As many of you know, I’ve spent the last 18 years of my life designing glassware and living my wildest dreams because of a crazy idea. I had suddenly immersed myself into the cocktail and then the wine world, with little knowledge of the subtle but sophisticated world of wine tasting (wine snobbery, lol) and mixing drinks.
I’ve survived those early years with 2 toddlers, and because of my very tight budget, Barefoot and Yellowtail became my best friends. Then when the wine glasses took off I thought oh, boy, try to get educated on wine so you know what you’re doing. So, venturing into this world was fun (I am good at drinking! Especially wine!) and became a simpleton sommelier. But you really don’t have to pretend to be the wine expert in the room.
Knowing a few basic things about the vino world and most especially being able to drill down low to the basics is actually not an easy thing to do, because the information we are given is opinionated, terribly complicated sometimes, and only a true professional would understand it.
So, I’m doing us ALL a favor by doing the digging, as well as summing it all up for you!
How to pair wine with foods? What’s the varietal thing about, anyway? What do you mean, wine goes with pizza? Why don’t I like this wine? Goes with Twizzlers, and you can drink as much as you want without a hangover, and this cheese goes with that, and no wine before its time…yeah, we have heard it all!
One great way to learn, and to share all you ever really need to know about wine, is to plan a party around it. What better than a Wine, Will you Be Mine occasion? For your love or for your friends…a great way to spend the evening with the single friends or alone with your love.
Understanding wine is like understanding a new language, because of the millions of words written about what’s right and what is wrong. But don’t be dismayed if you don’t have it all down your first try! The good news is that we can live in harmony with this and become savvy in the world of wine if we understand some basic elements. And yes, your personal preferences still mean everything!
UNDERSTAND THIS WINE DEFINITION LIST, AND THE WORDS THAT APPLY TO YOUR PREFERENCES, THEN YOU ARE HALFWAY THERE!
acidity — the liveliness and crispness in wine that activates our salivary glands
aeration — the deliberate addition of oxygen to round out and soften a wine
aging — holding wine in barrels, tanks, and bottles to advance them to a more desirable state
alcohol — ethanol (ethyl alcohol), the product of fermentation of sugars by yeast
anosmia — the loss of smell
appellation — a delineated wine producing region particular to France
aroma — the smell of wine, especially young wine (different than “bouquet”)
astringent — tasting term noting the harsh, bitter, and drying sensations in the mouth caused by high levels of tannin
balance — a term for when the elements of wine – acids, sugars, tannins, and alcohol – come together in a harmonious way
barrel — the oak container used for fermenting and aging wine
barrique — a 225-litre oak barrel used originally for storing and aging wines, originating in Bordeaux
bitter — a taste sensation that is sensed on the back of the tongue and caused by tannins
blend — a wine made from more than one grape varietal
body — a tactile sensation describing the weight and fullness of wine in the mouth. A wine can be light, medium, or full bodied.
Bordeaux — the area in Southwest France considered one of the greatest wine-producing regions in the world
bouquet — a term that refers to the complex aromas in aged wines
breathing — exposing wine to oxygen to improve its flavors (see “aeration”)
brilliant — a tasting note for wines that appear sparkling clear
brut — French term denoting dry champagnes or sparkling wines
citric acid — one of the three predominate acids in wine
claret — the name the English use when referring to the red wines of Bordeaux
closed — term describing underdeveloped and young wines whose flavors are not exhibiting well
complex — a wine exhibiting numerous odors, nuances, and flavors
cork taint — undesirable aromas and flavors in wine often associated with wet cardboard or moldy basements
corked — a term that denotes a wine that has suffered cork taint (not wine with cork particles floating about)
crush — the English term for harvest
cuvée — in Champagne, a blended batch of wine
demi-sec — French term meaning “half-dry” used to describe a sweet sparkling wine
dry — a taste sensation often attributed to tannins and causing puckering sensations in the mouth; the opposite of sweet
earthy — an odor or flavor reminiscent of damp soil
enology — the science of wine and winemaking (see “oenology”)
fermentation — the conversion of grape sugars to alcohol by yeast
fining — the addition of egg whites or gelatin (among other things) to clear the wine of unwanted particles
finish — flavors lingering in the mouth after tasting the wine
fruity — a wines that exhibit strong smells and flavors of fresh fruit
full-bodied — a wine high in alcohol and rich flavors
herbaceous — a tasting term denoting odors and flavors of fresh herbs (e.g., basil, oregano, rosemary, etc.)
hot — a description for wine that is high in alcohol (go for the 14%...they are most always better wine!)
lees — sediment
mature — ready to drink
nose — a tasting term describing the aromas and bouquets of a wine
oak/oaky — tasting term denoting smells and flavors of vanilla, baking spices, coconut, mocha or dill caused by barrel-aging
Sommelier —a certified wine professional.
spicy — odors and flavors reminiscent of black pepper, bay leaf, curry powder, baking spices, oregano, rosemary, thyme, saffron or paprika found in certain wines
structure — an ambiguous tasting term that implies harmony of fruit, alcohol, acidity, and tannins
sweet — wines with perceptible sugar contents on the nose and in the mouth
sulfites-those annoying buggers that we can be allergic to or cause other not so good reactions
tannins — the phenolic compounds in wines that leave a bitter, dry, and puckery feeling in the mouth
texture — a tasting term describing how wine feels on the palate
varietal — A varietal is simply the type of grape that was grown to make the wine. Examples of grape varieties grown and produced in the US are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot. There are thousands of different types of grapes. Many are named for their regions, such as Bordeaux (French) or Chardonnay (California.)
vintage — the year a wine is bottled. Also, the yield of wine from a vineyard during a single season.
weight — similar to “body”, the sensation when a wine feels thick or rich on the palate
wine — fermented juice from grapes
yeast — a microorganism endemic to vineyards and produced commercially that converts grape sugars into alcohol
yield — the productivity of a vineyard
young — an immature wine that is usually bottled and sold within a year of its vintage. Wines meant to be drunk “young” are noted for their fresh and crisp flavors.
