The Online Sommelier:
How to Select Wine to Impress and Enjoy
Become Your Own Sommelier
A Sommelier is a wine expert hired by up-scale restaurants to order and maintain wine to match the chef's menu. They are also available to recommended selected wines for patrons of the restaurant. If you don't have the opportunity to consult a sommelier for your own entertaining, a little knowledge about wines and wine/food pairing can give you an edge in serving wine to the best advantage.
Pinpointing Your Palette by Sweetness
The first step in selecting wine is to discover which types of wine you prefer. Whether or not a wine is "right" for a menu, first and foremost it should be pleasing to your palette. Most people discover that they prefer a specific wine classification based on the amount of sugar in the wine. Wine sweetness classes can be described as follows:
Very Dry/Brut – Wine that contains an extremely low amount of natural sugar. Brut wines include champagne and other sparkling wines. Crisp is often used as an adjective to describe very dry wine.
Dry/Sec – Wine with a low volume of natural sugar. Merlot is the most common example of a dry wine. Dry wines are often described in terms of Sharpness.
Medium Dry/Demi Sec – Wines containing just a hint of sweetness. Demi Sec wines make a good choice for large groups as they will appeal to lovers of both dry and sweet wines. When applied to sparkling wines, demi sec indicates a dessert-quality champagne.
Medium Sweet/Doux – Medium sweet wines have a higher percentage of natural sugar. Many varieties of Riesling fall into the Medium Sweet category. A large number of fruity wines are described as medium sweet.
Sweet/Moelleux – Wines with the highest percentage of naturally retained sugar. Sweet wines are generally served with dessert or cheese. Sweet wines are almost never used as a table wine in entertaining.
Red or White – The Great Debate
Both red and white wines contain varieties of all different levels of sweetness. While the standard "red wine with red meat/white wine with fish and poultry" rule can still be applied, modern wine connoisseurs allow greater freedom when selecting wine/food pairings. In general, red wines tend to be heartier and pair better with rich, heavy meals. White wines are typically lighter, sweeter and complements more delicate foods. The main objective is not the color of the wine, but selecting a wine that neither overpowers nor is overpowered by your menu. Find a taste that you like and choose a wine in that category that matches your meal.
It All Starts with the Grape
The final basic factor to consider when determining which wine to serve is the grape used in fermenting the wine. Every wine is made from a specific grape, termed a varietal. As you venture out and try more wines, it will become clear which varietals you prefer. Some common wine varietals include:
Chardonnay – A fairly full bodied dry white wine. Chardonnay is one of the most popular wine choices for newer wine enthusiasts as it can be found almost anywhere and has a light, uncomplicated taste. Chardonnay can be used to accompany light pasta dishes and fresh seafood.
Merlot – A fruity, rich red wine, Merlot is Chardonnay's red counterpart as it is the most common wine selected by those new to wine. Merlot is a good choice to serve with salad entrees as the fruity flavor counteracts the bitterness of the greens.
Pinot Noir – A heady red wine, Pinot Noir is created from highly acidic black grapes. (Hence the name, "Noir" is the French term for black.) The intense flavor of Pinot Noir pairs well with wild game, pork and tomato based sauces.
Riesling – Riesling wines are available in dry or sweet varieties. Refreshing and light, dry Riesling makes an excellent complement to stir-fry meals and other summery food choices.
Sauvignon – Rich and full bodied, this dry wine can be Cabernet (red) or Blanc (white). Both versions are excellent choices to be served with spicy foods.
Syrah/Shiraz – Spicy and aromatic, Shiraz has become extremely popular in the last 10 years. With many strong wines being produced in Australia (Shiraz) and California (Syrah), this red wine makes a perfect pairing with steak and other red meat dishes.
more food, health, and nutrition tips
To teach and learn money skills, personal finance, money management, business,
careers, and life skills please go to the Money
Instructor home page.