Wine Talk

Snooth User: napagirl68

"Food" wine vs. "sipping" wine

Posted by napagirl68, Feb 23, 2011.

I hesitated in starting this topic, as I truly believe all wines should pair well to at least some foods.  We all experience a pleasure from those perfect pairings that we discover.. matches made in heaven :-)

But what about sipping wine?  And what does that mean to people?   Here in California, it is NOT uncommon to pop open a bottle of wine to sip on, sans food.  I am pretty sure that this is not a common practice in other areas of the world, where wine is usually consumed only with meals.

Which leads me to my next question and observation.  I am having issues with some French wines.  St. Emilion bordeauxs are perplexing me.  I find them to have a "must" or slightly "moldy" taste that I do not find pleasing.  Is this something that only pairs well with food, but not alone?  French wines are often lauded as superiour to CA wines... is that because they pair better with food?   What about consuming a french wine sans food?  Is the purpose of french wine soley to complement food?  I am interested in thoughts for all regions of wine, not just France.  Just curious, as I find I like a different wine to sip, vs perhaps a food pairing.  And curious to see how many others just have wine, sans food.

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Replies

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Reply by Degrandcru, Feb 23, 2011.

Napagirl, you are wrong on this one, having wine without food is very common all over the world. Or do you think French or Italians don't drink anymore after dinner? A lot of times when I am in France it happens after dinner (even after the Cognac or Port), that hosts open another bottle of wine. In Spain you go from Tapa bar to Tapa bar having differnt wine at night (after the second Tapa bar without Tapas anymore). In Germany people getting together at wine bars having their Rieslings after dinner. Very common, especially in the wine regions.

A big difference that I realized is that in the US you seldomly have wine with lunch (correct me if I am wrong). In most European countries it is very common to have wine with lunch, in fact in Spain, France or Italy you get a house wine included with the lunch menu. I was at a trade show in Germany recently where a French supplier of mine opened a bottle of Champagne to welcome us at 10 am. In the US I can't even get a beer with my sandwich for lunch at a trade show.

So I conclude that it is not less common to have wine without food outside the US, but it is less common in the US to have wine with food than in many other wine countries.

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Reply by napagirl68, Feb 23, 2011.

Glad to here it, Degrandcru!  Thanks for the input!

Sooo... is there a difference in the wines chosen for sipping vs. pairing in France, Spain?  I find, at least for myself,  that there are certain wines that just need food to pair with them, vs sipping alone.

And yes, for the most part, you are correct about American lunches.  it is usually, but not always, frowned upon to drink any alcohol at lunch in a professional setting.  Although I did work for a group that was comprised of many Europeans, and we had some GREAT lunches!!

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Reply by Degrandcru, Feb 23, 2011.

Hit the reply bottom too early... what I actually wanted to conclude is that maybe, as it is very common ins France, Spain, Italy, Germany... to have wine with all foods during the day, the main purpose of the wine may be to be food friendly and sipping is second, while as food pairing is not that much of a must in the US, sipping is first...

Anyway... great topic!

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Reply by Degrandcru, Feb 23, 2011.

Of course there are certain wines that need food and other that are better sipped by themselves or enjoyed with cheese and nuts... lets go to Italy for an extreme example, Chianti a 100% food wine, while Amarone is certainly more of an after dinner sip-wine.

So, had dinner with wine and the sipping after and better go to bed now. Good night.

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Reply by napagirl68, Feb 23, 2011.

I was at a trade show in Germany recently where a French supplier of mine opened a bottle of Champagne to welcome us at 10 am.

I gotta move to Europe.

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Feb 24, 2011.

NG

I think Degrandcru is right.  In Australia we drink wine with food, we sip it when no food is around and if we sip enough the sips get bigger!

The Southern Europeans are far more gregarious than those of us in the Anglo Saxon politically correct fun suppressed world, where the barrage of occupational health and safety laws, left wing anti drinking psychos, drinking before the end of the work day is seen as having the same negative impact on society as sniffing cocaine and robbing old ladies.

I tend have a view that all wine can be enjoyed with or without food as Degrandcru says some more one way than the others.

I just can't see me knocking back the offer to try a glass of Chianti without food or an Amorone with food [subject to what I was eating eg chocolate - oops better not go there again!]

