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TIP OF THE DAY: Pairing Wine With Food (Non-Traditional Matches)

Today’s tip is to step outside your comfort zone and try different wines than the standards you serve with particular foods.

If you drink wine often, you no doubt have a favorite to drink with your favorite foods, from snacks to mains to desserts.

What happens if you step out of your comfort zone? You may discover grape varietals you haven’t had before, and pairings that you like even better.

While it’s common wisdom that the wines of a particular region pair best with the foods of that region, don’t let that impede your decisions. The most important pairing is with the food and its preparation (light or heavy, herbal or spicy, etc.).

Entire books have been written on the topic, but here’s a brief overview from DiscoverCaliforniaWines.com. You can search online for recommendations, or ask your wine store clerk: an invaluable source of information and recommendations.

If you’re not familiar with the grape varietal, look it up. Wines in France, Italy and elsewhere are often named for their region of production, not for the varietal labeling of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the U.S.

  • In France, you’ll find bottles of Red Burgundy and Sauternes—the regions rather than the grapes Pinot Noir and Semillon.
  • In Italy, you’ll find a mixed system: Brunello di Montalcino instead of Sangiovese (which is also the main grape in Chianti), Barolo and Barbaresco instead of Nebbiolo; but with Pinot Grigio, it’s the name of the grape.
  •  
    It gets much more complicated than this, involving history, law and other factors. But let’s get on to the wines.
     
    WINE & FOOD PAIRINGS FROM A TO Z

    Some are red wines (R), some are white wines (W), and some are both (R&W).

  • Albariño (W): Pair with light summer foods or foods that want fresh acidity because they’re fatty/oily, mildly spicy, rich or salty; plus tart recipes with capers, tomatoes and vinaigrettes.
  • Barbera (R): Pair with smoked salmon, grilled mozzarella and prosciutto, and flatbread with fresh tomato, basil and roasted garlic.
  • Cabernet Franc (R): Pair with a classic beef stew, aged Gouda, and rosemary-rubbed pork tenderloin.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (R): Pair with grass-fed beef, whether grilled, roasted, braised or stir-fried.
  • Chardonnay (W): Pair with white fish, shellfish and free-range chicken – especially with creamy, buttery sauces.
  • Chenin Blanc (W): Pair with seared scallops, chicken in coconut curry, or sliced ripe pears with fresh or slightly aged sheep’s milk cheeses.
  • Dessert Wines (R & W): Pair with nuts—almonds and hazelnuts—as well as chocolate tortes, vanilla custard, peach cobbler and ricotta cheesecake. In general, aim to pair sweet dessert wines with sweet desserts, and light dessert wines with light desserts. foie gras, lobster, and seafood in a butter or white cream sauce.
  • Gewürztraminer (W): Pair with smoked white fish, spicy stir-fried dishes, or slightly sweet desserts. See our full article on pairing desserts with wine.
  • Grenache (R): Pair with any grilled shellfish as well as salami, sliced ham and other charcuterie.
  • Grenache Blanc (W): Pair with crab, squid, or clams with garlic butter as well as grilled snapper with lemon zest.
  • Malbec (R): Pair with classic rack of lamb, beef fajitas, and roasted root vegetables.
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    Wine, Salami, Olives

    Wine & Sushi

    Wine & Grilled Cheese Sandwich

    [1] An Italian red is a traditional pairing with salami, olives and other nibbles. But why not try a Cabernet Franc, Malbec or Zinfandel (photo courtesy Rebelle | NYC)? [2] Don’t want beer or saké with your sushi? Try a light white wine, such as Albariño or Chenin Blanc. Our personal favorites are Gewürtztraminer and Riesling—more assertive, because we just can’t get enough of them (photo by Lognetic | Dreamtime). [3] With a well-seasoned grilled cheese sandwich, try a medium-bodied red: Barbera, Malbec, Merlot, Rhone blend, Sangiovese, or the lesser-known Montepulciano.

     

    Spaghetti & Red Wine

    Red Wine & Chocolate

    [4] For pasta, match the wine to the sauce. With a meat sauce or meatballs, Sangiovese, Rosso di Montalcino and Barberas are popular in Italy. But a good old American Zinfandel is also a popular match. [5] Wine with chocolate? Absolutely: We have an entire article on pairing wine and chocolate, as well as pairing wines and desserts (photo courtesy Taza Chocolate).

