be for everyone.
If my common sense approach isn’t for you, here are some food-pairing guidelines for your next dinner! In the name of full disclosure, I have to say I haven’t had the chance to try all of these out yet, so you’ll have to let me know what you think!
- For sparkling wines, try something salty! Since they have a sweet kick to them, salt adds a nice contrast for a balanced flavor experience.
- Tangy foods go well paired with a white wine like Sauvignon Blanc.
Pinot Grigio, a white wine, pairs well with seafood dishes, including fish.
- For fatty fish dishes in a creamy sauce (shrimp), try a Chardonnay.
- Rose Champagnes are great paired with a large array of different dinners. This is an easy go-to if you’re having a hard time making up your mind. You also might consider having this tucked away for a night when you have unexpected guests since it goes well with so many different foods.
A dry rose wine is perfect with rich, cheesy cuisine.
Pinot Noir goes well with earthy dishes, full of mushrooms and herbs.
A Malbec will pair well with a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce.
Last but not least, you can play the, “if it grows together, it goes together” game: if you’re having a Spanish dinner, try to find a fun Spanish wine. My view is that if these foods are grown in the same places, they have to be good together! But, that’s not scientifically proven or anything 😉
Bottom line is that food and wine go together! If you aren’t sure what to pair your dinner with, then take a step back and see how you can create a balanced flavor. If you paired a thick creamy sauce with a sweet white wine, you may be putting on your stretchy pants and heading to bed before you even get to clear the table. A good rule of thumb is to pay attention to the balance of sweet and spicy, or salty and sweet.
Wine & Cheese are the Bee’s Knees
The first thing I think of when I hear someone whisper something about cheese, is WINE. These two yums are always a wonderful pairing; however, I’m not always sure which cheese goes with which wine. I tend to gravitate toward all the cheese and all the wine no matter what is acceptable…that being said, this next list is not just to help you, it’s helping me too! Here’s some more info to have on hand when you’re at the grocery store and want to make a good impression on a date or dinner guests.
Via Wine Enthusiast
As with any type of food and drink, wine and cheese pairings are endless and the decision of whether something is great together is, once again, left up to the taste buds of the individual. There are, however, some easy matches you can begin with to see if you like where wine and cheese together take your taste buds.
Four categories of cheese to remember are:
Bloomy - creamy cheeses with a soft rind
Hard - stiff cheese with a salty taste and a blue tinge
Fresh - cheese that is soft and spreads easilyBlue - cheese that has a strong smell, salty taste, and, obviously, a blue tinge
Bloomy cheeses include: Camembert, which is paired well with Champagne; Brie, which is paired well with a glass of Chardonnay; Robiola, which mixes great with Sparkling Wine; and Taleggio, pairing well with Pinot Blanc.
Hard cheeses include: Gouda, which pairs well with Merlot; Cheddar pairs well with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon; Parmesan tastes nice with Chianti; and Double Gloucester, which pairs well with Zinfandel.
Blue cheeses include: Gorgonzola, which mixes nicely with a Port wine; Stilton pairs well with a Sauternes; Blue goes well with a sweet Riesling; and Cambozola, which is a good pair for an Eiswein wine.
Lastly, Fresh cheeses include: Ricotta, which pairs well with a Pinot Grigio; Mozzarella mixes well with a Sauvignon Blanc; Goat pairs nicely with Chenin Blanc; and Feta, which goes nicely with a Beaujolais.
You clearly can’t consume all of these in a day (I should say wouldn’t, this is not a dare), so remember that your food and cheese pairing wine adventures are a journey that should be experienced over time, otherwise you might swell from all that salt! And, like any journey, sometimes the decisions we make don’t pan out and we have to keep trying!
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One last helpful hint is to check the label for a description. Wine makers have spent countless hours crafting the perfect taste. They often include brilliant descriptions of the earthy, fruity, and smoky flavors. Sometimes, there will be a food pairing suggestion on the back as well! Check that out and you’ll be good to go!
For me, serving is the most enjoyable part of the wine experience. Although I do enjoy a glass solo-style, everything truly is better with a friend. Whether it’s for happy hour or a meal, I love nothing more than a relaxing conversation where the focus is on the people I’m dining with, and wine adds a special touch to these experiences.
Via Wine Enthusiast
What do you serve your wine in? Please put the red solo cups aside! Even for beginners, the average glass won’t do your wine justice (expensive and inexpensive alike). The delicate shapes of wine glasses are intentional and are meant to allow a release of the best possible aromas in the wine. For example, my mom loves Pinot Noir and as I was Christmas shopping I stumbled upon a specific glass to enhance that wine’s flavor! It really made a difference! Your sense of smell is a key component of tasting all the flavors, so the right wine glass is essential for full enjoyment.
I thought I would include this amazing graphic, pictured below, showing the different types of wine glasses. Although slightly impractical for the average consumer, it is none-the-less intriguing. Don’t panic, after all is said and done, the best advice seems to be to stock your cabinets with two glass types: a red and a white. If you want to take it a step further, try to make sure you have a red wine cabernet glass, a white wine glass, and a flute glass on hand!
Via Wine Folly
Well, my fellow and future wine drinkers, I think that wraps up all of my basic wine knowledge. I hope this blog is the beginning of new and exciting discoveries for all of us! I’m enjoying all the aspects that come with time and age; we truly are like wine, getting better and better as the years pass by!
Was this information helpful? Do you have any nuggets of wine gold to share? Share and comment, I look forward to hearing your wine tips and tricks! Cheers!!
**Featured image via Furnishism