Wine is a tabletop staple in Miami. Whether you’re just having a few drinks with your friends on a lazy afternoon, or you’re out to eat with your boss, it’s important to know what you like and more importantly, how to order it. Most wine aficionados come off as cocky, so asking a Somm for help won’t get you anywhere unless you want to be bored to death by them reliving their harvest days in France. On the other hand, you can’t go ordering Franzia’s White Zinfandel when you’re trying to impress the table. The best way to figure out what kind of wine you like is to start drinking more. I know, it’s wonderful advice. But since not all of us have an unlimited wine fund (Johnny Depp, I’m looking at you!), I’d be happy to give you the basics of how to order wine and what will work for your dinners.
If you’ve ever had a glass of wine, you know what you prefer. There are some people who will never touch a glass of red wine and others that have sworn off white wine forever. Part of learning about viticulture means you have to know a little about red, white, rose and sparkling wines. For the sake of this novice-style article, I’ll keep it simple. White wines can be made from both black (red) and white (green) grapes. The reason reds are in fact red is all about the skin. The skins of red grapes are typically thicker and full of what red wine enthusiasts love: tannin. White wines tend to focus on the level of acidity. Think of tannin like tea; the longer you steep the tea, the more feel it has in your mouth and teeth, much like tannin. Acidity is more likely to be more astringent, with a mouth-watering sensation. So if someone offers you a wine, make sure you ask how acidic or tannic it is before you order. It will save you money and disappointment.
White Wines and Food
Miami is a foodie’s mecca; a meeting place for those that love to indulge in other cultures via food and drink and what better to pair food with than wine. There are, however, a lot of walls being broken down as far as guidelines to wine and food pairing. White wines aren’t just for your mom and her book club friends anymore. We’re finding more and more millennials are turning to white wines as a sexy alternative to hard liquor, making food pairing easy and fun. The rules: dry whites are amazing with veggies; my personal preference are grilled vegetables and fish. Fuller whites are better with richer seafood and white meats. Also, sauce is a huge indication on what to pair your meal with. Butter based sauces do better with dry to semi-dry wines. Dry whites are best paired with spicy foods, so if you’re a huge fan of chili-infused Thai food, grab that Riesling! Bottom line: every wine is different in taste and texture- and that goes for white wines, too. The more you drink, the better equipped you’ll be to make educated decisions about what wines and foods go together.
Red Wines and Food
I know what you’re thinking. You’re like, “I got this! You drink red wine with steak!” ...and you’re right- but the type of meat depends on the type of wine. Tannic and full red wines go with with beef and smoked meat, whereas the lighter reds have more versatility. Lighter red wines can be paired with tender cuts of meat with little marbling, chicken dishes, roasted veggies, and- believe it or not, fish. The most notable trend in red wine and seafood is pairing Pinot Noir with Salmon. Yum! The same rules apply for pairing all types of wine: never pick a wine that will drown out your food and vice versa. The bolder a red wine, the more flavorful the meal it can be paired with. Another fun pairing for an adventurous is ditching the Italian red wine with the pasta or pizza: I like to play around with Spain’s popular young Riojas instead because they’re less acidic and easy to drink. Ultimately, the same thing that can be said for white wine can be said for red- the more you drink, the easier it will be when you’re figuring out what you like.
Ordering for the Table
This really shouldn’t be as intimidating as it is when you think about it. Unless you’re dining with some very informed wine drinkers, chances are you’re drinking with at least one person who has played ‘ Slap the Bag’ in the past month. Ordering wine for a group or table or just simply for your date is easy when you consider the variables. First, assess what would be best for everyone at the table. Does everyone prefer reds? Is there a split down the middle? Figuring out what everyone will drink is half the battle. Secondly, I try not to decide about wine until everyone has ordered or decided on what they’re going to eat. If you make a rash decision as many of us have based on the price of the bottle or the name or varietal, you may end up with someone who might not have gotten the best experience out of their meal and their wine. The two should be symbiotic- therefore, the best approach, especially if you’re in a bigger group, is waiting until the choices of meals have been confirmed so that you have a better gauge of what wines will go best with your meals. If someone doesn’t want to wait to order wine until after everyone has ordered their meal, suggesting a glass of wine to start then ordering your bottles is always a failsafe.
Wine Really Isn't That Hard
The moral of this blog is to encourage you to drink more wine and find what you like. I’ve had multiple people tell me they hated wine, then once they told me what flavors, aromas, and meals they prefer, I managed to find a wine they’ve fallen in love with. Most of us that do know we like wine have the slight problem of spending the money to find what we like. After all, no one wants to spend money on something they may not like but in reality, that’s how most things are found out. I found out I hate Jack Daniels by buying a jack and coke. I mean, I drank it but I didn’t like it. With wine, it’s the same kind of trial and error. The more you try, the more you know. So the next date night you go on, or the next meeting with your coworkers or in-laws, take the reins! Order some wine and discover something new!
Veronica "Wildchild" and her sister Alyson are the writing duo behind Wildchild Society's blogs..