Once you learn how to taste wine like a pro, you’re ready to take it to the next level. Pairing wine with food can turn a great meal into an unforgettable one, and discovering exactly how to come up with winning combinations is part of the fun.
Lisa Giovanella, assistant to the buyer at Everything Wine, remembers the first class she ever went to through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), a globally recognized certification program.
“We were all handed a plate with a cluster of grapes, a block of brie, a slice of lemon, and a spicy Dorito chip,” Giovanella said.
Granted, corn chips — never mind nacho-flavoured ones — may not be the first thing that come to mind when it comes to food-and-wine pairings. But the Dorito made sense once Giovanella learned more. “It was a really good way to explore a spicy flavour and how that affects the taste of the wine,” she said.
It turns out that to balance and contrast spiciness, you want a wine with a bit of sweetness. The point of pairing food and wine is to bring out the best of both, making each one taste better.
“There’s a saying that goes: ‘One plus one equals three’,” Giovanella said. “Both the wine and the food may be really good on their own, but when you can find that perfect match, it enhances the whole experience.”
While the best matches ultimately come down to your own personal taste, there are basic rules to follow.
“The initial idea everybody has is that you would have a white wine with a white meat or fish, and a red wine with red meat, but there are a lot of things to consider beyond that,” Giovanella said.
A key consideration is body. Also known as weight or heaviness, this refers to the way a wine feels in your mouth — whether it’s light, medium, or full. If you’re eating something light and delicate, you want the same qualities in your glass so that neither the flavours of the dish nor the wine are going to overpower each other.
“If you have a really robust red wine, you want a really robust structured meal to go with it,” Giovanella said. “You want to match the weight or intensity of the dish to the wine.”
Here are a few basic guidelines to get you started on your gastronomic adventures:
Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc — On the lighter spectrum of white grape varietals, these are terrific pairings for lighter white fish, such as cod or halibut. “You want something simple, not overly flavoured — no heavy sauces, but rather delicate, lemon, light herb flavours,” Giovanella said. “You don’t want anything too oily or heavy, because then you’re going to be out of balance.”
Chardonnay and Viognier — Whites with some oak or aging are a bit heavier and go nicely with cream sauces or foods with buttery, oilier, richer textures. Great with roasted chicken or salmon. These full-bodied whites work nicely with richer foods, but can’t handle the extra structure behind red meats.
Riesling — With a little bit of sweetness, this wine works beautifully with spicy foods or those with intense flavour. Cajun, Thai, and Indian foods are classic matches.
Pinot Noir and Merlot — On the lighter spectrum of reds, these wines are fresh and versatile. They can be enjoyed with bold, flavourful white meat such as roast chicken, duck, or pork, as well as with red meat and salmon.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Malbec and Shiraz — These reds tend to be heavier and more robust, pairing well with steak, roast beef, venison, and ribs.
“Sparkling is really nice and refreshing on its own, but it also pairs really well with a wide variety of foods throughout a meal. Try a white sparkling with starters, popcorn, and even deep-fried foods,” Giovanella said. Sparkling rosé pairs nicely with chicken, salmon and mushrooms.
There’s another simple trick that experts turn to: “What grows together, goes together.” Think of Italy, home to some of the world’s most flavourful tomatoes, for example. That fruit has naturally high acidity, just like wines from Tuscany. No wonder, then, that Sangiovese or Chianti works so well with pizza or a tomato-based pasta dish. More broadly, wines from the Mediterranean go beautifully with Mediterranean dishes.
While the pairing of food and wine may be a world unto itself, at the end of the day it all comes down to personal preference. “It really is a kind of trial-and-error exploration,” Giovanella said. “Just because something is a classic match doesn’t mean it’s the best match for you. You have to go with your preferences and instincts.”
If you’re still not sure of your instincts, staff members at Everything Wine are there to help you. Each and every one of them has completed the WSET Level 1, meaning they can help you pick a perfect bottle for your next dinner party or family gathering. Questions about wine and food pairings are the most common ones they get. “That’s one of our favourites,” Giovanella said.
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Everything Wine and posted on Vancouver Sun.
The world of wine doesn’t need to be intimidating.
If you’re new to wine tasting, some of the terms that come up in pros’ notes to describe it can seem downright weird. When Lisa Giovanella was just starting to study wine a decade ago, she came across a few creative descriptors, like “aromas of horse saddle or crushed ants” and “flabby” or “woolly” that initially threw her for a loop.
