How do I pair wine with food?

For me, an intimidating element about the wine world is trying to match wines and food.  Fortunately there are some basic guidelines that I find helpful to follow.

Regional Pairing:

My favorite guideline is to match the wine to food that is grown or produced in the same area.  The Graciano from Rioja, Spain goes great with Manchego cheese also produced in Spain.

Match acid with acid:

A dish with lemon will do well with a crisp, acidic wine.  The Picpoul (which means “lip stinger” in French) with it’s bright finish goes great with a recipe for chicken and lemon.

Match creamy with creamy:

Going for complementary flavors is an easy way to pair wine with your food. With this pairing, you’re matching the structure of the wine with the structure of the food. The La Tierra Chardonnay with aromas of apples and brioche pairs well with lobster or Brie.

Match spicy with sweet:

Pairing your food and wine with contrasting flavors means you’re trying to counterbalance a taste in either the dish or the wine. The Punkt Sparkling Rose from Austria ends with a juicy, creamy finish that will counter your spicy Thai takeout.

Red wines pair best with bold flavored meats:

The 2012 Qupé Granache from the Edna Valley in California matches well with and cassoulet or chili – the bitterness of the wine balances the fat of the meal.

Versatile wines:

Some wines are super versatile, like the Girasole Hybrid Red featured above.  Suggested to pair with pork and hard cheese, I found it went great with both the pepperoni pizza as well as the ricotta one.

Bottom line:

Choose a wine you’d want to drink by itself. That way, even if the pairing isn’t perfect, you’ll still enjoy what you’re drinking.

 

 

 

 

 

How is is Organic Wine Different?

 

I’ve gotten into the habit of looking for organic produce at the Farmers Market or grocery store.  Just like I only eat tomatoes when they are in season, which in Pittsburgh means for a few short weeks in July and August., I only want to eat fruit and vegetables that have a lot of flavor  So, why shouldn’t it be the same with my wine?  Essentially, organic wines are produced with organically grown grapes.  Organically grown grapes are grown naturally with no synthetic pesticides.  Pretty simple, right?

Well, it’s definitely a harder way of doing things, but the taste is better.  In general, organic farming typically excludes the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.  In order to keep weeds and bugs away from the grapes, organic farmers work with nature, rather than against it.  One way they do this is by introducing cover crops to provide a habitat for beneficial insects that are the natural enemy of problem species, or have small sheep graze between the vine rows, eating the grass and weeds.  The vineyard becomes a self-regulating, natural ecosystem.  Hmmm, can get one these sheep for my backyard?

Another challenge is, what happens if one farmer farms organically, but their neighbor doesn’t?  The only way to know for sure if there were no chemicals from the neighboring farm blown onto the organic farm is to chemically test the wine produced by the vineyard.  Vineyards can also be certified organically but this process is complex.  Different nations have different certification criteria and some wineries that are technically organic choose not to be certified for various reasons.

Just like at the Farmers Market, when you can talk directly to the growers of your produce, you dneed to talk to the vineyard directly or to the distributor to really know how the wine is produced.  I’m thankful that Sarah Shadonix, Level III Sommelier, founder of Scout & Cellar (and my cousin) is the one who has these conversations and does the chemical testing.  All I need to do is enjoy the wine! And what good wine it is.

Wait-wine isn’t vegan?

It wasn’t until I started selling wine with Scout & Cellar that I learned that all wine is vegan.  I always assumed it was – it’s made with grapes, right?

It turns out that not all wines are vegan due to a clarifying process called “fining”. All young wines are hazy and contain tiny molecules such as proteins, tartrates, tannins and phenolics.  These are completely natural and not harmful, however many wine-drinkers prefer wine to be clear and bright.

Most wines, if bottle-aged long enough, will self-stabilize and self-fine. However, producers use a variety of aids called “fining agents” to remove these haze-inducing molecules. Essentially, the fining agent acts like a magnet – attracting the molecules around it. These molecules coagulate around the fining agent, creating fewer but larger particles, which can then be more easily removed during filtration. Commonly-used fining agents include casein (a milk protein), chitin (fiber from crustacean shells), egg albumin (egg whites), fish oil, gelatin (animal protein), isinglass (fish bladder protein) and bentonite (clay).

These fining agents are not additives to the wine: they are filtered out along with the haze molecules. Wines fined with casein and albumin are consistent with vegetarian diets while wines fined with any of the others may be off limits for strict vegans.

There is no easy way to know if the wine is vegan or not, if it’s important to you, the best way to find out is to ask the producer or the distributor.

 

Rosé all day – in a can!

 

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Canned Rosé has been a dream of our Founder, Sarah Shadonix, for the better part of three years and she’s tickled pink to the have the 14K Rosé available for sale today!  The arrival of this wine is timed perfectly with Spring Forward, Spring Break and everything that comes with the change in seasons.

This crisp, refreshing quality wine has tastes of strawberry, orange peel and a bright mineralogy with zippy acidity and a clean finish.  And with zero grams of added or residual sugar this wine will be a great companion to all your activities.

As an added bonus, the 14K Rose packaging is made using PakTech handles which are made from recycled #2 HDPE materials and are now 100% recyclable.  And the covered tops and self-nesting design keeps cans clean and allows us to build pallets without trays.  The lighter weight of the cans also reduces our carbon footprint.  This allows us to bring a casual, delicious wine to you and love the environment at the same time!

 

What I’m drinking – March 2018

My favorite wine this month is the Hybrid Red from Girasole Vineyards in Mendocino, California.  Charlie Barra, the owner, believes that farming organically is the only way to go.  “Yes, it’s more work (annual adults, paperwork, labor requirements), more risk (crop devastation from pests) and not necessarily a bigger payout, but it’s essential to the well-being of this planet.  We need to leave this earth the way we found it, and that doesn’t include chemicals.” The winery is family-run:  mom Martha and dad Charlie Barra, alongside Martha’s kids Shawn Harmon and Shelley Mary handle all aspects of the business including grape-growing, winemaking, sales, marketing and distribution management.  The grapes included in this wine are 60% Merlot, 16% Sangiovese, 14% Petite Syrah, 10% Cabernet which all together makes a wine that went great with my Valentine’s Day heart-shaped pizzas and my beloved.  I continue to find this wine very drinkable with tastes of ripe cherry, blackberry, mocha and sweet dried herbs.  I’m loving everything Girasole has produced that we’ve sold and especially this one this month.

You’ll also note that I used my Aervana with this wine. I don’t know that it is necessary but it’s so easy to pour through the spout and the wines tastes extra fresh and smooth – why not? Have you tried any of the Girasole wines? What do you think of them?

Independent Wine Consultant

Why did become an Independent Wine Consultant with Scout & Cellar?  I have a full time job that I love, a partner and his kids (part-time) and community involvement.  Four reasons:

  1. To earn extra money that would provide me some flexibility to take better care of myself – regular private yoga sessions, regular facials and massages, and some help with housekeeping.
  2. I’m a constant learning, always exploring new ideas through books and traveling.  Because the product is curated each quarter I get the opportunity to taste and learn about wine and wine producers.
  3. In addition to earning extra money, I get to share the benefits of clean-crafted wine with friends and family.  And what is more fun than wine?  Especially wine that you know is well-made and tastes great.
  4. I’ve been building a team of consultants that consists of women across the country.  Connecting with old friends over our wine businesses is fun and inspiring!

If you’ve ever thought about being an entrepreneur, let me know!  I’d love to talk with you about Scout & Cellar and the opportunities I’ve experienced with the company so far.

Cheers!

Christy