As to the St Emillons, I suspect we need Dmckers perspective on your challenge NG as my experience is limited, although sometimes I find with decanting that musty smell/taste goes away.  It may also be a touch of Brettanomycies which D does not mind, but generally I think it is a lack of discipline in the winery.  Be interesting to see what impact Stelvin would have on a top St Emillon?

 

 

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Reply by gregt, Feb 24, 2011.

These guys answered before I saw this thread but I agree with them.

The entire concept of "food" wine is something that was concocted fairly recently by American writers who wanted to disparage a lot of California and Australian wine that they considered too ripe, fruity, and alcoholic.  And a few old world people decided that they could get some mileage out of the concept too.  But it's 100% BS in my very humble opinion.

I've never met anyone in Europe who doesn't have a glass of wine when he or she thinks they want one - with or without food.

As far as the idea of "pairing", I think that's also WAY overblown in the US.  Dont' forget, the entire wine culture here is only about 40 years old, if that, and many, if not most people who drink wine do not have parents who grew up with it.  So people raised themselves so to speak. Pop drank a beer or a highball with dinner in the 50s and 60s and maybe a Manhattan or Martini in the 70s,  Mom may have messed around with Chardonnay in some fern bar, but they sure weren't pairing wine with food. 

So now that we have an entire generation of Americans who never learned to cook and who are now trying to learn from recipes and schools, those same people are trying to learn about wine as well.  Learning how to cook from books instead of from grandma, they quite reasonably turn to books and teachers to learn about wine as well.  Unfortunately, in so doing, they get the idea that there are ideal matches that are somehow known to the cognoscenti and that require study.  It's just not true.

Food reacts with the saliva in our mouths and with the wine we drink and the wine reacts with the food and the chemicals in our mouths and we know that there is not a single amorphous thing called "food" except on the Simpsons.  So it's a bit misleading to talk about "food wine" as a single class anyhow - do we mean roast venison wine, boiled beef wine, eggs in aspic wine, and so on. Any wine in the world pairs with what you're eating if you think it does.  And if you don't, nothing some "expert" says is going to make it better.

So don't overdo the concept of food and wine pairing.  It's NOT like the Europeans had centuries to perfect it.  They simply played the hands they were dealt.  They were making wine in the south of Italy since pre-Roman days.  Suddenly Columbus shows up in Spain with tomatoes, they find their way over to Italy, and we're supposed to think that those Southern Italian wines pair best with the "local" dishes that are tomato-based??  Only if we get our information from the Food Channel or some "wine educator" who read it somewhere and chose to pass down the misinformation. 

The fact is that most wine was made to get some alcohol.  It was made by farmers.  They picked as soon as the grapes were ripe enough to ferment properly.  The stuff was fairly vile and didn't travel for the most part.  The wines that did travel tended to be the sweet wines, which were prized partly because sugar was a rarity and highly valued in itself. There was no refrigeration and no way to ship food over long distances, so people pickled, dried, salted, smoked and preserved what they could and they ate what grew locally. 

The result is that you get tannic, astringent wines from the south of Italy with tomato dishes.  A match made in heaven?  I think not.  Or you get rabbit in cream paired with Beaujolais or Burgundy.  Or venison and saurkraut paired with Riesling in Germany.  All because that's what they had at hand, not because through trial and error they discovered brilliant pairings.

Of course, wine was always an element of commerce and since ancient days it's been shipped from producing areas to consuming areas.  But much like the California strawberries one finds in New York midwinter, that wine may not have been optimized for drinking so much as for shipping.  OTOH, if you're living in the cold, gloomy, damp British Isles and you're eating boiled beef and you can't really grow decent grapes so you're drinking horrific stuff like mead, you welcome ANY wine. With food, without, whatever.  Also, since it wasn't as alcoholic as the Ports that the menfolk had with their cigars, a glass of claret was an acceptable drink for Victorian ladies, who apparently were prone to fainting regularly, at least according to the Bronte sisters.

Thus we have the growth of Bordeaux.  Early on Bordeaux was simply a shipping port.  After they started producing wine, they were similar to California's Central Coast - lots of juice to sell  to the rubes. That's why you have the grand chateaux - there was a lot of money to be made selling plonk.  The people who couldn't ship remained peasants - Burgundy, Piedmonte, etc.  Only very very recently did wine from those places become desireable in the larger wine world.

