A good sommelier is a helper, a guide to finding the best wine for your food and experience. For this month’s installment, we again approached South County-based sommelier Micah Sampson for a bit of education about the wine/food pairings, whether the size and shape of the glass makes a difference and whether wine should be decanted before its served.
Does white really go with fish/seafood and red with red meat or is there some overlap?
When in doubt the white with seafood and red with red meat is a good rule. But of course, there’s definitely some overlap here when getting into the details. There are some fantastic lighter bodied red wines out there that can easily be paired with fish and other seafoods. Some of my favorites are Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, and Grenache, each of them have a light body with very light tannins, won’t overpower the delicate fish. And for red meats you can easily pour a full bodied white wine that has high acidity, think California Chardonnays, white Rhone blends, Rieslings and Chenin Blancs. All of these have nice body that can stand up to high fat red meats, and nice acidity that can shine through some of the more robust seasonings and marinades that are used to cook them.
Does the shape/size of the wine glass make a difference?
This is one of those topics that I wish people took more seriously! In short, yes, the shape and size of the glass makes a huge difference! Wine glasses are designed with very specific shapes and sizes to help deliver wine aromas to your nose. If search “red wine glass” and “white wine glass” you’ll notice red wine glasses are much bigger and more bowl shaped, that’s because there are vapors coming off the wine as the alcohol slowly evaporates, those vapors are filled with compounds that help you taste the wine. White wines a typically chilled and won’t give off as much aromas, therefore the glass doesn’t need to be as large. Another reason for the smaller shape for whites is they don’t need need to aerate like reds do, less surface area reduces aeration and keeps the wine cooler. Reds on the other hand love to aerate and therefore need all the surface area to slowly oxidize (in a good way). The bowl-shaped narrower opening at the top of the glass does two things that are both very important: 1) It helps trap the aromas into a smaller area to help you small them. Think about how much more difficult it would be to smell wine in a cereal bowl with an 8 inch opening than a wine glass with a 2 inch opening. 2) It helps keep the wine in the glass when you swirl the heck out of it, which you should do! I love swirling wine, it introduces oxygen (good oxidation) into the wine and gets all those great aromas swirling around the glass for you to smell!
Should I decant wine before I drink it?
Decanting can do wonders for your wine, but it isn’t always necessary. You should have a nice decanter at home if you’re serious about enjoying some great red wines (don’t worry about decanting white wines), and that decanter should have a nice wide bottom that creates a ton of surface area when the wine is poured in, and a narrow top that keeps too much air from getting introduced and makes it easy to pour a glass. The types of red wines you’re decanting are usually full bodied reds that usually have a some age on them (like 5-10+ years), not those cheap red blends you’re buying for $8.99 at the market. The idea behind decanting is you’re introducing oxygen into the wine and a chemical change is happening, a lot of those volatile compounds (bad aromas) are evaporating off and the harsher tannins are softening up a bit, which allows you to enjoy the wine more. So, if you have a 2010 Barolo or a 2015 Napa Cabernet, let those bad boys decant for 30-60 minutes, maybe take some small sips and smells during that time so you can see how the wine changes.