It was only six months ago that I began to take a real interest in wine, and it has significantly enhanced my appreciation for good food. When ordering at a restaurant, or enjoyed a meal at home, I found that I would accompany my meal with water or perhaps a soft drink. However, water often dampens flavours from the food and a soft drink may annihilate them altogether. The effect of a well-chosen wine can help enhance these flavours, tying over the tastebuds between bites. Although discerning the correct wine from an array of choices can seem daunting, hopefully this short piece will help to shed light on the process and elevate your next evening with friends or date night.
I would like to highlight a particular work that has really deepened my initially rudimentary understanding of viniculture, and that is Karen McNeil’s The Wine Bible. This book provides a reference for grape varieties from all over the world, which can help to give context to novice wine drinkers or act as a training manual for hopeful sommeliers. Also provided are some words of wisdom with regards to learning how to pair the perfect wine with your meal. For the student who finds themselves eating a variety of foods, McNeil advises consideration of a wine’s flexibility. A wine with high acidity will lead to you wanting to take another bite, which would be complimented with more wine and the meal is nicely brought together. Red wines with high acidity may include Californian Pinot Noirs or red Burgundies. Fruity reds will have a similar effect: think Zinfandel or a simple Italian wine, making these choices very flexible. Another simple trick is to match like with like. For example, a dish including pork and apple would be paired nicely with a white wine with notes of apple, which will usually be described on a wine’s label.
For novice wine buyers, the number of varieties and countries of origin can be overwhelming. However, I encourage readers to venture into many of the local wine shops which operate in Oxford. Many of the offerings are surprisingly reasonably priced, and shop assistants are usually more than happy to provide advice accommodating any budget. If asked what kind of wine you are looking for, then let your dinner plans be your guide. Rather than mentioning a specific grape, mention which meal you intend to pair the wine with, and a suitable wine will be recommended to you. A final word: remember what you like! Make a note of wines you have enjoyed and buy them again and again. Everyone’s palate is different, and the best advice I can give is to buy what you like. With this in mind, I hope you find wine shopping a little easier in future and you enjoy your Christmas break.
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