Find Your Perfect Match on Valentine’s Day

Wine with Valentine's dinnerIt’s hard to believe that Valentine’s Day has been celebrated for over 15 centuries, and most of us are still searching for our perfect match.

We’re talking about the perfect wine pairing, not soulmates. Cupid has that covered.

Whether you’re dining in or hitting the town, we have some easy tips to impress your date, but more importantly, your tastebuds.

Breaking the Rules

For years sommeliers and connoisseurs alike have preached “rules of engagement” for wine and food pairings. Before wine was truly mass produced, these guidelines made sense.

But today, there are more options from regions across the world to experiment with. It’s time to break away from those stubborn standards!

But we know Valentine’s Day might not be the best time to take a risk, so we’ve put together some loose guidelines to help make your night special.

Back to Basics

Let’s start with some general pairing rules:

Hors d’oeuvres

Appetizers are meant to be an invitation to your delicious courses, and your drink should reflect that. Sparkling wines or Champagnes usually go well here because of their airy body. It’s easy to drink, never overpowering, and a festive start to the evening.

The main event

If you’re having multiple courses for dinner, you can build up to fuller bodied wine. Different courses bring out different flavors, so feel free to switch up your sips to compliment each.

On a budget? Changing wines between courses is not a necessity. Pick a wine you feel compliments most of your meal and stick with that for ease.

Dessert

Sharing a sweet treat with your Valentine? Pair decadent dishes with ports or wines with very concentrated flavors. Your wine should be sweeter than the food to avoid bitterness.

Raise a glass for a toast. You’ve just completed Wine Pairings 101!

Still need a little more guidance? We’ve got you covered.

All in the Details

Now that we’ve got the basics covered, let’s talk about specific food types.

Red Meat vs Fish

Traditionally, people have sworn by the “red meat, red wine” and “white fish, white wine” rule. This can be a good start, but there’s a better approach. Pair your wine to compliment the most dominant flavor – the sauce. Often times, sauces are the secret behind bold flavor.

So go crazy and pair a Zin with your tuna!

Spicy vs Creamy

There’s a delicate balance between wine and spicy/creamy foods. Not everyone experiences the same tastes, so lean into your intuition here.

Fatty or dense dishes can mesh well with lighter options such as Cava. Spicy entrees are balanced by Riesling or deep Rosé. And creamy dishes are heightened by buttery Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.

Best of luck finding the perfect match for your Valentine’s Day dinner, and share your favorites with us.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Cheers

 

 

The Grape Debate: Natural vs Nurtured

Natural wine is a huge buzz word in the wine community lately. You may have heard it at a winery, seen it in restaurants, noticed it in your local wine shop, or even tried it. 

But what is it really? Lucky for you, we’ve got some answers to that.

A Tricky TimelineNatural Wine

Modern winemaking has become convoluted, scientific and technical. Let’s take it back a couple thousand years…

The earliest recorded evidence was discovered in Armenia and Italy around 6,000 years ago. Pouring a glass was a simple, slow process. Pure grapes were handpicked, and there were no additives involved. 

In the mid-1900s this method resurfaced, piquing the interest of rural French winemakers. This sparked the modern natural wine movement, led by French pioneers Beaujolais, Chauvet and Lapierre. The first natural wine tasting event was held just twenty years ago by La Dive Bouteille in France.

This inspired smaller winemakers to begin producing and importing into the United States. The momentum is slow but steady, and has continued to pop up on more shelves in recent years. It’s good to note that since natural wine is still relatively new to the market, there is no official certification for wineries or vineyards to use.

What is Natural Wine?

Natural Wine: Pure, untreated, naturally fermented grapes. In other words, it’s unbridled, unfiltered, chemical-free goodness.

Pros:

  • Everything is 100% found in nature 
  • Vineyards are not sprayed with pesticides or herbicides  
  • Grapes are hand picked 
  • Natural yeast is solely generated by the grape itself 
  • Little to no extra sulfites added
    • The natural reduction in sulfites (approx. 10 – 35 parts/million) can make wine better for those who may have reactions to sulfite in other wine (up to 10x more). 

Cons:

  • Long, manual process for winemakers
  • Challenging to store without sulfites
  • The wine may appear cloudy and/or have a sour taste depending on your palate
    • Not to worry, there are different varieties and flavors to explore, just like your average bottle.

Organic vs Biodynamic

As of today, it’s still difficult for mass producers to distribute. The solution? 

Enter organic and biodynamic wine stage right.

