For a true product of passion, meant to lubricate social situations, open conversational doors, and generally help people enjoy themselves, wine sure seems to come with a lot of rules. When did everything become so complicated, with this and that becoming “taboo”? Let’s all let our inner-rebel run, shall we? Here are five wine “taboos” you should break, starting this weekend:
The screwcap vs cork debate among wine drinkers is perhaps one of the most contentious of our time. I won’t deny that popping a cork has a certain je nais se quoi; a celebratory element that can’t be replicated with a screwcap. But if you’re harboring sentiments that quality wine doesn’t come with a screwcap, allow me to broaden your horizons! Screw caps have been used to seal wine for more than fifty years, and are the preferred closure of many quality wine producers who don’t want to contend with the extra cost, risk of cork taint, or variable quality of natural cork. In fact, the great majority of bottles out of Australia are sealed by screwcap. Don’t turn your nose up at these, mistaking them for lower-quality wines; you’d be missing out!
Here are three recommendations to get you started:
- Meiomi Pinot Noir: $20.00, A beautiful Pinot Noir from the creator and winemaker behind Belle Glos.
- Ballast Stone Shiraz: $20.00, A powerful Australian Shiraz, showcasing the best of this varietal’s deep, sultry flavors.
- Tarara Winery 2012 Chardonnay: $25.00, Winemaker Jordan Harris is a big fan of screwcaps, and makes a number of stellar wines using them (that regularly sell out of stock).
2. Red Wine with Meat, White Wine with Fish
This old adage has a prominent place in the world of food and wine pairing. Don’t get me wrong, this guideline serves a purpose: an iodine-rich fish like Salmon paired with a tannic red wine will give you metal mouth faster than a trip to the orthodontist, but paired with a lighter red like Pinot Noir, Salmon and red wine can be magic (don’t take my word for it, try this Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon and Grenache pairing by Wine Enthusiast).
Similarly, beef dishes aren’t necessarily a match made in heaven for red wine. Consider your favorite beef dishes from Thai, Indian, Chinese or Japanese cuisines, for example. For these full-flavor, often spicy dishes, you need a wine that will stand up and not be washed out. Racy, lively wines like Gewürztraminer or Sauvignon Blanc are your huckleberry here.
That’s because when it comes to creating food and wine pairings that sing, the most important considerations are weight, acidity, and flavor profile. Weight refers to the overall body of the dish – is it light and bright, or swimming in a rich, decadent sauce? You’ll want a wine that mirrors that same body. When it comes to acidity, you may think you need to counteract the acidity in food with a rounder, more viscous wine. Acidic foods, however, marry well with acidic wines. A good rule of thumb here it to match acids with acids, and remember your palate. If it’s blown out by an acidic food, a flabby wine will fall by the taste bud wayside.
Finally, consider the flavor profile of the food or wine you’re trying to pair, and remember that they both tend to play well with the pairings they grew up with. The heavy tomato element in Tuscan cooking, for example, makes these dishes a natural pairing for the acidic Chianti’s and Super Tuscans from the same region.
- Good wine can’t come from a box
Stick with me here, because I know some of you may think I have lost my corks on this one. There are actually some delicious wines packaged in non-bottle containers, and let’s face it: there are many times when a 750 mL bottle isn’t convenient, or just isn’t enough!
I dare you to surrender any container cattiness you may be experiencing, and open your mind to some very exciting wines available in a non-traditional format. Virginia’s very own Michael Shaps is spearheading the effort to thing beyond the bottle, and is offering his wines in both boxes and soon, GROWLERS! He calls the wine growler a Mon Bidon, and it will be the perfect pairing for a picnic, weekend ski retreat, or anytime you could use more wine over a relatively short period of time. Michael’s Wineworks label also sells three wines by the box: a white blend, a red blend, and a Viognier. Each box retails for $40 and contains 4 bottles of wine. Stop associating larger containers with “bulk wine.” Think Magnum, without the heavy glass component!
4. Wine has to be fancy
Many types of art are misunderstood, and wine is no exception. Sometimes compared to poetry in a bottle, wine is definitely an artistic expression of a winemaker’s vision. But it’s this nuanced nature and perceived complexity that sometimes gives wine an undeserved air of haughtiness or snobbery. The fact is, you should drink what you like, where you like, when you like. While I’m not giving you permission to drink your way through your 10 am meeting with the boss, wine does NOT need to be reserved for fancy dinners, special occasions, and rich folks.
Millennials are breaking this taboo left and right, taking wine with them on the go, gravitating towards labels with funky graphics rather than vineyards and rolling hills, and favoring wines with a story rather than a big name. Take a page out of their rule-breaking book.
- Good wine has to be expensive.
We’ve all heard about wine auctions where bottles sell for more than most of us make in a year, but you don’t have to break the bank to indulge in a great bottle of wine. In fact, the Millennial rule-breaking crowd mentioned above has zeroed in on a price point of $10-12 for the great majority of their wine purchases, and there are plenty of budget-friendly bottles in that range. Here are some of my favorite bottles under $20:
- Kiwi Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc, $8.99 – This is the perfect wine to break taboo #2 above
- Butternut Chardonnay, $14.99 – Just, yum.
- Snoqualmie Cabernet Sauvignon, $13.99 – A BIG red for a little price
- Bitch Grenache, $9.99 – for when it’s been that kind of day
- Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir, $19.99 – A little nuance, a little precision, a sexy wine.
So go ahead, rebel against these tired wine “taboos” and drink that wine with the screwcap or from the Mon Bidon during the big game this weekend! Cheers!