With an increasing popularity driven by choice, style, price, and geography, the selection of wine has become more than just a color preference. Conventional wisdom on wine and food pairing advised “red wine with meat and white wine with chicken or seafood.” While this may be safe and generally a good rule to follow, adhering to this traditional pairing style limits your culinary experience.
Today’s food preparation, while regional in style, incorporates ingredients and spices from around the world. This global melange of flavor creates depth and complexity in the dish which can be enhanced with the right wine accompaniment. Although conventional wisdom on wine and food pairing might be adequate, defying conventional wisdom can be intriguing and rewarding!
When selecting a wine to accompany a meal one of the first factors I consider is “weight.” Although this may seem a bit odd, I am trying to strike a balance between the weight of the food and the weight of the wine. The lighter the meal the lighter the wine; the heavier more complex the meal the more substantial the wine. Conventional wisdom might suggest light food=white wine; while heavier food=red wine. However the light to heavier spectrum of wine selection can be applied to white as well as red. In other words, appropriate red or white choices can often be made to accompany the same dish.
The question becomes: “How do you know what to select?” The answer: taste, taste, taste! You need to try a variety of wines to develop an understanding of your preferences. Once you find something you like, keep a record noting the geographic region and varietal type for example: California Riesling or Australian Shiraz. From that base, you can begin to expand your knowledge by exploring within the varietal for example: Rieslings from California vs. Germany vs. Australia. Alternatively you can explore the varietal within the same region for example: California Cabs (Cabernet Sauvignon) from Napa vs. Sonoma.
The possibilities to expand your knowledge of wine are limitless and at first pass may seem daunting. However a little planning and structure can turn the experience into a tasteful adventure. One way to accomplish this is by attending various wine tastings offered by local wine retailers or restaurateurs. Usually offering 3-5 wines, these tastings are a great way to explore a range of wines from a region and/or vineyard. Some local spots for tastings in the Sarasota area are the following:
MoZiac (tastings every Saturday afternoon)
Bijou Cafe (tastings every 1st Friday of the month through October)
Sarasota Vineyard (regular tastings; free tasting on August 13th 5:30-7:30)
The Wine Warehouse