“Descriptors like this all come from our own personal experience with the wide range of aromas, flavours and textures that can be applied to one’s wine vocabulary,” says Giovanella, assistant to the buyer at Everything Wine.
She has gone on to acquire the Level 4 Diploma from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), the world’s leading provider of wine knowledge courses. While she’s able to grasp wine tasting vocabulary, Giovanella understands how the world of wine can be intimidating to people just beginning to discover it. She has some tips for novices.
“When you’re just starting out tasting wine, you don’t have to identify every single flavour,” she says. “It’s a lot easier to start out with the bigger picture, with general terms. Instead of saying you like wine that tastes like plum, you might say: ‘I like something really light.’ The more practice you get, the easier it is to identify smaller details.”
Wine tasting can be broken down into four steps: appearance, aroma, taste and conclusions
Ready to start tasting?
The WSET Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine is a basic breakdown of the process, with four key steps:
Look at the colour of the wine to get a sense of its style. For example, in red wines, “a bright, purply hue for red tends to indicate the wine is younger,” Giovanella explains. “A more bricky or reddish colour indicates that wine has had some age.”
The reason you swirl the wine around in the glass before sniffing it is to “agitate” it — to bring oxygen into it. This will lift its aromatic compounds. “Start thinking of different components of aroma when you put your nose into the glass,” Giovanella suggests. “How intense is the aroma? Is it really light or faint, or do you immediately smell all kinds of flavours? Are those flavours fruity, spicy, floral, or savoury? From there, you can get more specific: if it’s fruity, what kind of fruit is it: citrus, stone, black, red, or tropical?”
You may have seen experts slurp their wine on first sip. It’s not that they’re lacking manners. The gesture is another way of aerating the wine. Increased oxygen helps release the flavour compounds in your mouth. When you swish the wine around, you hit all the different taste sensations on your tongue — sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami.From there you can start to think about things like sweetness, acidity, tannin and body, Giovanella says. Ask yourself: “Is this wine sweet or dry? Does it make your mouth water, or is it so dry that there’s no moisture left in your mouth? On the next sip, think about the weight: how does the wine feel in your mouth? Is it very light or is it rich and creamy?”This is when you think back to the aromas you noticed and whether, in fact, you can taste them. Can you identity any individual fruit flavours from the broad categories you noted? Finally, you want to consider what’s known as “length.”“If the flavour of the wine lasts for a long time, that can indicate a good quality wine,” Giovanella says.
Here’s when you put it all together and reflect. Then you can decide the most important aspect: Do you like it? Why or why not? “A professional would be using this time to decide if it’s a good quality wine or not, but for a novice, determine whether or not this is the wine for you,” Giovanella says.
If you’re still feeling unsure of how to describe a wine you like, don’t worry; all of the staff members at Everything Wine have WSET Level 1 qualification. While they have the knowledge to help you find something you’ll enjoy, they welcome questions from newbies, and they don’t judge.
“You don’t have to be worried about saying the wrong thing — we’ve all been there,” Giovanella says. “You’re talking to experts, but we’ve all had to learn to describe what we like and what we want in wine. Our job is to help you discover the things you like.”
A great red wine to start practising your wine-tasting skills on is Malbec. “It often has a good intensity of aromas and flavours, which helps novice tasters identify those characteristics,” Giovanella says. “It is often fuller-bodied and typically has medium to higher acidity and tannins, which makes it a good reference point.”
Still need to brush up on the basics? Check out our Wine 101, to help you savour while you sip.
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Everything Wine and first published on Vancouver Sun.
Understanding which wine is suited to which dish can take your dinner party to the next level.
With terms like bouquet, brix, and cuvé, the world of wine can seem dizzyingly complex. Some people might be tempted to throw up their hands and keep things as simple as “red” and “white.” But with a corkscrew and a little guidance, learning about wine can be a fun and fascinating adventure.
“The whole world of wine can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Lisa Giovanella, assistant to the buyer at Everything Wine, B.C.’s largest wine store. “There’s a lot of vocabulary that people may be wary of using or that’s tricky to grasp. But that shouldn’t deter people. Even for experts it’s a journey of constant learning.”
While you don’t need to be an expert to enjoy wine, acquiring some basic knowledge is easier than you may think, and it may help you savour what you’re sipping even more. At the very least, you’ll be able to hold your own at dinner parties when the glasses are being filled.
