Wine is a wonder substance. While it’s still uncertain when the first brew came about, what we do know is that it’s phenomenal enough to have spread throughout the world, captivating many tongues and palates. It’s one of life’s finest blessings, then, to find a wine suitable to one’s taste and meal. It is, after all, not just mere embellishment – it can also act as a meal staple, as much as rice and sawsawan are staples to us Filipinos. Eric Asimov explains it perfectly in an article for the New York Times: “[Wine] in the classic sense is not a cocktail replacement. It is an integral part of a meal, served at the table, with food. And for me, a simple way to understand wine, to elevate the quality of what you consume and the pleasure you take in it, is to treat wine as if it were another staple of the table, just as you would the produce, meat and bread that you shop for and eat.”
Picking the right wine for your meal, then, can make a world of difference, so it’s important to know what kind of wine you’re looking for. All wines, for instance, are named depending on the grapes they are made from – such as the Pinot Noir and the Merlot – which lends them certain flavors and properties. And while there are many ways to categorize it, wine is often seen through three categories:
These are the normal, table wine variety that is not carbonated. Hence, the term “still.” They can be further categorized by color, mainly white,red, and rosé.
- White wines are processed without the grape skin, thus their clear color. White wines are known for their refreshing acidity, which provides the crisp taste you feel in your mouth when drinking them. For instance, Chardonnay display a characteristic voluptuous velvety mouthfeel evoking hints rich citrus. The Sauvignon Blanc, meanwhile, is characterized by a combination of herbal and smokey notes.
- Red wines get their color from the grape skin, and thus contain full tannin, or naturally occurring compounds that provide the wine with an astringent or dry taste. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are two of the more popular kinds of this wine. Both having origins in the Bordeaux region of France, the former tends to have a softer, fruitier tang to it, while the latter has a fuller and bolder flavor profile.
- Rosé or blush wines are technically red wines, with its color dependent on how long the skin is left on the grapes during the fermentation stage. Rosé wines can also be either dry or sweet, and can also fall under the sparkling category.
These are the fizzy carbonated wines that often leave a tingling sensation on the tongue. They are further categorized into the following: brut (dry wines), demi sec (semi-sweet wines), and seco (sweet wines).
These are wines that are fortified with added grape alcohol. Fortified wines thus have a higher alcohol percentage , with common varieties including the porto, madierra, and sherry wines.
Above everything else, it’s the food pairings that hold the most importance, since the food you pair with it can affect the taste of the wine. For wine enthusiasts, the usual cheese-and-cold cuts platter can suffice, along with one’s choice of pica pica. But if you’re more on the gastronomic side of things, you can experiment with various wines and see which ones fit your taste. There are, however, a few guidelines that can help with meal pairing:
- You can pair a creamy dish (like chicken pastel) with a Chardonnay, since they contain compounds that can give it a buttery taste.
- For spicy dishes, like kung pao pasta, you can either pair it with a sweet wine (like a Riesling) or something spicier (like a Syrah). Sweet wines can also go well with smelly cheeses, like bleu cheese.
- Merlots, on the other hand, typically do well with sharo-tasting cheeses, like cheddar.
- If you’re going for something fatty, like lechon, it’s best to have a wine with high alcohol content (such as Cabernet) to help soften the fat and make it easier to digest.
Indeed, while it may not be for everyone, a glass of wine can make a difference when it comes to celebratory meals. A good glass, on the other, can transcend it – it enhances the whole meal entirely. So go on, go to your local wine store, ask around, and put this knowledge to good use. The world of wine awaits.