So now that we've dismissed the food wine thing, let's look at St. Emilion.  Moldy flavors do not a food wine make!!  I think you have either crappy winemaking or crappy wine.  St Emilion can be a damp place in some years and if there was mold on the vines despite the fact that they probably sprayed without mercy, you may get some of that in your wine.  And there's a lot of swill coming out of St Emilion and environs.  It's nowhere near as sunny and dry as most of CA.  Also, some of the smaller places aren't necessarily all that clean in their winemaking. 

OTOH I don't know who lauds all French wines as superior to CA wines. France is a huge place and has many many many different kinds of wine, much of it horrific.  That's why they're ripping out so many vines - nobody in the ENTIRE world wants the stuff - even Russians. So you might point out to anyone who makes that kind of statement  that they are both incorrect and imprecise and that they should make sure they've hooked up the family brain cell before they start opining.  In your own case, there's no reason to feel that you much like every wine from every region.  Many people don't and apparently you haven't found any Bordeaux that you care for yet - and maybe never will.  Nothing wrong with that - there's a lot of other wine in the world that we need to drink!

Just my 2 cts.  Cheers!

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Feb 24, 2011.

Greg

If thats 2c the ten buck GregT would be some odyssey.

But certainly worth more than 2c in well set out logical reasoning.

I found most of it pretty well in line with my own thinking.  The food wine matching should be seen for what it really is.  A fun way to experiment with different flavour profiles to seek out an experience that is really good.

I think half of the fun is trying to work out what works and what does not.  To me one of the most interesting discoveries I had in my early food/wine matching days was Sauterne style wines and sweet desserts.  Part of the fun of this discovery was that many of our friends did not like sweet wines and I was indifferent to them and mostly we conceded that dessert was the time to have a little alcohol break in the lunch/dinner process before a nightcap of some sort.

I read about the match and decided to try it with a fairly simple combination of a local botrytis semillon and ice cream.  I was quite amazed how well the 2 sweets complimented each other. without reading about it I doubt this experiment would have occurred.  Anyway I tested it on the local sceptics and lo and behold they were equally amazed.

Overtime I have been fortunate enough to take this match to the pinnacle of an aged Chateau d'Yquem and a Creme Brulee which is close to one of the most amazing matches and overall food wine experiences I have tried.

But the match works so well right across the price spectrum of local stickies and local desserts.

Now would I sit down for a glass of sticky on its own, good question, I have never contemplated doing that.  Why, I have to admit I really don't know.  Sounds like another wine advdenture perhaps, but I think it goes to the point that wine is all about the experience, the time, the place, the friends etc

With food, no food, with friends or solo, serious tastings, quaffing in the park, A glass a red after a show [like last night].

In summary I agree with GregT wine is wine, food is food, matching is fun but it is certainly not mandatory.

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Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Feb 24, 2011.

I'll be the contrarian to some degree.

I think there are sipping wines, most definitely.  For example, low acid, big malo Chard is not usually good with food, other than paired with a butter/cream sauce, and even then it's still not my first choice.  Or, another example is Napa Cab.  In general, too extracted, too oaked, too little acid to go with much other than a steak, but relatively enjoyable by itself.  Ditto the Amarone (which I freaking LOVE, solo). 

Higher acid anything screams out for food to me.  I'm not often found with a glass of Barbera and nothing to go with it.  Same for Pinot Meunier and Sangio.  Even Nebbiolo, which is my overall favorite grape.  They're simply not as pleasing to me without food as with.

The major exception to my rule is non-fortified dessert wines, a la Sauternes, Ice Wine/Eiswein, sweeter Tokaji, etc.  They're usually pretty high in acid to balance the sweetness, but I prefer to drink them on their own, or with a bit of stinky blue.  Unlike SH, I dislike them with desserts, as either the wine or the dessert will draw the short end of the stick.

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Feb 24, 2011.

GDD - It just goes to show how much it is personal taste and that is so much the fun of it.

I don't think you view is all that contrarian because essentially what Greg is saying is that the food wine thing has got a bit exaggerated and convoluted with many people talking wide generalisations.  You have merely broken it down into your precise experiences based on how the wines and foods impact your palateand not a generalisation based on some myth propagated by some food wine guru.

