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The Five S’s of Tasting Wine

See – what color is the wine? Is it dark and heavy or more light and clear? Is there sediment? The color of the wine can tip you off to whether the wine is older or younger. White wine gets darker with age and red wine gets lighter with age.

Swirl – this blends oxygen with the wine to release the aromas… You can also see the “legs” of the wine on the glass. This does not predict if the wine is good or bad but it does give you a clue on the body of the wine

Smell – after swirling, immediately place nose in glass to smell the aromas. You will smell anything from fruits, spices, flowers, herbs…even chemicals. Tip – it is usually easiest to first find citrus fruits in white wine and cherry notes in red wine. From there, see what else you smell. This will account for 85% of what you end up tasting.

Sip – Take a medium sip and let the wine swirl around your mouth. Is it light, medium or heavy-bodied (compare it to how skim, 2% and whole milk feels in your mouth). What flavors do you taste?

Savor – Most wines have a finish. How long do the flavors of the wine last? Do the flavors change? Did the wine finish sweet or dry?

General Guidelines for Wine Pairing

Use balance to compare or contrast the pairing.

“Match red meat with red wine and white meat with white wine.”
This is probably the most classic guideline for pairing wine with food. Pair red meats and game meats with red wines, and white meats and fish with white wines. However, this rule can sometimes be broken. Even more important than the meat types are the preparation, spices and sauces. Depending on the flavors in the dish, a white wine might work best with red meat, as with spicy dishes, for example. Furthermore, grilled white meats can often pair well with a red wine. For example, grilled chicken might go better with a Spanish or Italian red than with a white wine due to the smoky flavor.

Pair fish with low-tannin wines.

In general, the best pairings for fish and shellfish are white wines. The high acidity and lack of tannins in most white wines will complement the oiliness and richness of the fish. However, the meatiest fish, like salmon, sturgeon or tuna, can go well with red wines. If are looking for a red wine to go with fish, look for low-tannin reds, like pinot noir, Chianti, Beaujolais, merlot or rosé.

Pair spicy and fried foods with white wines.

In general, SALTY and/or FRIED foods go best with a dry or semi-dry, acidic white wine, like sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc or sparkling wines. The crispness of high-acid, low-sugar wines like these will cut through the saltiness or oiliness of a dish. With SPICY dishes, a hint of sweetness or fruitiness can counteract the fiery flavors. To cool down the spiciest dishes, recommend a blush/rosé, pinot grigio, riesling, sauvignon blanc or moscato.

For desserts, offer sweet wines.

Dry wines usually have tannins that do not pair well with sweet desserts. Furthermore, the sweetness of the dessert will ruin the flavor of most dry wines. Play it safe, and go with a port, a late-harvest sauvignon blanc or riesling, or a classic sauterne from Bordeaux. With chocolate, try red wines like petite sirah, shiraz, and red blends from the New World. Popular pairings like port and coffee-based drinks tend to go beautifully with chocolate.

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Anything Else?

If there is something wine-related that you would like assistance with, please let us know and we will do our best to accommodate your requests. If you can think of it, Wine Curations wants to make it happen!