Wine 101 – A few key terms
- Tannins – Naturally occurring compounds found in fruit skins, seeds, leaves and plants. They create the dry sensation you feel in your mouth after taking a sip of wine.
- Body – Whether it’s light, medium or full, this describes the way a wine feels in your mouth. Also referred to as “weight,” it can range in texture from water to milk to cream.
- Acidity – Defines a wine’s tartness or “pucker.” “It’s the same sensation you feel in your mouth when you bite into lemon or green apple, that fresh or crisp mouth-watering sensation,” says Giovanella, who has her Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) diploma.
Common red grape varieties
- Pinot Noir – A lighter-bodied wine with raspberry and red-berry flavours.
- Malbec and Merlot – Medium-bodied, these typically have dark fruit flavours, such as plum and cherry with a smooth finish.
- Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz –Typically full-bodied and on the drier side with dark fruit flavours such as blackberry and blackcurrant. Shiraz tends to have peppery, spicy notes.
Common white grape varieties
- Pinot Grigio – This light, crisp variety has mellow, easily identified flavours like apple, pear and lemon.
- Sauvignon Blanc – A bit more intense than Pinot Grigio with tropical fruit flavours; some, such as those from New Zealand, can be grassy and herbaceous.
- Chardonnay – a dynamic white grape that can do anything. It can be fuller-bodied, with a vanilla, buttery texture and ripe-fruit flavours; often aged in oak barrels. Or it can be more crisp and clean, with notes of citrus and green apple.
There are thousands of varieties of grapes found all over the world to make the perfect glass of wine.[/caption]
Age is often considered a sign of a “good” wine, but if you’re just beginning to discover wine, younger bottles allow for easily identifiable, fresh, fruity characteristics to shine through. “When wine ages, it develops more dried-fruit flavours, as well as earthy, rustic and nutty characteristics,” Giovanella says.
Price is another indicator of a wine’s calibre, but it can be misleading; a higher price doesn’t necessarily guarantee a superior bottle. Chile and Spain, for example, offer some top-quality wines at a lower price point than some from California. Different varieties of grapes yield varying prices as well; Pinot Noir can be more challenging to grow than hardier Shiraz, for instance.
If you’re still not sure what kind of wine to pick up, Everything Wine can suggest some safe bets. Among them:
Tolten Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile ($12.99) “Chile offers really good value for its single-varietal wines,” Giovanella says. “This is a classic style of Cabernet Sauvignon: nice and fruity; dark fruit flavours with a nice, smooth finish; not too dry.” Goes well with roast beef, stew or other hearty dishes.
The Shy Pig Shiraz, Australia ($13.99) Well known for its dark-fruit style and black-pepper notes, this Shiraz would pair nicely with lamb or anything barbecued.
Santa Rita Winemaker’s Lot Sauvignon Blanc, Chile ($12.99) “This is a lighter wine but intensely flavoured,” Giovanella says. “It has tropical fruit flavours and an herbaceous style; its nice and crisp and refreshing.” Pair it with seafood or poultry.
Il Padrino Pinot Grigio, Italy ($12.99) Smooth, crisp and dry, this is one of Everything Wine’s top sellers, with lemon, apple and pear flavours. A neutral wine, it would suit seafood or anything light, like an appetizer.
Santana Rosé, Spain ($13.99) “Rosé is making a comeback,” Giovanella says. “It’s nice for summertime, but it’s also a good year-round option because it tends to have a little more strawberry, red-berry and raspberry flavours but still has a nice and crisp balance with lemon or citrus flavours.” Serve it with ham, pork tenderloin or roast chicken.
The best way to learn more is to talk to Everything Wine’s approachable, friendly staff, who are eager to answer any questions and can suggest wines to suit every taste, occasion and budget. Samples are available at the tasting bar daily from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Visit in person at 998 Marine Dr. in North Vancouver, 112-15735 Croydon Dr. in Surrey, 31-2401 Millstream Rd. in Langford on Vancouver Island or shop online at everythingwine.ca.
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Everything Wine and first published on Vancouver Sun.
Marinda Kruger-van Eck earned a PhD in enology and now makes a living as a winemaker in South Africa’s Swartland wine growing region.
With a background in science, Marinda Kruger-van Eck never imagined she’d one day be creating some of the world’s finest wines. After working in a research lab at a South African winery and earning a PhD in enology – the study of wines – Kruger-van Eck swapped her microscope for pruning shears. Today, she sees winemaking as a delicate balance of science and art.