Last night we went to a local Thai and did the bring food thing.  How do you match wine with a squillion different flavours, but consensus was a 10 Pikes Clare Riesling and it kinda worked OK, we all enjoyed both and no complaints.

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Reply by gregt, Feb 24, 2011.

You say it so much more succinctly Stephen.

There's no reason not to have preferences - we all do and we all should.

Otherwise we'd all be trying to marry the same girl!  Or guy!  And I would HATE to be married to my neighbor's wife!  Blech.

People have different thresholds for sour and bitter flavors.  And in terms of pH, there may not be all that much difference between a "big" wine, even a Chardonnay, and one that seems leaner.  There's measurable acidity and apparent acidity, just like there is actual vs apparent alcohol, etc.  I had a wine the other day that was magnificent and when I looked at the label I was stunned as it was over 15%.  Never would have picked it up had I known, but I was pleasantly surprised.  And we've all had wines that seemed hot but were only 14 and even significantly less. 

But steak is a great example. If an "over-oaked" Napa Cab can work, can an Amarone or a Chinon or an old Rioja Gran Reserva or an old Barolo or a young Chianti or a Blaufrankisch from Sopron or a Shiraz from Barossa Valley or a Cote Rotie or a Zin from Dry Creek?  For me, they're all good choices, depending on mood.

Weird thing is, last summer we grilled some steaks and we had all of them, which was it's own set of problems, but still . . .

Anyhow, Stephen, and GDD - the BEST way to have a good Tokaji-aszu is with a crème brûlée au foie gras.  I don't know if it's really a good pairing or not, but damn!!!!  

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 24, 2011.

You guys kill me, agreeing and saying you disagree.  Of course, GregT can see the merit in every side except being narrow. One note on wine without food:  lately, I have been working like a dog.  I often work through dinner, and can't afford the lassitude that a glass of wine would bring.  So I take dinner to the office, and then, when I get home at 10 or so I have a glass of wine.  Otherwise, I would go a week at a time without anything.  And, since I usually open a bottle at the end of the week (I've been working weekends, but not in court, so I come in a bit later and have wine the night before with dinner), I don't want the remains sitting there too long.  Do some wines work better without food than with?  In my present state, I am not that choosy.  4 oz of whatever I have open (Bordo this week) is going to be fine.

SH: I think it's the right wing puritans (Mormons, etc.) who oppose drinking here.  My friends are decided left wing, and our #1 bourgeois plaisir is wine, and lots of it.

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Feb 24, 2011.

Foxall

Sadly the Political left wing in Australia seems to be dominated by people with a high degree of social conscience but heavily influenced by their strict adherence to very non liberal catholic teachings.  Predominantly the Irish Catholics who have grown up through the Trade Union movement.  These people have been influenced excessively by social engineers in the bureaucracy who want to preach free speech providing it complies with their version of political correctness.  Throw in the health extremists whose view is that society will only survive if we become Vegans and consume water and that all alcohol and meat consumption is the reason for cross border conflcit and climate change.

And you get the fine mess we have - interestingly the religous right seems to have perfected its story so it has in your speak a republican version and a democrat version and some dumb banana is giving them far too much oxygen at the moment

Too sympathise I am almost at the end of reporting season and last night was my first glass of wine since saturday.  Three nights in a row of working until 2am.

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Reply by napagirl68, Feb 24, 2011.

GregT- again, an awesome post, and yes, you should start a blog!  Just let me know whenever you do, I will read it!

I understand that we all prolly like what we know.. what we are "raised" on, to a certain extent.  You consume what you can get in your area.  And yes, If I want a glass of wine, and don't have much choice, I will try a glass of what is available.  But I tend to have a similar thought as GDD... I feel certain wines, at least for ME, are better with food, vs. sipping alone.  I love sauv blancs for sipping, and certain pinots for sipping.  I can appreciate reislings, but NOT as a sipper, but paired with something I enjoy, like asian food.  Same with Malbec.  I have never been able to just "sip" malbec, sans food.  And Cabs too.