     
  • Marsanne (W): Pair with creamy potato-leek soup or roasted butternut squash with cinnamon butter.
  • Merlot (R): Pair with sautéed duck breasts or roasted pork tenderloin.
  • Mourvèdre (R): Pair with roast duck or squab, seared New York Strip steak with cracked black pepper, or a tangy blue cheese.
  • Muscat/Moscato (W): Pair sparkling and late-harvest Muscat with fruit tarts, vanilla custard, dark chocolate torte, or rich cheesecake.
  • Petite Sirah (R): Pair with sweet barbequed chicken, a cold roast beef sandwich with mustard, or mild blue cheeses.
  • Pinot Blanc (W): Pair with pan-fried fresh trout, seared tuna, or smoked salmon.
  • Pinot Gris (W): Pair with pasta with a light tomato-based sauce or spicy noodles with shrimp.
  • Pinot Noir (R): Pair with wood-smoked bacon, roast leg of veal or grilled wild salmon. It’s our favorite with rare lamb.
  • Red Blends (R): Pair with pulled pork tacos, barbecued chicken wings, or slow-cooked short ribs.
  • Riesling (W): Pair with Thai spring rolls, spicy stir-fried chicken or a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich on rustic country bread.
  • Rosé(R & W): Pair with everything from spicy sauces to crisp, light salads.
  • Roussanne (W): Pair with honey-glazed ham or butternut squash ravioli.
  • Sangiovese (R): Pair with sausage and caramelized onions, or pork chops with plum conserve.
  • Sauvignon Blanc (W): Pair with wild mushroom soup, grilled red snapper, or asparagus – especially sautéed in garlic.
  • Semillon (W): Pair dry Semillon with fresh halibut or mushroom couscous. Pair sweet Semillon with peach cobbler or pears sautéed in butter.
  • Sparkling (R & W): Pair with everything from Szechuan stir fry to triple crème cheeses.
  • Syrah (R): Pair with robust, hearty foods—from black bean chili with pork, to buffalo sliders or rich beef stews.
  • Tempranillo (R): Pair with dill-poached salmon, pork tenderloin with cilantro pesto, or steamed mussels.
  • Viognier (W): Pair with smoked oysters or mussels, or herb-roasted free-range chicken, goose or duck.
  • White Blends (W): Pair with fresh seafood, cold roast chicken, creamy polenta, or a range of cheeses—from ricotta to triple crème, from goat cheese to dry Jack.
  • Zinfandel (R): Pair with barbecued free-range beef, lamb, pork, chicken or spicy sausage.
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    PAIRINGS FOR FAVORITE FOODS

  • Pairing Cheese With Wine & Beer
  • Pairing Wine & Chocolate
  • Pairing Wine & Desserts
  • Pairing Wine & Ice Cream
  • Pairing Wine & Sorbet For Cocktails
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Rosé Sangria (Think Pink!)

    rose-sangria-lamarina-230L

    Shades Of Rose Wine

    [1] Rosé sangria, an adieu to the formal summer season (photo courtesy La Marina restaurant | NYC). [2] The many shades of rosé depend upon the grape varietal and the length of skin contact (photo courtesy Jot Dot).

     

    We started the summer season with a rose tasting party, and we’re ending it more quietly, with pitchers of rose sangria. Easy to make, easy to drink, we have a pitcher in the fridge all weekend.

    RECIPE: ROSÉ SANGRIA

    Ingredients For 12 Cups

  • 2 bottles* rosé wine
  • 1 quart or liter* bottle club soda, seltzer or sparkling mineral water, chilled
  • 1/2 cup agave†, honey, superfine sugar or simple syrup
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup sliced nectarines or peaches
  • 1 cup melon, sliced
  • 2 blood oranges, juiced
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
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    Optional Alcohol

  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur (types of orange liqueur) – or –
  • 1/4 cup blackberry, blackcurrant or raspberry liqueur (crème de mûre, crème de cassis, Chambord)
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    ________________
    *1 quart is 32 ounces, 1 liter is 33.8 ounces, 1 standard wine bottle (750 ml) is 25.4 ounces.

    †Use equal amounts of agave or honey, but half as much agave as sugar. Agave is twice as sweet. Always add a portion, taste, and continue to add until the desired sweeteness is reached.

     
    Preparation

    Use a 1-gallon pitcher (128 ounces) or other vessel to blend. You’ll be making 84 ounces of sangria (more if you add brandy and liqueur), and also need room for the fruit. We like this oblong gallon pitcher because it fits more easily in the fridge.

    1. COMBINE the wine, brandy and liqueur and half of the sweetener in the pitcher. Blend well and taste; add more sweetener as desired. We prefer less added sugar to better enjoy the alcohol and the fruit.

    2. ADD the fruit and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day in advance. When ready to serve…

    3. Add the club soda, stir gently and serve.
     
    THE HISTORY OF SANGRIA

    Sangria appeared in Spain around 200 B.C.E., when the conquering Romans arrived and planted red grape vineyards. While the majority of the wine was shipped to Rome, the locals used some to make fruit punch, called sangria after the blood-red color.

    Here’s the scoop.

