Nearly every wine drinker has a favorite winery or a beloved grape. If you don’t eat a lot of red meat, you may not have a wide experience with red wines, while others drink only read simply because they haven’t found a white they like yet. The more you know, the more there is to learn.
Acidity Vs. Bitterness
As a general rule, white wines are more acidic. For example, many tasters agree sauvignon blanc wines have a strong citrus flavor, often including grapefruit in the finish. This wine would enhance the lighter flavor of a white fish, such as tilapia, but would flatten out the fattier flavor of a good cut of steak.
For those who love steak, a cabernet is a lovely option. While most cabernets have a strong fruit essence and aroma, the secondary flavor can be quite rich. These are not sipping wines. Instead, a cabernet can serve as the background for the lush juiciness of a cut of prime rib.
While all wines have tannins, red wines have more. White wines are pressed more quickly, so the tannins in the seeds and the skins aren’t incorporated into the wine blend as intensely as they are in reds. Tannins in wine add astringency; when astringency is high enough, it becomes a bit bitter in the mouth and creates a “dry” mouth feel.
Fatty or juicy meats, such as a prime rib or a marbled steak, bloom when paired with a wine high in tannins. The old food and wine pairing maxim, that red wines and red meats go together, is true because the flavors complement one another so well.
We’ve all heard that white goes with fish and red with steak, but what about pink wine? Surprisingly, rose wines can be made from almost any grape and offer a huge variety of acidic intensities. If you’re not sure about a new wine, consider how it was aged.
Oaked wines tend to be a bit mellower with a lower acid level. Many chefs find that an oaked wine, either pink or white, will pair beautifully with chicken or fish that has a bit of spice. A strongly flavored cheese, such as feta, also pairs well with a smoother oaked wine.
Whites and pinks aged in stainless steel tanks tend to have a lot of citrus zing. Served cold, these are wonderful sipping wines and a nice foil for simple meals of fruit, mild cheeses, and hearty fresh bread.
The Aging Process Matters
Wines aged in oak, as nearly all red wines are, have a more complex flavor. This complexity moves them out of the sipping category and into the dining category. It’s not absolutely necessary for all wines to spend time in an oak barrel, but those that generally have a deeper and more interesting flavor.
Learning about wine can be a lifelong field of study. Once you have a favorite “red and steak” or “white and fish” combination, be ready to branch out. Try new pairings and taste what each wine does to the overall flavor of the food.