Whether dining out with friends or checking out some new wine bars in town, anyone can order wine like a pro with a little bit of know-how. With a few basic tips, picking the perfect vintage for a meal is easier than one might think. Learning a few vocabulary words and understanding some general ideas about wine characteristics is all anyone needs to impress friends and enjoy a great wine experience.
Wine Selection Basics
To choose a good wine to accompany a meal, there are a few important considerations based on wine characteristics and qualities. These include the type of wine, food selection, and external factors such as specials and price. Understanding t should allow anyone to make a good selection at popular wine bars.
There are many types of wine served in restaurants and wine bars across the world, all produced in different ways with different types of fruit. Controlling the fermentation process by using different methods and material creates different characteristics as follows:
White – These wines include: a wide variety of Chardonnays (known as one of the most versatile wines for drinking and cooking), each of which should be judged individually; Pinot Gris, a slightly spicy and drier white; Sauvignon Blanc, a fruity white that is not overly sweet; Semillon, a dry wine with a strong flavor; Gewürztraminer, a dry, spicy white; and Moscato (wetter) and Riesling (drier), both of which are sweet, fruity whites that become sweeter as they age.
Red – These wines include: Merlot, a fruity, full-bodied red; Cabernet Sauvignon, a drier, fruity red; Pinot Noir, a delicate and versatile burgundy; Shiraz or Syrah, a drier, bold and spicy red; Zinfandel, a robust, heavy red; Malbec, a milder dry and spicy red; Barbera, a wetter wine though not so sweet to the taste; and Sangiovese, a medium-bodied, wetter red.
Wine Sweetness and Weight
Dryness is a term that many have heard yet few understand. It refers to sweetness, as a very dry wine is not very sweet on the tongue. A sweet wine is therefore considered to be wet. Wines are usually divided as dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet, or sweet. Sweetness is created through specific control of the fermentation process.
A wine also has weight or body. Discussed as light, medium, or heavy-bodied (or sometimes full-bodied), body refers to the amount of alcohol in the fermentation. The greater the alcohol content, the heavier the wine and the fuller it feels in the mouth.
Food Matching for the Best Experience
There are volumes written about matching wine with food, which changes for every palate. The basics for creating the best pairs when visiting wine bars include knowing the wine type, dryness, weight, and general taste. While reds typically go with meat and whites typically go with poultry and fish, other factors should ultimately determine which dishes to have with a particular wine.
For the best dining experience at popular wine bars, recommendations are as follows:
The heavier the meat, the heavier the wine and vice-versa.
The spicier the food, the fruitier or sweeter the wine.
Salty foods go well with dry and sweet wine.
Fattier dishes work well with drier, more acidic types of wine.
Vegetables and cheeses go well with whites.
Seafood and fish go with anything from whites to lighter reds.
Red meats pair well with darkest reds.
Sweet dessert wines match with desserts.
Although only the beginning, these tips should allow even the complete wine novice the ability to make a reasonable choice when visiting restaurants and wine bars. Do not assume that the special is the only one to try, as there are usually many good wines available. Venturing a bit into the unknown can yield pleasant surprises!