GregT, with regard to the St. emilion wine I mentioned.  I was concerned because it was a very highly rated wine/vintage.  The only way to describe what I tasted was a slight, fleeting similar nose/palate (could not differentiate) of slight TCA.  My husband did not pick this up at all.  Someone on here mentioned that nuance may be part of the St. Emilion terrior.   That is why I brought it up.  But you are ultimately correct... it doesn't matter if I can find a Bordeaux I love or not, what matters is that there are LOTS of wines that I DO love :-)

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Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Feb 25, 2011.

I'll admit to not making it all the way through Greg's post.  ;)  We probably WERE agreeing.

It's all about the acid for me.  High acid=food, low acid=sipper.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 25, 2011.

GDD: I am not an Eric Asimov acolyte but I want at least some acid even in a "sipper."  Big wines, to my mind, need acid as much as lighter, "food-friendlier" ones or they get flabby.  My number one beef with Malbec (Lefty, you out there?) is that it's just flat.  I'm assuming you are just saying, lower acid than food wines.  I think the range of acid in wine probably needs to be higher in general for most "fruit forward wines," and dialed back in some of the "minerally" high-acid wines Asimov likes so much that seem to me to have had their flavor removed (not the first to say that--RP said something like it, and I think Asimov is somewhat of an overreaction to RP). Maybe it's another case of agreeing and I am overreading "low acid." 

I agree that GregT could write a blog, but he would have to break his posts up a little bit.  Otherwise, everyone of them would have the same title: Wine and the Universe.  (I'm pretty sure he knows I consider that a positive trait.) It's impossible to keep him from finding all the connections from every point of view.  He could easily become the Michael Pollan of wine (who, btw, I fed one time!  and drank wine with! mediocre Morgon and Bourgogne Aligote!), taking a short pithy piece of advice and exploring it.  "Drink Wine.  Drink what you like.  Don't worry what others, especially critics, think."  Or, "Drink wine.  Don't think about where it's from.  Think about how it tastes." Lots of knowledgable people here and I think the collection of what they know makes the sum greater than the parts.  NG's chemical knowledge and scientific research skills, for instance, would be lost on any blog written as a solo act.

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Reply by napagirl68, Feb 25, 2011.

Foxall... would love to hear of you feeding and drinking with Pollan!  Wanna share?

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 27, 2011.

Wow, NG, I thought I deserved a flame for namedropping, that's why I put exclamation points afterward, to kind of make fun of myself.  I'll start a thread about eating/drinking with interesting and well-known people. 

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Reply by AudioVino, Feb 27, 2011.

We have wine with food almost everynight.  But when we really are looking at drinking wine to discover things about it (like when we do our blog) we don't pair it with food, we pair it with music!

The reason you may not be finding French wines appealing to you is that you may be used to drinking California wines that are more of a new world style.  These wines are more extracted and in your face.

While I love both new world and old world styles of wine I definitely had to push may way through some old world wines before I really began to appreciate them for there complexity while being able to let go of simply drinking wine for the big fruit flavor!

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Feb 28, 2011.

The Wine - Sipping or Food wine discussion has got me thinking of the whole reason to drink wine with food or eat food with wine.

It does make me wonder if we have over complicated the issue. Almost every night the 5 of us have dinner together which is still 2-3 nights a week there is always a debate amongst my children [they are 15, 20, 23] who will get the drinks, being water, juice, soft drinks etc

When we are having and AFD we regularly have water or sparkling water [with or without cordial] I almost always enjoy a cup of black tea milk no sugar and recently have come to enjoy green tea after a meal.

The intersting thing I find is that the drink is consumed generally pre food or post food, whereas wine seems to be with food.

But I thought I would observe my own habits  and generally I found that I was eating only consuming the wine after eating the dish unless I was deliberately focussed on expeiencing the match. 

I also thought hard about GDD's acid proposition and that was quite intriguing because I love orange juice with breakfast, especially bacon and eggs, but on contemplation I wonder if that has more to do with the acid clearing the palate from the previous nights assault plus the bedtime toothpaste?  SO maybe GDD's  proposition makes a lot of logical sense in the the acid helps to "freshen" the palate and prepare it for the next food taste, whereas a low acid wine perhaps dulls the palate thereby nullifying the food taste  [unless there is some perfect match]

Plus maybe the reverse happens where a low acid wine actually matches a high acid food - again thinking GDD's comments on Sauterne and fresh fruit.

Interested in others thoughts

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