We bartered for a class each. I would teach her beginning herbalism and she would teach me beginning wine. She reminded me of my ballet teacher in college or my sixth grade teacher. She kept snapping at me. She said, “What do you smell?” Then just as quickly, “YOU ARE TAKING TOO LONG!” “Uh,” I replied with a squeak, “I smell…red.”
I then took a set of sommelier wine classes from a teacher that taught for a rather big wine school and now works for a winery in Napa. Much better. Among giggly, well traveled, interested people, I learned more, and more about how I learn. We were to smell upwards of forty different wine glasses filled with everything from dirt to ammonia, from lemon to grass, and memorize scents. Smelling the wine is a way of tasting it and a lot can be determined by the sniff. One can tell if oxygen got in (vinegar). How the wine maker prepared it. Whether he chose Sur Lis (placed on yeast to sit and create a creamy taste), more tannins (that pucker taste) means longer with the skins, and what kind of oak was used. Whether it grew in limestone or in a rural area.
In a comfortable atmosphere I breathed in deeply from the glass of wine and closed my eyes. I could smell cinnamon, and figs, currents, and sunshine….touch of vanilla. I smell sunny days and atmospheres, like France, and a later harvest. It is not right or wrong. I am not going to be a sommelier for a living. I can smell Autumn in Tuscany along with fruits and spices and Slovenian oak and not get scoffed at. It so increases my enjoyment of the wine, isn’t that what wine is for?
Choosing a wine for food can be daunting. But it is simple. Think of common tastes.
A creamy sauce might want cream from the oak of Chardonnay balanced with its tropical fruit to cut the richness.
However Chardonnay will make a salad taste metallic, better to drink a crisp Pinot Grigio to bring out the freshness.
One wouldn’t want to mix a bold, knock your socks off, Tempranillo with say….a light broth because you would lose the taste of the broth! Better to mix it with a flavorful marinara sauce or barbecue.
On the same note, one wouldn’t want to drink a Moscato, in all its sweet glory, with a big bowl of stew because you would lose the wine. It would taste like sweet water.
So choosing wines that are the same “strength” as your dish helps balance the flavors.
Those that prefer red wine but are drinking a “white” dish could opt for a Pinot Noir. It is more subtle than Cabs and has lovely earth and cherry flavors that work well with nearly everything including spicy foods.
Oyster mushrooms with butter and Parmesan over linguine and Chardonnay
Mushrooms in a thick sauce with seafood and tomatoes loves Nebbiolo
Dessert loves Champagne
Chef salad and Pinot Grigio
Potato Cheese soup with Chives and a red blend
Flourless dark chocolate cake…not too sweet…with Moscato
Tomato soup and Merlot
Spicy mole sauce over trout and Pinot Noir
Fruit Salad and Sauvignon Blanc
Root vegetable stew and Cabernet Sauvignon
In the end….drink what you love!
Toast to life! Cheers!