Monthly Archives: January 2015

Why Pairing Wine With Your Super Bowl Snacks Isn’t Pretentious

DoritosAndWine.jpg

Wine shouldn’t be foisted onto every culinary event; no matter how grand or mundane, some matches are better left alone: the Kentucky Derby and bourbon, or bagels, lox, and black coffee (OK, a glass of Champagne wouldn’t be so terrible with either). “Super Bowl & Beer” sounds like another archetype that doesn’t need tinkering. But there’s a case to be made for wine.

Consider traditional binge-watching football foods: bean chili, beef-cheese-jalapeño-smothered nachos, Sriracha hot wings, short-rib sliders, guac and chips. At first glance, pairing wine with any of these might sound like a disastrous exercise in pretentiousness. On closer examination, though, there are, in fact, a number of wines that would temper heat, complement spice and salt, and cut through fat better than a beer. We’re not suggesting you forgo the keg of Founders All Day IPA, but consider supplementing your beverage rotation with these five wines.

Sparkling Wine
By now, perhaps you’ve heard of the Sommelier Special: pairing a high-brow bottle of Champagne with a humble bag of Lay’s. Champagne’s chalky, bright acid and persistent stream of effervescence has a way of cutting through fried, oily dishes like chips and fried chicken. But Champagne is expensive, and few of us wish to waste it on a bag of spuds (or our Patriots-supporting frenemies). Look to American bubbles instead.

Roederer Estate Brut, NV, California, $21: Best-value, complex American sparkler made using the Champagne method.

Zinfandel
I’m not talking about the white kind (that comes in a box and is called Franzia), but the ripe, juicy red stuff pumped out of the classic regions of Sonoma, Lodi, and the Dry Creek Valley in California (also found in Southern Italy, where it’s called Primitivo). If you’re inclined to pair junk food with your vino (no judgment), you might enjoy the synergy found between a sip of Zinfandel and a mouthful of spicy Doritos, a ubiquitous Super Bowl snack. Zin also complements spicy-sweet meat dishes like pulled pork, and baby-back ribs doused with Dinosaur BBQ sauce.

Bedrock “Old Vine” Sonoma Valley, California, 2013, $25: Full-bodied, lush, with black cherries and spice.

Sherry
This fortified wine from Andalucía in southern Spain elevates salty foods like cured meats (ordering a six-foot-long Italian sub?), olives, and peanuts, and fried finger foods such as calamari, spring rolls, or croquettes, from mindless pop-in-your-mouth status to “holy crap, what did I just eat?” sublime. Pick up a crisp, bone-dry, saline Fino (made via the biological method; no oxidation) and a richer, nuttier style like amontillado.

Valdespino, Fino “Inocente” NV (375 mL), $12.99: Tastes of almonds and ocean breezes.

Lustau Dry Amontillado “Los Arcos” NV, $15.99: Nuts, dates, dried fruit.

Sauvignon Blanc
This crowd-pleasing, workhorse white pairs surprisingly well with chile-pepper-laden dishes, especially bell peppers, jalapeños (which have a flavor profile also found in Sauvignon Blanc), poblanos, anchos, and serranos. Notoriously difficult wine pairings like artichokes (found in dips or fried), tomatoes (think salsa), and the herb cilantro (also in salsas, guacamole, and most Mexican food) love Sauvignon Blanc. The wine’s bright flavors range from herbal to tropical; classic examples are from New Zealand and Sancerre, but South Africa increasingly makes compelling, well-priced versions.

Seresin, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2012, $24.99: More money, more complexity than the typical NZ S.B.

Mulderbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2014, $14.99: Easy to find, easy to sip, a little grassy, and a little tart.

Rosé
Who says you can’t drink pink in the winter? Or while watching football? To quote Julia Child, who incontrovertibly knew her shit, “Rosés can be served with anything.” Why? Rosé straddles the world of white and red: It delivers zippy, palate-cleansing acidity with enough body and fruit to stand up to typically heavy game-day dishes. Dry rosés work particularly well with charcuterie, BBQ, hamburgers, pork, and even sausage. Like she said: anything. The only problem with rosé is tracking it down in the middle of winter. Fortunately, Sherry-Lehmann stocks emergency cases of pink year-round.

Chateau d’Aqueria, Tavel, France, 2013, $18.99: Ripe berry fruit, a hint of tannin, and fresh acidity.