Organic Wine 101

Organic wine in the US can have two different implications: 

  1. “Made with organic grapes”
    • Grapes grown without the use of pesticides or synthetics. There is also a limit on the number of sulfites that can be added.
  2. “Certified organic” 
    • Produced with organically grown grapes with no sulfites added. This is pretty rare as many winemakers still insist on adding sulfites. 
    • This doesn’t mean other things aren’t added to your wine… 

Biodynamic Wine 101

Biodynamic wine takes a more holistic approach to winemaking. There is an emphasis on overall health of the vineyard, lunar cycles, and the entire farm ecosystem (beyond the grapes). 

There are no synthetics used in growth or production, and no additional yeast, sugar, acid, etc. However, they will often still include added sulfites. 

Biodynamic wine has two levels of certification: 

  1. “Biodynamic certified estates” – Label always located on the back of the wine. 
  2. “Biodynamic certified wines” – Label always located on the front of the wine.

Where to Buy Natural Wine

City dwellers may have an easier time accessing the right wine shop, but there are plenty of online options. Any new trend is is difficult to mass market, but there are still ways to get your hands on these wines

Here are three general rules to start your search:

  1. Educate yourself on all your options
    • Hint: You picked an excellent place to start 
  2. Ask questions
    • Hint: Find employees to speak with at your local wine store
  3. Have fun! Natural wine tasting is the same “regular wine” trial-and-error journey.
    • Hint: Don’t let one bad wine deter you from finding your natural wine soulmate.

Can Natural Wine Defeat My Hangover?

Ahh… the age-old question.

There is no scientific proof on whether natural wine can cure all, but it can be a great place to start your own experiment. We all know hangovers and headaches are due to dehydration. Drinking alcohol depletes a lot of key nutrients from your system. 

There are plenty of articles that explain why we feel so bad after a night of indulgence. But one stands out in particular – excessive sulfites. 

Excessive Sulfites

Some folks recall feeling better after a night of drinking natural wine or wine with low sulfites compared to wine with higher levels. 

Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. 

If reducing sulfites is something you want to try out, I recommend being mindful of labels and giving natural wine a taste test. 

You’re now ready to dive into the world of natural wines!

Cheers!

Getting Legs on Your Wine: Does it Really Happen?

Home Wine Making - Wine Making Kits
A few weeks ago I attended a dinner party hosted by my wife’s employer who happens to be a successful facial plastic surgeon in the upscale city of Annapolis, Maryland. Immersed in a room that is occupied by many, many people with careers way more distinguished than my own, I’ve decided to lay back and let my wife do her rounds of mingling.  As I’m standing next to a window overlooking the Severn River (beautiful at sunset, I do recommend the view) I found a lot of these people swirling their wine glasses around.  Now, I don’t claim to be a wine enthusiast by any stretch of the word, my wife takes that role, but I have had a few glasses here and there.  I usually just drink it and not think too much about it, though I should put more thought into what goes into the wine.  (From what I understand wine making is a very precise and intricate process). However, I’ve seen this action done by people who know their wine and I’ve always wondered what the purpose was.   Is it a technique to “jumpstart” the wine?  Does it activate something in it? Or is it just a nervous twitch that people in uncomfortable situations tend to subconsciously do.
I asked my wife and she gave me a two part answer.  First she told me that wine, being somewhat organic in nature, needs to breath and the action of swirling allows the wine to open up and release flavor.  Ok, makes sense I suppose, but her second answer sounded a little less scientific.  She told me that legs are a sign of good wine.
Come again?
Legs? 
She proceeded to say that when you swirl the glass around, the wine will leave tear like residue on the on the glass resembling “legs”, thus indicating a high quality wine.  Ok gotcha, wait a minute.. Why would that indicate good wine?  This was the extent to which she could answer; she couldn’t get into the science of it.  So my inquiring mind needed to know what about leggy wine made it superior to its counterpart.  For the record, I tend to listen to whatever my wife says but sometimes it’s fun to call her on her bluff.
After a little bit of research and investigation I came up with some tasty nuggets.  The myth that “legs” or “tears” in wine indicate high quality is just that, myth.  They are in no way an indication of high quality product.  The reality is that “legs” or “tears” in wine are a product of the level of ethanol in the wine, higher levels of ethanol, roughly 12% or higher, will result in this effect.  There are physics and science that go into this explanation, which I will spare you and just give you meat and potatoes.  As you swirl your glass of wine around, the wine goes up the side of the glass.  The two primary components of wine are alcohol (ethanol) and water. Alcohol evaporates faster than water.  As it evaporates, gravity takes over leaving the remaining water to run down the glass in tears. The residue is observable because the differences in how light is refracted by both water and alcohol.  This effect is known as the Gibbs-Marangoni effect, and is named after two scientists whom investigated this phenomenon.
There you have it, this myth has been busted.  However, there is a sliver of truth to this.  Quality of wine is in the eye of the beholder (especially if the beholders make wine at home) and if you value a wine that’s a little more potent, than “legs”, can be one of your best friends.