Here’s the setup: you have a hot date lined up with you cooking dinner at the pad. There are a few cold brews in the fridge but you need something a little more classy than that as you want to impress.
What to do?
It’s time for a little vino.
For many, the wine game can seem complicated: red, white, pinot, cab. Shit gets expensive too.
We can’t solve anything too complicated in a few paragraphs but here are a few tips to hopefully get you squared away and without killing the wallet.
Wine is simply a fermented grape juice. The fruit is picked from the vine, crushed to extract the juice, fermented, and then aged until it reaches maturity and is ready to be bottled. Finer wines are stored in wooden casks, aged for longer periods, etc.
The type of wine, like red, white, sparkling, etc., are dependent on the grapes used and the different varietals can also be determined by the region from which the grapes were grown. The various climates adding to the complexity of the wine itself. Places like the famous Napa Valley in Northern California, the Bordeaux of Southwest France, and the Margaret River area in Australia are just a few of the many different regions that produce excellent wine, and of which do so because of a perfect blend of weather and soil. Wine grapes can be grown almost anywhere but the good stuff does prefer certain climates
OK, you don’t really need much more than that so let’s get down to picking a wine for dinner.
First, what are you making?
In the simplest of terms, a heavy protein like a steak or even a burger pairs best with a big red like a cabernet sauvignon or even a red “blend.” A pasta dish with a tomato-based sauce also goes well with most red wines. A lighter protein like lamb chops goes well with a lighter red wine like a pinot noir.
On the other hand, fish and most seafood go well with a dry white wine like a chardonnay. A white sauced pasta like alfredo would also pair better with white wine. What about a red sauce seafood like a paella or a cioppino? As a general rule, red usually goes with red, white usually goes with white. With that in mind, chicken or pork also pairs well with white wine.
Also, in most cases, the reds will be served at or near room temperature where white wines like chardonnay, pinot grigio, or champagne are usually served chilled just a bit.
So how much to spend?
You don’t have to kill yourself on price. Here in the US we have a chain of markets called Trader Joes that sell wines at very affordable prices. We’re talking $8-$12 bucks for a respectable bottle. They will be mostly non-imported wines, which is fine as some of the world’s best wines come from California. If you want to venture up to the $20 range, that’s fine too but you really don’t need to go any higher than that unless you have some wine snob coming to dinner. In that case, tell them to bring the wine!
Last, we should briefly cover champagne. The Bubbly. Millionaires Mouthwash. Rappers Delight, etc. More of a celebratory varietal to most, champagne is also very popular as a brunch pairing but not so much a main course dinner choice. A little Eggs Benedict and a glass of champagne or a Mimosa cocktail (orange juice and champagne) is a classy move. But again, you don’t have to break the bank. Moet is sure nice but can be on the expensive side. Mumms is very affordable at around $20, but even a good ‘ol bottle of Cooks, which is around $10, will do the trick, especially if making Mimosas.
So there you go, Wine 101. There are a million little subtleties you can get into but these are some basics that should get you started.
Now, go boldly into the world and impress with your new found knowledge.
Of course, always drink responsibly and do not operate a motor vehicle after drinking alcohol.