Where to Buy:

Astor Wine & Spirits, 399 Lafayette Street, 212-674-7500

Sherry-Lehmann, 505 Park Avenue, 212-838-7500

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Super Bowl Wine

Mindful Drinking Will Make Your Wine Taste Better

LittleFarmWines

Over the last few years, the term “mindfulness” has steadily crept into mainstream American lingo, becoming an accepted secular pursuit rather than a “New Age” hippie philosophy ripped from the pages of Eastern religions (i.e., Buddhism). Articles outlining the benefits of mindfulness and techniques for observing it in daily life are published across a spectrum of media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal to the estimable HuffPo, which felt compelled to declare 2014 the year of the timeless concept of “mindful living.”

Mindfulness, at its core, is a simple idea: It means to be present, in the moment, intentionally and non-judgmentally. Tasting wine can be an exercise in mindfulness.

Wine professionals are trained to engage their senses, noting the details of color, smell, texture, and taste, blocking out distractions to do so, while putting aside evaluation and conclusion for afterwards (even if it is a mere minute or two later).

How often do you actually taste what you are drinking?

Perhaps you recently gulped down a glass with a friend while rehashing last weekend’s drama or fretting about a looming work deadline, without knowing whether the red wine the waiter dropped in front of you was the Côtes du Rhône. Or did you ask for Rioja?

Our brain runs like an endless chyron, constantly distracting; our thoughts filled with agonies and regrets of the past or worries about the future. If last week no longer exists and next year is still fiction, why do we avoid the present so frequently?

The constant barrage of technology and social media doesn’t help us focus either, while supplying us with new ways to manifest guilt.

The growing number of wine apps encouraging users to photograph, record, grade, and transmit each tasting experience, while earning “likes” and “followers,” makes it difficult to just sit and be quiet with the wine. Can the bottle be as dazzling as we claim if we ignore it while submitting to the compulsion to tweet, Instagram, and Facebook the details of our good fortune? And if it was dazzling, and we — gasp — didn’t take a photo and mark our impressions, are we lazy failures doomed to repeat a cycle of self-reproach?

Moving on to tasting techniques: If you want to be a more mindful drinker, but don’t (yet) trust your ability to analyze wine, consider how you might engage with a pet.

When I need to disconnect from the overload of the world, I break to pet my red Dobie. She’s usually curled up (adorably) and dozing on her bed nearby. I sit down on the floor, observe the warm chocolate color of her fur, and run my hand down her soft head, feeling her warmth, her life, and perhaps catching the scent of her breath (which, admittedly, has its bad days, but I’m not judging, remember?). I pet my dog mindfully, and doing so delivers a few minutes of calm and awareness of the moment.

20100904-IMG_2581-2

Apply this same technique to wine tasting; “pet” your wine, if you will, noting its qualities without worrying about your lack of training or whether the wine fits some subjective notion of good or bad.

Consider the color: Maybe it sparkles in the glass, and mirrors the deep golden hue of straw bales or the Burmese ruby your grandmother wore on her finger.

How does it smell? Is it dull and lifeless? Perhaps a funky Roquefort cheese or barn odor floats from the glass, or a lively fragrance of flowers and citrus inhabits the wine.

Taste it. Do strawberries, stewed with rhubarb and baked in a pie, spring to mind? What about leather, or smoke from a campfire? Lemons and lime? (Highly unlikely you’d detect all of these flavors at once, unless someone mixed white and red in a glass and cruelly gave it to you blind.)

How is the texture? Are the tannins astringent, like oversteeped tea, or silky and smooth? Does the wine linger in the mouth a few minutes, or vanish like a phantom?

The truth of the wine lies in these details.

While you needn’t judge the wine while tasting — we are being mindful, not awarding scores — you should evaluate the experience afterwards. Did you like it? Why did you buy it: because of the price or brand or grape? If you discover you don’t like it (which you may, when drilling down into the details), then why not try something else next time?

Paying attention to your wine, consuming it consciously, will also reward you with another benefit: awareness of your level of intoxication. It’s easy to get carried away with a second or third round of drinks or crack that second bottle, so savoring each sip keeps you focused on your intake.

Along with the rest of your 2015 resolutions (how are those going, by the way?), consider adding mindfulness when drinking your next glass of wine. You may find you love — or loathe — that Chardonnay more than you’re now unsure if you remember.

(For more information on mindfulness, and meditations that help you achieve it, start by looking into the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn. He launched a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program back in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He’s written lots of books on the topic that are easily downloadable onto Kindle for subway self-improvement sessions.)

4 Comments

Filed under Mindfulness