     

    WHAT IS ROSÉ WINE?

    Unlike Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and the other grape varietals, there is no rosé grape. Any red wine grape can make rosé.

    The term rosé refers to the pink color that is the result of allowing the pressed grape juice limited contact with red grape skins during vinification, a process known as maceration.

    Once it achieves the desired rosiness, the skin contact ends. Extended skin contact products red wine. The juice pressed from red wine grapes is the same color as the juice from white wine grapes: clear.

    A rosé wine can be actually be made by blending red and white wine together; however this is not a common process. Most rosés are dry wines made from red wine grapes. Some are sweeter, such as White Zinfandel; but this is an American taste for blush wine rather than a European tradition.

  • Pink wine, a term that encompasses rosé, blush, and anything else with a pink hue, can be any shade from pale pink to deep rose. It depends on the grape used and the length of skin contact (from one to three days).
  • Blush wine is an American term that refers specifically to pink wines made from red wine grapes, with only enough skin contact to produce a “blush” of red color.
  • The term first appeared in the U.S. in the early 1980s, as a marketing device to sell pink wines.
  • At the time, Americans were not buying rosé wines, while White Zinfandel, a sweet rosé wine, was flying off the shelves (at one point it was the largest-selling wine in America).
  • There weren’t enough Zinfandel grapes to meet demand, so winemakers had to use other red grape varietals. Pink wines made from other grapes could not legally be called “White Zinfandel,” so a new category name—blush—was created.
  • American pink wines, whether from Zinfandel or another grape, are typically sweeter and paler than French-style rosés. The term “blush” began to refer to not just to pink wines, but to those that were made on the slightly sweet side, like White Zinfandel.
  • These days, all three terms are used more or less interchangeably by people outside the wine-producing industry.
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    NATIONAL SANGRIA DAY IS DECEMBER 20TH.

     

    Summer Rose Sangria Recipe

    Mixed Berries

    [1] While luscious summer fruits are still in the market, use them in your sangria. You can get apples and oranges any old time (photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco). [2] Don’t forget the berries (photo courtesy Giant Fresh).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Remove Food Stains On Teeth, Hands & Fabric

    If you’ve ever drunk more than a few glasses of red wine; eaten lots of beets, berries or carrot purée; you know that food can stain teeth, as well as the hands used to prepare it and the clothes worn to make or eat it.

    Even white wine can stain: It has both acid and some tannins that make teeth susceptible to pigments in other foods.

    According to Web MD, tooth stains are caused by:

  • Acids, which make tooth enamel softer and rougher, so it’s easier for stains to set in.
  • Chromogens, compounds with strong pigments that cling to tooth enamel.
  • Tannins, plant-based compounds that make it easier for stains to stick to teeth.
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    Red wine is a triple threat, with all three.

    Tea stains teeth more than coffee: In addition to the acid they both share, tea also contains tannins.

    Fortunately, there are remedies.
     
    TO REMOVE FOOD STAINS ON TEETH

  • Brush right away; use a paste with a bit of whitening agent. Keep a toothbrush at work.
  • Swish water around in your mouth if you can’t brush. It’s not as effective as brushing, but better than nothing.
  • Use a straw. The liquids are sucked to the roof of your mouth, so bypass your front teeth.
  • Get your teeth cleaned professionally. A professional cleaning and polishing helps to smooth the fine cracks in tooth enamel where color gets trapped. Regular polishing also helps to reduce the amount of staining.
  •  

    Baby Beets

    Orange Beets

    Except for the uncommon white beets, beets stain (photo #1 courtesy Burpee, photo #2 courtesy Good Eggs | SF).

     
    TO REMOVE STAINS ON HANDS

  • Use a salt or sugar scrub. Some people buy them for skin exfoliation, but you can sprinkle coarse salt or sugar on wet hands and rub to exfoliate. You can also use olive oil instead of water. After rubbing, rinse off the scrub off and wash your hands with liquid dish soap. Rinse and repeat as necessary.
  • Clean fingernails with baking soda. Make a rub by adding some lemon juice to the baking soda. Scrub with a nail brush.
  • Prevent them in the first place. Get a box of plastic food-prep gloves for a song: 500 gloves for $9.
  •  
    TO REMOVE STAINS ON FABRIC

  • Immediately blot, not rub, with a paper towel. Then use a laundry pre-stain stick or liquid detergent. Wash ASAP in cold water (the sink is fine).
  • Soak in cold water with chlorine or oxygen bleach if the stain persists.
  • Launder in cold water if needed.
  • Use a fabric-appropriate bleach: Chlorine bleach is preferable if it is safe for the fabric.

