While December weather has been relatively mild so far this year, if you’re anything like us, enjoying the hosting or visiting friends and family and having social nights with food accompanied by a delicious glass of wine, then to help you choose the perfect wines for this season – whether red, white, or rosé – we have put together a few basic rules to help you select the best options. As usual, personal preference surpasses everything else, but here are some general guidelines for serving wine during the holiday season.
The number one rule of thumb when choosing wine is “red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat”. This is not always true, but it generally works quite well when you are unsure. The reason red wine typically pairs well with red meat is that red wine tends to be higher in tannins. While on their own, tannins can feel drying, they’re a good complement to the rich fattiness that can be found in red meat. White wine can be better with fish or chicken because it tends to have higher acidity, and it complements food similarly to how a squirt of lemon juice can brighten a seafood dish.
The second rule is the rule of complements. One of the most important things to consider when matching wine with food is weight. Light foods go well with light wines, and heavy foods with heavy wines. If this balance is not followed, your heavy food will completely obscure the delicate flavours of a light wine, or the full body of a more robust wine will cover the delicate flavours of a light food. Here, balance is the key.
Not just weight, but also flavours can be matched between the wine and the food. Sweet foods pair well with sweet wines. Buttery lobster goes well with a rich, buttery Chardonnay. Fruity wines go well with fruity flavours and fruit sauces. The label description on a wine bottle can give you a good hint of what kind of food it might go well with. If you are having a dish with a sauce, don’t forget to take the sauce into account.
To combat a spicy food, try an off-dry wine. A wine with high alcohol will increase the spiciness of spicy foods. A slightly sweet wine is the perfect partner for a slightly spicy food. Even pepper, which would often seem too pungent for wine, can be good for pairing. The pepper makes your taste buds more sensitive to the flavours in the wine, which can therefore taste richer and more intense.
If you want to have a strong, tannic wine such as Cabernet or Shiraz, you need to have a food with a strong enough flavour to match it. High fat and protein foods, such as a hard cheese or rich meat, make a good accompaniment for a heavy red wine. The strong flavour of the food will soften the flavour of the wine, while the tannin in the wine helps to clear your palate of a greasy food.
Fish is usually paired with a delicate white wine, but this rule may not apply when the fish has a thick creamy sauce, or is fried in batter. The fish might go better with a slightly heavier white, or even with a lighter red wine.
You can also take the contrary view that opposites attract. Instead of pairing wines and foods with similar flavours, you can try to find flavours that make an interesting contrast. Some of the more common contrasting flavours that go well together are an acidic white wine with greasy food or salty foie gras or cheese with a sweet wine. A popular contrast combination is a heavy, sweet fortified wine with salty cheese.
Outside of the basic rules, there are certain things you can look for and certain options you can avoid, depending on what you are serving. One way to determine what dishes might go well with a wine is to look at where the wine originated. Usually, a wine fits well with its local cuisine. Wine is made for the locals first, so they make the wine they like – and they like the wine that goes well with their food.
Many of the most popular wines, such as an oaky Chardonnay or a recent vintage Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz, can be some of the most complex to pair with food because factors such as the country of origin, vintage year, maturing and ageing factors etc. affect the wine’s structure and texture. The weight, high level of oak, and tannin of some of these wines may not go well with certain dishes. So, feel free to experiment a bit with complementary or contrasting wines and foods.
A few tips for food and Monolithos wines pairing particularly during the approaching holiday season:
· Serve Monolithos Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz 2017 dry rosé with hors d'oeuvres.
· Serve Monolithos Xynisteri 2018 with anything you can squeeze a lemon on.
· Match rich red meats with Monolithos Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon 2017.
· In the case of seafood in general, stick to a dry, crisp white wine such as Xynisteri, Nafsika or Ayios Stephanos White.
· For turkey, since it has both white and dark meat, you may use a fruity red or Monolithos Xynisteri, Chardonnay, or Agios Stephanos White.
· When serving beef, steak or lamb, use the “red wine with red meat” rule and choose a dry red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon 2015.
· If you are having a cheese tray, the type of cheese will help you determine the wine. For example, cheddar is best with dry reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon 2015. Camembert, mature cheddar and brie are great with a Monolithos Premium Chardonnay.
· A mildly sweet dessert, like fresh fruit, will go well with most dessert wines, but a strongly sweet dessert, like chocolate cake, needs a sweeter wine to match. If the dessert is sweeter than the wine, it can make the wine taste sour or bitter.
As winemakers ourselves, we encourage you to come to our winery and explore the inner sommelier in you! We are fortunate to work with a great array of varietals and currently we really enjoy the challenge of crafting a new generation of delicious wines. For anyone who appreciates a great glass of wine with their meal or platter, we recommend you to come and sample one of our bottles at the winery.
The winery is open to visitors most weekends, but you are advised to phone in advance:
Season Greetings from all of us here at Monolithos Winery.