Kruger-van Eck strikes that fine balance in her work in South Africa’s Swartland, a coastal wine-growing region unlike any other on the planet. While the sun’s intense heat is tempered by cool Atlantic breezes, the area is home to prehistoric soils and hardy old-world bush vines. Perched on a small plot of land high up on a hillside, the untrellised vines are left to grow naturally with minimal human manipulation – the way nature intended. Kruger-van Eck then harvests the grapes herself by hand.
The result is a fine bush-vine wine called Aquifer Semillon, a sensational white that Kruger-van Eck is proud to pour. Contributing to its uniqueness is the fact that Kruger-van Eck uses a wild yeast to allow the wine to ferment naturally, giving it extra dimension and bold flavour.
“It has a very refreshing, high acidic backbone that carries through for such a long finish; it’s so refreshing,” says Megan Cole, Canadian manager of Boutinot Wines, which produces the Aquifer Semillon. “The wine has got a great silky concentration on the mouth. It’s one of those grapes that is special.”
Aquifer Semillon – which would pair beautifully with seafood, slow-roasted pork belly, and spicy Asian flavours – is exclusive to Everything Wine, B.C.’s premier destination for wine and the province’s largest online wine store. Always exploring new wine regions, flavours, and varieties, the store carries more than 4,000 wines, hundreds that are exclusive, and has selections to suit any budget.
Samantha Bailey is a winemaker in the Pontbriand winemaking region in southeastern France.
Take the Domaine Pontbriand. It is also produced by Boutinot. Domaine Pontbriand comes from a family-owned 10-hectare estate in the Vaucluse region of southeastern France. More than three decades ago, the Merle family planted innovative varieties such as Caladoc and Marselan alongside Grenache in their land’s clay and limestone soils. Now in their prime, those vines have been crossed with Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon to create the robust, aromatic Domaine Pontbriand, prized for its full, round and juicy flavours and its savoury, smooth finish.
With so many exceptional wines being produced worldwide, many with intriguing stories like that of the Merles, it’s no wonder that the time-honoured beverage’s popularity just keeps increasing. Just as the farm-to-table philosophy has grown in recent years, so to has the grapes-to-glass movement. While more people want to know where the food on their plate came from, consumers are keen on learning about the origins of the wine they’re drinking. Origin stories like that of the Merles are almost as important as wines themselves.
“Over the last five to seven years we’ve seen the exponential increase of consumers taking it upon themselves to learn where their wine comes from; it’s a really exciting time,” Cole says. “People are increasingly willing to try new wines. We’re seeing more and more adventure and exploration.”
With a buying team that travels the globe (including a stop at the international ProWein Trade Fair in Germany), and is always eager to find wines that honour the grapes-to-glass movement, Everything Wine has the selection to suit wine enthusiasts – beginners and experts alike. But it’s not just the buying team that has wine expertise. Store staff are approachable, friendly and knowledgeable, keen to help customers find just the right pick.
Domaine Pontbriand comes from a family-owned 10-hectare estate in the Vaucluse region of southeastern France.
Rob Carras, assistant manager of the Surrey location, notes that all staff members, including cashiers and web fulfilment staff, have acquired, at the very least, Level I of Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a globally recognized certification program.
Carras himself has his WSET Diploma, the highest level possible, while Everything Wine is the only approved WSET retail-level program provider in Canada for more formal training.
“We do staff training on our exclusive wines on a weekly basis,” Carras says, adding that the store encourages people to “try before you buy.” Every day from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., each location has its central tasting bar open so that customers can sample new wines, deciding for themselves if they want to put a bottle in their basket. It’s a casual, welcoming space that allows people to ask questions, learn and experience the world of wine and beyond.
“Customers come in and say, ‘I’m having this for dinner; what would you recommend to go with it?’” says Carras, who loves helping people find wine to complement their food. “If someone’s having poached halibut with a lemon sauce, we know what that acid is going to do to any of the wines in the store.
“With our exclusive program, the first question is ‘I’ve never seen this label; where is it made?’” Carras says. “Wine tourism has played a role in that. If we know what you’ve enjoyed in the past, we’ll typically have something new that you can try that exemplifies your tastes.”
Everything Wine’s online store also makes new wines easily accessible and shopping for them extremely convenient. “Our website and free delivery on orders of over $200 make it really easy,” Carras says. Plus, order any 12 bottles and customers receive five per cent off.
