Wine is happier when it has a friend

Foodie snobs the world over have made the average Jane nervous about hosting dinner parties, or ordering wine in restaurants and subjecting themselves to the scrutiny that inherently comes with putting wine and food on the same table. What’s that? You said you’d like to have a glass of pinot grigio with your filet mignon? How gauche. How embarrassing. What is one to do when pairing wine with food? For more information, I was able to participate in a wine-tasting at De Luca Fine Wines, led by Steve Kaminsky.

Once you have finished mocking the wine snobs (found with their nose alternately positioned high in the air, and deep in a glass), the first step is to get out there and taste some wine. Kaminsky stresses that while some people will rattle off a list of the different things the wine smells like, it will likely take you some practice to get to that level. In the meantime, he advises newbies that “you know what you like.”

When the tasting got underway, Kaminsky demonstrated a Chilean chardonnay (white wine), called Isla Negra, that he recommended for a turkey. The light, pleasant, almost buttery taste was dry, but not too dry and could complement the fowl without overpowering it. What if you’re more into red meat, like steak and bison, or are having a BBQ that’s BYOW (Bring Your Own Wine)? Try a cabernet sauvignon (red), like Foxglove supplies, with its rich red colour complementing the colour of your entree, along with its earthy taste and hint of sweetness — this wine with a hint of something like molasses works well with the thick, red meat taste, oddly enough. If you’re having fish, Parker Station’s pinot noir (red) is recommended, as its almost smoky scent will smoke your salmon for you.

Wait a second, wasn’t the rule always that you pair white wine with white meat, and red wine with red meat? Not so, according to Jacqueline Poirier, another of De Luca’s wine pros, who says that different varietals have different characteristics, and you might be surprised by which combinations will work well together. The toughest part sometimes, she says, is actually getting a chance to try as many wines as you’d like, and so a guide like What to Drink With What You Eat (Dornenburg, Page and Sofronski, 2006) can help you decide. Or, she points out, you can spend your hard-earned cash to conduct your own research.”

“I’m a student too,” says Jacqueline. “I understand shopping for wine on a budget.” There’s no shame in asking staff at the store what wines they’d recommend, and letting them know if you have a price point in mind. There are some very commendable wines out there for $20 or less, although Jacqueline points out that the difference between a $20 bottle and an $80 bottle is usually the texture of the wine, more so than the flavour.

When all else fails, Jacqueline says to pick wine you like, and food you like, and put them together. After all, you’re the one who is eating the meal — you should be the one to enjoy it.