Beer and the occasional liquor concoction had been the only real staples in my repertoire for quite some time, but when I had the opportunity to attend my first wine tasting a few years ago, I was introduced to a world filled with bold Malbecs and sweet, dry Rieslings. My life was turned on its head when I discovered that there was more to life than PBR and Jack Daniels.
To some, wine can be a very intimidating subject of interest. Self-proclaimed “aficionados” lurking around every corner and grocery stores investing towards in-house sommeliers will dissuade even the most curious individual. But let’s cut through all the bull and get get down to what’s really important (read: the wine, duh), and all the wonderful things you truly need to know about it.
1. When in doubt, remember: Beef and lamb? Red. Poultry, pork, and seafood? White.
Wine parings delve into a whole new layer of viticulture, but if it’s a situation where you’re merely trying to entertain a few guests, refer to this advice and you can’t go wrong. Do keep in mind, though, that “red” wine comprises a whole range of elixirs from Zinfandel to Cabernet, so be cautious when selecting a go-to table wine for your dinner paring. I recommend a basic Syrah or Merlot for they’re exceptionally drinkable. Conversely, “white” wines can be anything from Chardonnay to Sauvignon Blanc, so it would be wise to opt for a Chenin Blanc for table wine or a sweet Riesling for after dinner or dessert.
2. “Vintage” doesn’t always translate into “better”.
In all honesty, some of the best wines I’ve had were drank no more than 1-2 years after their production. Try not to get so wrapped up in vintage wines that have been “aging” for decades and what not. You can get a quality wine of any type at your nearest store for a decent price without all of the pretentious baggage that comes with a 30+ year-old bottle of Chianti.
3. The customer isn’t always right.
I understand that you may have tried this one awesome wine that one time, while on vacation in southern France, and now it’s the only wine you’ll ever drink, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to work in your favor for every meal that you have. If you’re going to a restaurant, especially one with a sommelier or overall wine expert, use him or her to your advantage; that’s what they’re paid for. Let them know what dishes you plan on having that night and ask for suggestions on what might pair well with what. You’d be surprised how different–and better–your food will taste with the help of an expert opinion.