13 Dec Simple Solutions to the Wine Conundrum
The question I get asked most often is “What wine do I serve with that?”
Unless you are an avid wine connoisseur or collector, it’s a question that can range from slightly intimidating to downright terrifying. However, I come bearing gifts that will transform that fear — and the need to know everything about wine — into something workable so you can serve your guests and enjoy yourself without the panic.
Here’s my secret: I have no idea what wine you should serve with that. And the good news is that I don’t need to, because there are simple-to-use resources built to help you navigate the wine conundrum with ease. Yes, there are some pairings I know from habit, and which reds vs. whites I prefer, but when I’m going for a killer match, I leave that to the experts.
First you want to start with your menu: What are you serving? From there you have something to work with — flavor profiles, dominant flavors and a price range.
From that point, there are three simple methods for creating wine pairings: (1) the hi-tech version; (2) the book version; and (3) the old-school version. Let’s see which works best for you.
The Hi-Tech Version
If you are a gadget geek, there are three stellar wine apps that will do the pairing work for you:
Top-rated by NY Times, NPR, Mashable – Hello Vino will help you in the wine aisle – the free app gives you wine recommendations for meals, occasions, holidays, and by taste preference. NO SNOBS ALLOWED!
Pair It! has over 20,000 unique and easy-to-follow pairing suggestions, recipes, and tips. The app was created by renowned wine pairing expert, chef and educator Bruce Riezenman from the Sonoma County Wine Country.
Award-winning wine writer Natalie MacLean is known for keeping wine simple, and I love that about her. Her top-rated mobile app (1 of 5 top food and wine apps from The New York Times, Globe & Mail and others) makes it easy for you to find pairings.
Named 1 of 5 top food and wine apps is the only wine app Apple chose for App Store Essentials in “Food & Wine” and “Date Night”.
If you don’t have a smart phone, there are some websites that have food and wine pairing widgets to help you:
True to form, this tool keeps things easy and straightforward. With a few clicks, you’ll have a list of varietals to choose from, which you can take to your wine store.
One of my favorite wine stores in NYC has created a matching tool set up exactly like their store: Start with a specific food, a cuisine or a wine, and they’ll help you match from there. In a few clicks you have wines to choose from for purchase, but you can just as easily take this list to your local wine store.
As this is a site to purchase wines and have them shipped (a convenience I love whenever possible), you’ll need to enter your state of residence before using the tool. Choose your main ingredient and accompaniments and receive a list of various wines you can order. Again, you can simply take this list to your wine store.
The Book Version
If you want to do part of the work yourself, get a copy of Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg’s What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea – Even Water – Based on Expert Advice from America’s Best Sommeliers.
Broken down by flavor components, this incredibly useful book will help you to see that if you’re serving x, wine y is probably a good match for that. It includes regions, varietals, and goes even beyond wine in case you want to serve the perfect…water.
The Old-School Version
If you are fortunate enough to have a knowledgeable local wine merchant, you can quite easily take your menu into the shop and ask for pairing help. I often employ this method, as a wine merchant has made his career of this very subject, and it is worth taking advantage of his knowledge. This leaves me to the food preparation, and saves time, headache, and worry.
Note: Be careful here. I once went in to get a bottle of wine when I was dressed to the nines with my Louis Vuitton bag, and the merchant escorted me right back to the “vault”, where the most expensive wines lived. I stopped him and explained I was looking for a more reasonable price range.
If there is not a wine merchant in your town, you can also try the wine section of higher-end supermarkets (depending upon your location, of course, as this is not always an option), where there will likely be someone to assist you. If you are comfortable doing the pairings yourself, or have one of the wine apps above, some bulk chains such as Costco or Beverages and More actually offer a decent selection of wines.
See how easy it can be? There are experts for a reason, so use their knowledge to your advantage and focus on what’s important: creating a great meal and enjoying it with the people you love.