Beverage Dynamics is a trade paper that reports sales numbers for mass marketed alcoholic beverage brands. Since I'm not a mass marketer my interest in tracking such things is similar to my interest in the grocery store wars in the business news. Having been both a mass marketer and a grocery store guy in the past I voyeuristically remain interested in who's winning those competitions.
Occasionally Beverage Dynamics does offer up something relevant to what we're doing here and in the May/June edition of this year in an article called "Salt is Wine's Best Friend," Marnie Old reports on the contrasting effects of salt and sugar in combination with dry red wine. Old is a wine educator and former director of wine studies for Manhattan's French Culinary Institute.
When pairing wine with food, most of us defer to the traditional model of pairing red wine with red meat and white wine with chicken and fish. Others might look to the relative lightness/heaviness of the meal and select a complementary wine based on those terms. Soups, sauces, and gravies and the busy-ness entailed in those types lead sommeliers and other wine geeks to go further and check out the spices involved before selecting a wine go-to. That is the stepping off point for Old's article.
Knowing the place of salt in cooking everywhere, she selects Italian cuisine as a case study asserting that the dryness of Italian red wine works with pasta sauce because salt blocks the wine's acidity thereby revealing the inherent fruitiness of the wine. Therefore...this is why European wines are so dry and acidic. They are so designed to complement foods.
Want to experiment? Join us here for a Thursday afternoon wine tasting. Typically we'll taste the wine on its own terms and then walk over to the cheese table for a gnosh. If it's a European red wine the salty cheese should make the wine turn quite fruity. If it's new world red wine the change is minimal and sometimes for the worse, making the wine seem heavy and dull.
Sugar is something else entirely. It blocks the tastebuds that detect sweetness and sensitizes acidity making the wine seem less fruity according to Old. New world fruitier wines therefore fare better with sweet foods than do the dryer Europeans but any wine with sweet foods must at least be as sweet as the food. So with that in mind try a noticeably sweeter Riesling with your next honey-baked ham!
Please join us this afternoon for a tasting of Palermo Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and others as we celebrate another summer Saturday afternoon. Tuesday is National Wine & Cheese Day so after 5pm on that day Nick Simonetti directs us in a tasting of four from Borsao of Spain including the Garnacha, Blanco, Rosato, and Tres Picos. On Thursday we'll have the regular weekly tasting as usual. And if your curious about the thesis above, grab a piece of cheese at the next tasting!