Food wines are like condiments when combined with food—they improve the end results!
Imagine this: You are out at your favorite fish restaurant and you order some swordfish. It comes and you dig in impatiently because you love swordfish so much. Then, upon reflection, you realize that you forgot to add that little squeeze of lemon. So, you quickly pick up that lemon wedge and proceed to squeeze it into your mouth — obviously, that would be downright unpleasant.
Having studied behavioral psychology before embarking into the wine & food arena, let me share with you an observation that I always experience when I watch people dining out. The average restaurant guest orders his fish, chooses an appropriate food wine (having the requisite acidity) and when it comes he does the following: Open mouth, eat two bites of fish, swallow fish and reach for the wine to wash it down.
What’s wrong with that, you ask? If wine and food are to be synergistic, then you need to enjoy them simultaneously.
By this I mean just before you swallow your salmon, you introduce a little sip of your high acid wine at the same time—then and only then will the food and wine be in concert. In other words, how can you ask a wine’s acidity to add to the flavor of your fish when it is already residing in your stomach? There is a reason why we put salt, pepper and lemon juice on our food before we begin to taste.
Pinot Noirs as Food Wines
My favorite red “food wine” is Pinot Noir, the best of which are from France (Burgundy), Oregon, New Zealand, Italy and California.
As far as California Pinot Noirs, you need to be vigilant as they seem to present in two very different styles. First, are those heavily extracted, fruit bombs (more than 15.5% alcohol). Although these may win contests thanks to the sheer power of the extract, they kill any delicate food flavors, not to mention having a searing aftertaste.
I like the others that are vinified in the fashion of French burgundies being what I call pretty. They are elegant, crisp, low alcohol (13.2 – 14%) and are sinful with food—I have, on occasion found them to be sinful on their own! Your favorite wine merchant can assist you in finding the regions that produce them.
Entertaining with Gin & Tonics
Like gin & tonics? I do, but except for the last 1/3 of them when they become a watery sour mess. Here’s a new twist: Put your bottle of gin in the fridge, take your favorite tonic water and freeze it in an old-fashioned ice cube tray (found at your local 99-cent store). Now, as your drink melts, the integrity of the drink doesn’t atrophy. Do this for your guests once and be prepared to have ice cubes on hand all the time, because you will have set your bar higher than others—embrace the challenge!
Best gin: Old Raj
It’s available online (see the link above) and I see it at Beverages & More for around $67. Is it twice as good as Bombay Sapphire?… No! Is it worth a try? Yes. This is what I serve to my special guests. Also, I want you G&T’ers to try Fever-Tree Indian tonic water (also available at Beverages & More). It is much better than Schweppes (too much sugar in Schweppes). It is a cut above, expensive and worth it.
Livin’ at 11:30am?
By now you all know that food tastes best when you starve yourself before you eat or entertain anyone – 11:30am to 1:00pm is absolutely the best time to enjoy the best stuff you can afford—especially on Sunday.
Download Earl Klugh’s song “Driftin” from iTunes, open up a significant bottle of burgundy (red or white). Don’t mess with the stuff under $70. Have the “love of your life” within arm’s reach and fire it up. You might even download My Foolish Heart along with Heart of my Life also by Earl and play them subsequently. That should take you 20 minutes to each have two glasses of the wine—you can finish the rest of it later—if your goin’ in my direction.
Entertain better than others,
All the best,