The upcoming holiday season brings yet another reason--as if we needed one--to enjoy food and wine with friends and family. This is something my wife, Shaun, and I certainly relish and enjoy as we are always eager to make any gathering as perfect as it can be.
We believe one of the biggest challenges some people face is the dreaded procurement of wines to please every member of their respective parties. “What does Grandma like? Is it Moscato?” “Will Uncle Gordon be drinking red or white? Or is it gin?”
Regardless, we believe there is something out there that everyone’s palate will agree with. So, here are some basic tips on food and wine pairing for a perfect culinary holiday. Keep in mind that collaboration is the ultimate objective—that the wine and food combine to create a totally new and superior tasting effect. And remember that wine should always complement the food and not dominate it.
How do we achieve that when selecting wines that enhance our menu? It really is a science of taste and aroma. There are five basic tastes that the tongue is sensitive to: salt, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami. If the last one sounds “fishy” you’re somewhat right. In Japanese, the term “umami” is used for a “meaty” sensation, whose characters literally mean "delicious flavor.” And through aromas we are able to actually taste the wine.
The most important elements to pay attention to in pairing wine and food are the acidity, tannin, alcohol and wood flavors, usually referred to as “oakiness.” Most important, remember to always know your guests’ personal taste. If your guests only drink red wine, consider matching red wine to your menu – even to fish.
Simplify these major players in wine pairing
Tannins: The tannins give structure and backbone to the wine. When paired with dishes that are high in proteins and fats (such as red meat and hard cheeses), the tannins will bind to the proteins and come across as softer. Suggestion: Qupe Syrah, California, $24. (All prices at Coastal Wine Market)
Oak: The chemical properties of oak itself can have a profound effect on the wine. Do complement oaky Chardonnay with foods that have toasty flavors, such as from toasted nuts, pastry crust, grilling or smoking. Pair crisp, delicate Chardonnay with simply flavored, simply prepared foods, such as baked fish or poultry with butter and herbs. Suggestion: Buena Vista Chardonnay, Napa Valley, $28.
Sugar: The sugars in wine grapes are what make winemaking. Sweet wines will also pair well with rich foods like foie gras. Desserts that pair well with sweet wines come in all flavors and textures. Suggestion: Penfold’s Club Tawny Port, Australia, $20.
Alcohol: Alcohol is the primary factor in dictating a wine's weight and body. An increase in alcohol content will increase the perception of density and texture. In food and wine pairing, salt and spicy heat will accentuate the alcohol and the perception of "heat" or hotness in the mouth. Suggestion: Juan Gil Blue Label, Spain, $36.
“After, “digesting” all this information, I’m adding a simple tutorial below that features four wines to have on hand over the holidays. While it’s nice to splurge sometimes, these wines are certain to please many palates and complement any conversation or menu without breaking the bank.
1. Veuve de Vernay Sparkling Brut Rose, $12. This is hands-down the best bang for your buck. Red and citrus fruits that bound out of the glass and show a wonderfully balance sweetness without even coming close to being cloying.
2. Pine Ridge Chenin-Blanc Viognier White Blend $40. This limited offering from the Pine Ridge family of wines is one of our most unique and popular offerings at Coastal Wine Market. It’s a perfect balance of floral and fruit that make everyone’s eyes widen and becomes an instant favorite among friends and family.
3. Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Founder’s Reserve $36. This exclusive wine only found at Coastal Wine Market is the perfect accompaniment to any meal or gathering. Black and red cherry notes are backed with classic raspberry flavors that are framed with a cocoa and cola finish.
4. 8 Years in the Desert Red Blend, Orin Swift Cellars $50. Many have heard of The Prisoner wine, and Dave Phinney (aka Orin Swift) is the mastermind. When The Prisoner was sold in 2010 for $285 Million, Dave Phinney was not allowed to create a Prisoner-like Zinfandel-based blend for eight years. Then in 2018, he released 8 Years in the Desert. And it is a blockbuster powerhouse that will knock socks off around the dining table. So be prepared.
For a more customized approach, stop by Coastal Wine Market & tasting room for personal wine pairing suggestions. Address: 641 Crosswater Parkway, Suite B, Ponte Vedra, FL.