Pairing Rule #1
Serve a dry rosé with hors d'oeuvres
Honestly, they don’t say Rose’ All Day for nothing! I find a dry rose’ (more buttery on the palette, not sweet) To go with almost anything. My go-to for a last-minute occasion!
Pairing Rule #2
Serve white with anything you can squeeze a lemon or lime on!
For instance, seafood, chicken, pasta with white clam sauce…of
White wines such as Sauvignon Blanc have a bright, citrusy acidity that acts like a zap of lemon or lime juice to heighten flavors in everything from smoked salmon to grilled tuna. A buttery and beautiful chardonnay would also hit the spot here.
Pairing Rule #3
Try low-alcohol wines with spicy foods
Low alcohol wines tend to be sweeter. It takes them longer to ferment and are bottled at a certain time earlier than most other wines. Have to admit, these aren’t my faves, like Riesling, too sweet for me, but the perfect balance to spicy foods. If a sweet wine doesn’t float your boat, try a rich, oaky chardonnay with that curry dish.
Pairing Rule #4
Match rich red meats with tannic reds
Tannins, the astringent compounds in red wines that help give the wine structure, are an ideal complement to luxurious meats—making husky reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Syrah great matches for braised duck legs or pan-seared sausages, and of course with that steak.
Pairing Rule #5
With lighter meats, pair the wine with the sauce
Often the chief protein in a dish—chicken or pork, say—isn't the primary flavor. Think of chicken in a delicate white wine sauce versus chicken in a zesty red wine sauce; in each case, the sauce dictates the pairing choice. With the white sauce, a nice chardonnay will do (somehow when I make a lemon sauce, capers and wine end their way into the recipe). With the red, a Portuguese Red or even a Malbec will do.
Pairing Rule #6
Choose earthy wines with earthy foods
Some examples include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir.
Many great pairing combinations happen when wines and foods echo one another. Earthiness is often found in reds such as Pinot Noir (particularly from Burgundy) and Nebbiolo, making them great partners for equally earthy ingredients, like bison steaks or wild mushrooms.
Pairing Rule #7
For desserts, go with a lighter wine
Some examples include Moscato, Riesling, and port. And did I say champagne is always a good idea?
When pairing desserts and dessert wines, it's easy to overwhelm the taste buds with sweetness. Instead, choose a wine that's a touch lighter and less sweet than the dessert—for instance, an effervescent Moscato d'Asti with roasted pears. I am not a fan of sweet wines, so I do gravitate to a fuller bodied red myself here, oh, and of course, champagne!
If you understand all of the above, just what I’ve explained, you truly know ALL you need to know to survive and respect wine snobs, sommeliers, and the back-door friend with Gallo jug in hand. And if you’re not a wine snob yet, you can now become one, because just the basic info above will get you by! Just be what you wish to become….and you shall be.
Cheese and chocolate go with any wine. Actually, wine can even go with what you wear if you spill it on yourself.
IF ALL ELSE FAILS
If all else fails, Champagne is always a good idea.
Make this Valentine’s idea easy and elegant! You can sashay your way through it with just a trip to a good wine shop and the cheese counter. Seriously, it’s that easy. Maybe some charcuterie options for the heavier eaters…and so you can open up that really nice Cabernet you’ve been saving! Oh, and ordering some LOVE themed Lolita glasses for each person that comes to give it that extra quality edge!
There also can be many takes or twists with this party. For instance, if you are on a strict budget or are broke, then the Trash Wine Party might do, lol…If you can get a good deal on a case of Rose’, then do only rose’! If you recently broke up with someone, then Buh-bye guy could be a fun toast to have.
Trash Wine Tasting Party-Yes, I said it. Again, have fun. Get your magnums set up, even some boxed and canned wines for a hilarious wine tasting which is also easy on the budget!
Rose’ with Roses-Decorate your table with pink rose petals and have this beautiful pink varietal to create a very romantic pink setting. Practically the only event you’ll get a guy to sit at a pink table:
Winter Delights-Create a dessert themed party, with a fondue station, and have other stations by pairing type…for example, 4 stations…one dessert wines with your desserts, Cabernet with your meatballs, Rose’ with the appetizers.
Coastal Love-Create a lovely, candlelit dinner on your terrace or better yet on the beach!
Buh-Bye Guy-A great toast, at least with your friends after a break up.
I personally love the tried and true wine tasting gig.
Any occasion on Valentine’s justifies having this party, even if just for yourself. I don’t advocate drinking alone but we all do it. Cheers to that, momma! This is all about YOU and the wine and who you are sharing it with!!! Of course, food comes into play.
You will need to pick around 6 different wines and food pairings. Here is my plan and what I did last year:
I think it’s important to set up stations for each wine around your living area, with new glasses for each guest if possible, after all this is not a sip and swirl thing. People WILL be drinking everything and changing up the glass is important for each varietal!
Ask Alexa to play a good Valentine’s play list or create one of your own on your streaming service, and Voila you have a little party to throw, and barely had to lift a finger (except your little pinky, of course!)
Armed with a few of the pairing points, the words that describe why you like a certain wine and some friends, you will be all set for your Wine, Will you Be Mine party!