Wine purists will tell you that the wine you choose for a dinner should match the food that’s on the table. Others say, “Poppycock! Drink anything you like with any food.” Riesling with steak? Hey, if you like it, go for it.
It certainly would challenge the wine, though. I can’t imagine riesling with steak, but I did know a man some years ago who always had a dry Gewürztraminer from the Alsace region of France with veal. He had tasted that combination as a young man in Europe, and to him, it was a match of perfection. More about this later.
Then again, how you serve the wine could make a huge difference in its enjoyment.
Assume the owner of Chateau Margaux were to pour you his perfectly stored 1945 Margaux into crystal stemware in the dining room of the chateau. Under those conditions, the wine would certainly taste better than had it been poured into a cardboard coffee cup and served to you while changing a flat on the freeway.
Imagine how a wine tastes when you’re standing in a chateau wine cellar. The winemaker draws out of the cask a sample of an as-yet-unbottled wine. It will taste pretty interesting since it’s not only closer to the grape but also in the presence of the winemaker. A bit of gloss must rub off.
You’re savoring the moment as much as you are the wine. Creating a context can help the wine show best.
For instance, if you’re serving a red wine with dinner and the room is warm, try chilling the wine. I’m not suggesting serving red wines cold. But cool wines usually taste better than warm ones, especially when the temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
Don’t like the initial aroma of a wine? Don’t assume it’s bad. Perhaps it’s very young and still exhibits a bit of an “off” aroma. A few more months in the bottle would help, but you’ve already pulled the cork. What now?
Decant it. Simply splash the wine (white or red) into a decanter or clean water pitcher. The simple act of splashing it around could make it open up a lot faster.
This also works for imported wines that may still be suffering from a bit of a jolt from the journey to the United States.
Does the red wine seem a little alcoholic? Far too many wines are these days, and in this case, the decanter is really your friend. Splash the wine around for a while, pouring from one decanter to another for a few minutes. This actually allows some of the alcohol to evaporate. Some winemakers believe you can get rid of between a half percent and 1 percent of alcohol this way.
If that still doesn’t do it, add an ice cube. Not only will it keep the wine a bit cooler, but it’ll also drop the alcohol a bit. Sure, some purists may squawk, but it’s your wine, and if it tastes good to you, the ice cube will only offend the other guy.
Picking the wine to pair with the food can also enhance how the wine tastes. My old friend who liked the Gewürztraminer with veal would only serve a mature wine with that dish. He said young Gewürztraminer was too fragile to stand up to the veal.
And he rarely served his white wines very cold. He liked them mature and cool, not near frozen.
Wine of the Week
2020 Balletto Rosé, Russian River Valley ($20): A striking aroma of strawberries and cherries marks the nose of this delightful, basically dry rosé wine from one of Sonoma County’s top producers. Made exclusively of pinot noir and just released, it’s a joy to sip on a patio and consume with dips and cheeses. The 2019 vintage of it remains just as good as it was last year.