Visit Everything Wine online at www.everythingwine.ca or in person at 998 Marine Dr. in North Vancouver, 112-15735 Croydon Dr. in Surrey or 131-2401 Millstream Rd. in Langford on Vancouver Island.
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Everything Wine and was first published on Vancouver Sun.
It's nearly impossible to forget some of your "firsts". Your first job, your first concert, and of course your first love. Those moments are impactful. Through the years they have stayed with you; they have even possibly shaped you. The beautiful thing about life is, there are still so many "firsts" left to experience.
On January 19, 2017 I was privileged to experience a new first. At 6:30pm, I sat down for my first masterclass on Burgundy with the brilliant Wine Connoisseur
Jordan Carrier. Now don't get me wrong, I've had plenty of good Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in my lifetime....but this was different. Why you ask? Not only was this a scholastic experience, it was a gastronomical one as well. For each wine, there was a perfectly paired morsel as delicious and unique as its counterpart. You may have came just for the wine but you leave trying to plan your next dinner party. Seven fantastic wines and seven beautiful hors d'oeuvres later, how could you not! Now let's talk about these Burgundian beauties.
We started tasting in an untraditional manor, red to white. Between you and I, I was just so excited to try the wines, I didn't even bother to ask why. Yet, if I were to guess, I'd say it has to do with Chardonnay's full bodied nature vs. Pinot Noir's delicate profile. Anyway I digress.
We started off with Louis Jadot Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Sentiers, 2007. With a price point of $117.99 I had very high expectations, and all I can say is "I get it." This was one of my highlights of the evening. It was as if I had just been hugged. It had this subtle, understated yet undeniable beauty. It had the classic sour cherry and forest floor, with a finish that was gentle and smooth. The pure definition of terroir was in my glass, and memorable it will always be. It was paired with beef tar tar, mandarin oranges, and fennel on a rice cracker. Simply wonderful.
Onto wine #2. Camus Pere et Fils Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, 2005 The price tag of $124.49 may seem hefty but believe it or not, that's a steal for a Grand Cru from Burgundy. The price may be "cheap" but the quality sure isn't. When they normally start at $300, I understand why one may feel apprehensive, but worry not! There are notes of riper fruit coupled with aromas of intense candied cherries that have been coated in dirt. It was slightly more tannic than the 1st wine but could easily lay down for a few more years. This was paired with organic beet carpaccio.
Wine #3 was A.F. Gros Vosne-Romanee Mazieres, 2011. The beauty of having a flight of wines of the same varietal in front of you is the ability to compare. This vintage seemed to have more tannins and higher alcohol levels, with aromas of cherry cola. It's still a young guy, so I'd be interested to see him man up in a few years.
Wine #4 was Daniel Rion Nuits-St-Georges Grandes Vignes, 2013. Now this would be the more affordable of the bunch (red wines) at $68.99. It was paired with a dark chocolate truffle that contained a core of lavender infused white chocolate. It stood up to the earthy mint finish of the wine. Now I have a confession to make...I used to be a Chardonnay hater (Don't judge me, I didn't know better!). I have now seen the light, have embraced it entirely, and urge you other Chardonnay haters to give it a chance! However, my only stipulation is to start in Burgundy.
Which brings me to wine #5 Olivier Leflaive Meursault Narvaux, 2013. If this was high school and there was a vote for prom king, this would win. It was bright, had a stunning nose of lemon and golden apple with pleasant minerality. It was paired with a delicious almond sweet pea mascarpone soup.
Wine #6 was Louis Jadot Savigny-les-Beaunes Clos les Guettes ,2012. Louis Jadot has yet to steer me wrong and this was no exception. At $50.99, picking up this bottle of wine for a special occasion would be highly advised. Very fruit driven, with notes of apricot and white peach. This was paired with a French classic, coq-au-vin.
Last of all, wine #7 was Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Embazees, 2013. I'd say this wine has potential at $121.99 but still 5 years too early. Still has fruit but I found the acid rather high. It was great that it was it was paired with crispy pork belly, bocconcini and honeydew. The acid in the wine cut right through the fat resulting in perfection.
I don't know about you but I'm getting pretty thirsty and hungry talking about all of this food and wine. I implore you to find a class at Everything Wine, sign up and enjoy your next "First Experience". You will come away equipped with more knowledge and confidence, all while having had a memorable night.