A Guide to Wine

Not Sure What You Like? When To Swirl? How To Sip? Some Of Our Region’s Top Wine Experts Share Both Basic And Insider Tips.

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The Advice:
What are some common misconceptions about wine?

JH: People believe that good wine has to be expensive. There are hundreds of wines that are wonderful that are under $15. The cool part about that is you get to taste your research.

SH: The notion that one must drink red wines with meat and white wines with fish is something I try to break through daily. Understanding balance with pairings is the point we push to our guests at Fin.  

CR: That sommeliers are a bit uptight and not terribly approachable. Sommeliers love to talk wine, and it doesn’t have to be about the bottle you are drinking tonight. We are fans of wine as well and enjoy hearing about a customer’s “eureka” moment with a new wine or varietal. Talking about wine makes our day. 

JS: Many single-vineyard, small production wines can be/are just as good. Name recognition isn’t everything. Many small producers/growers burst on the scene with stellar wines at half the price.

AS: That wines are hard to understand and require esoteric knowledge. Additionally, wine is seen as expensive when the truth is a glass of wine is no more than a decent beer or a cocktail.

MS: That Rieslings are all sweet; the Germans made Rieslings for the Americans with residual sugars, while the high-quality Rieslings they make for themselves are very, very dry.

What factors do you consider in pairing wine with a dish?

JH: For the most part I keep it simple and try not to overthink it. The acidity in a wine can be more important with a food pairing than the grape. There are fun things you can try like a dry Riesling with Mexican food, a rich chardonnay with marinated flank steak or an Oregon Pinot Noir with salmon.

SH: You can hear me explaining balance to at least one table every night. It’s a concept I hang my hat on, whether it’s creating a cocktail or picking just the right wine with the right dish. A pairing should ultimately complement each other over and over again. I look at the protein, sauce, and set up when selecting to ensure flavors will not compete against one another.  

JS: Think regionally. Pair a dish to a wine native of that region. Also it’s all about the accompaniments of a dish. The wine should play off the sauce first.

AS: Try to match the weight and complexity of the wine with the food. For a hearty beef dish, I’d look for a rich and hearty red. For a lighter seafood dish, I’d pick a lighter, fresh-flavored dry white. My exception:  I like a wine with a hint of sweetness to pair with spicy foods.

MS: Keep in mind the acid, sugar, and fat content of a dish, not just the main part, but all of the accouterments.

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