Ask a Somm

Dispelling a Few Wine Myths

Photo by Jon Estrada

Photo by Jon Estrada

Few areas of human endeavor are more burdened with myth, exaggeration and misinformation than wine. Here are a few simple and effective ways to make the most of your wine-drinking experience, courtesy of beverage director and certified sommelier Kirk Peterson of B&B Hospitality Group Las Vegas.

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Make that open bottle of wine last longer. Many products claim the ability to make an opened bottle of wine last longer, from pumps and argon gas to plastic disks that “shield” the surface of the wine from oxygen. Unfortunately many of these products belong in the same class as emails for ED pills and pain-relieving magnetic bracelets that end up in your spam folder.

The key to prolonging the deterioration of wine is preventing as much oxidization as possible. Once a bottle of wine is opened and exposed to oxygen, deterioration is inevitable. Products that attempt to preserve wine that has already been exposed to oxygen ignore the simple fact of chemistry that gasses dissolve into liquids, and no amount of isolation from oxygen after the fact can change the amount of oxygen that has already dissolved into the wine.

But chemistry offers a solution as well: Lowering the temperature of the wine will decrease the rate at which these chemical reactions occur. Therefore, the easiest and most effective way to preserve that open bottle of wine is to just stick the cork back in the bottle and put it in the refrigerator.

Stop drinking your sparkling wine out of the wrong glass. The common Champagne flute is, sadly, a fraud, and it’s time to expose it as such. Champagne is one of the best parts of being alive and of legal drinking age; it would be a shame to not maximize your enjoyment. And the best way to do so is to capture as much of the aroma as possible.

In order to do this you’re going to need a glass that is large enough to collect these aromas and that you can actually get your nose into. For sparkling wine such as prosecco and non-vintage Champagne, I go with a regular white-wine glass. For more complicated vintage Champagnes and prestige cuvees I recommend a Burgundy glass, the larger bowl of which allows for better collection of the more developed aromas.

Don’t worry so much about making the “wrong” choice when pairing wine with food. The common wisdom of white wine with fish and poultry and red with everything else misses a lot of delicious opportunities. It is the structural components of wine more than the color that offer the best guidance toward pairing perfection.

It is not the “red” in the red wine that clashes with seafood; it’s the presence of tannin. Since not all red wines have the same amount of tannin, it is unfair to categorically reject them as pairing partners to lighter foods. So try a delicate pinot noir with grilled salmon next time. A light red zinfandel or Beaujolais is amazing with roasted chicken.

With white wine, it is more about acid levels. Acid is an enormously important aspect of wine when it comes to pairing wine with food, because it makes you salivate, which in turn allows you to better detect the flavors of your food. It also refreshes your palate for the next bite.

In a pairing scenario, wine is fundamentally acting as a condiment to food, so try to think like a chef: If you’re eating something that you’d squeeze lemon on, go with a crisp, fresh white wine like sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio. If you’re looking for a white wine to pair with a more rich or creamy dish, look for a wine lower in acid such as many Californian chardonnays or gewürztraminers.

And finally let your own palate be your guide, and find out for yourself what you enjoy most. Even if you like to put maple syrup on your Caesar salad, it only makes you a bit of a weirdo, not a bad person.

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