Wine pairing sounds a little too on the sommelier side for most of us. But you don’t have to be a total wino and you don’t have to spend a fortune to master the basics of wine pairing. For those who would consider themselves a professional Two Buck Chuck connoisseur, this one is for you. Here’s how to wow your friends and delight your date with the perfect pairings for your cheap wine.
Some ground-floor vocabulary when looking to pair that $8 bottle of wine:
1) Balance – When you find “the one” and you know it’s the right thing. No, not the right Tinder match, we mean when all of the elements of a wine come together and it tastes just right. What elements, you say? The acids, sugars, tannins, and alcohol – they all blend together harmoniously. You’d definitely swipe right on a balanced wine.
2) Acidity – This is that crispness your taste buds pick up while drinking a glass of vino. Typically a wine is more tart because of the climate that the grapes came from. Somewhere with cooler nighttime temps and maybe a shorter growing season will cause the grapes not too ripen all the way – hence the tartness.
3) Sugars – What balances a tart taste? Sugar! If a wine doesn’t have enough acidity then the sugars can overpower everything and it may taste more like syrup. You can usually pick up on the sweetness of a wine right away with just a quick sniff.
4) Tannins – You know when you finish taking a sip of wine and your tongue feels super dried out? That’s tannins. Tannins are a natural element found in plants, seeds, wood, and fruit skins. Wine tannins come from the grape skins and oak barrels that it is aged in. It adds complexity and structure to a wine. Based on the climate and how long and where the grape was aged, the tannins can come off as silky, velvety, bitter, or polished.
5) Alcohol – Surprise! There’s alcohol in wine! This happens when the yeasts consume the sugar found in the grape’s juice, usually producing an alcohol percentage from 11-13%. The more alcohol content in a wine, the more of a burning and hot sensation you’ll feel at the finish. Rule of thumb – typically white wines have lower alcohol percentages than red.
Pairing Your Vino
The number one thing to remember when pairing? Base your selection on the main flavor in a dish. For example, the white sauce in a pasta dish, the mushrooms over top of your steak, the seasoning on your chicken, etc.
Now that you have the basics, here is a general list of less expensive wines you can find near TAVA Waters and their best pairings.
- 14 Hands Pinot Grigio: Light fish dishes, like tilapia or tuna.
- Barefoot Pink Moscato: Fruity dessert dishes.
- Sutter Home Chardonnay: Creamy sauces, chicken, or pork.
- Underwood Rose Bubbles: Most anything! However, if you choose a dry rose with no bubbles, go for a rich, cheesy dish.
- [yellow tail] Sauvignon Blanc: Tart dressings or sauces, strong cheeses, and turkey.
- Cupcake Merlot: Grilled meats, especially steak.
- Dark Horse Pinot Noir: Earthy flavors like mushrooms and truffles.
- Franzia Cabernet Sauvignon: Beef, cheddar, walnuts, and lavender.
- Menage A Trois Malbec: Sweet-spicy barbecue sauces.
- Smoking Loon Syrah: Spicy sausage, sharp cheddar, oregano, and sage.