  • Get an adult bib from Dress Tiez. We have two and love them: They’re waterproof and easy to clean.
  •  
    MORE HELP

  • For red wine and other stains, we’ve had great success with Wine Away spray. It aso removes coffee, blood, ink, fruit punch, sauces, red medicine stains, even pet stains. Try it on anything.
  • There’s also a pocket size for dining out.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Mix Up Some Coolers

    Blackberry Cooler

    Peach Wine Cooler

    Watermelon Cooler Recipe

    Bottled Wine Coolers

    [1] Blackberry cooler (photo courtesy FreidaFroo.Wordpress.com). [2] A peach wine cooler (here’s the recipe from TasteOfHome.com). [3] Watermelon cooler with green tea and white wine (photo courtesy Serendipitea.com). [4] Commercial wine coolers: the lowest common denominator (photo courtesy Majestic Brands).

     

    WHAT’S A COOLER?

    Short for wine cooler, a cooler is a tall drink typically made with wine, fruit juice and soda water (you can use any glasses you have).

    It’s a less complex relative of sangria. Don’t like wine? Try the latest cooler incarnation, the beer cooler.

    Modern coolers are refreshing summer drinks that trace their ancestry to hot-weather countries in ancient times.
     
    HISTORY OF THE WINE COOLER

    Wine-based drinks have long existed in the Mediterranean, the birthplace of wine. The earliest archaeological evidence of wine production found to date has been in Georgia (c. 6000 B.C.E.), Iran (c. 5000 B.C.E.), Greece (c. 4500 B.C.E.), and Armenia (c. 4100 B.C.E.).

    The wine could be drunk straight or mixed with honey, spices or other ingredients, especially by the kitchen staff of rich households and at public drinking houses for the hoi polloi. It was a less sophisticated product than today’s wine, with no sophisticated fermentation or aging techniques. Thousands of years before stoppered glass bottles were invented, wine was stored in clay jars.

    Flash forward to the present: Wine coolers have been sold commercially since the early 1980s [Source]. Bartles & Jaymes, a brand of E & J Gallo Winery.

    The latter makes flavors dozens of flavors, including Strawberry Daiquiri, Fuzzy Navel, Margarita and Piña Colada.

    However delicious these may sound, they were formerly made with wine that Wikipedia calls “the cheapest available grade,” since most of the wine flavor in obscured by the sugar and the fruit juice. According to Lucas J. Meeker of Meeker Vineyard in Sonoma County, domestic wine coolers were largely made from a base of apple wine.

    Today, many bottled wine coolers have no wine. Because of a quadrupled excise tax levied on wine beginning in 1991, most brands replaced wine with cheaper malt. Bartles & Jaymes calls their revised product line a “flavored malt cooler.”

    The malt, according to Meeker, renders the result more like beer but still largely the same: “a largely flavorless base beverage is combined with flavor and color additions, then carbonated and bottled.”
     
    WINE COOLER RECIPE TEMPLATE

    Blend your own recipe to find create your signature wine cooler. To develop your recipe, use a shot glass to combine 1/3 each of wine, juice and sparkling water.

    Choose one from each group:

  • Wine: red, rose, white
  • Fruit juice: cherry, cranberry, grapefruit, pineapple, etc.
  • Fizzy water: club soda, mineral water, seltzer, flavored seltzer (alternatively, Ginger Ale, 7-Up, Sprite)
  • Optional sweetener: agave, honey, simple syrup, superfine sugar
  • Optional: splash of fruit liqueur (adding spirits turns the drink from cooler to cocktail)
  • Optional garnish: berries or other fresh fruit, mint or basil leaves (tip: you can use frozen fruit, which will help keep the drink cold)
  •  
    Here’s a recipe for a green tea cooler from fine tea purveyor Serendipitea:

     
    RECIPE: GREEN TEA WATERMELON COOLER

    Ingredients For 4 Tall Drinks

  • Seedless watermelon or 1.5 cups watermelon juice
  • 1.5 cups dry-yet-fruity white wine*
  • 1 cup Dragon’s Well China Green Tea (or substitute), brewed and chilled
  • Optional garnish
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PURÉE the watermelon and run it through a fine mesh sieve (yield about 1.5 cups juice).

    2. WARM a teapot with a little hot water, discard, place the tea leaves in the pot, allowing heat of the pot to release the bouquet of the tea leaves.

    3. HEAT water to below boiling (approximately 180°F). Steep 1 teaspoon (2.5 g/8 oz. cup) up to 3 minutes & refresh cup as desired. Vary the time according to taste with this caveat: steeping tea leaves beyond 3 minutes does not give you more flavor, only bitterness.
     
    __________________
    *Try Albariño, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Gruner Veltliner, Muscat, Pinot Gris/PinotGrigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

      

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    PRODUCTS: For Summer Sipping

    Over the last few weeks, we’ve been sipping some new water and wine products, with happy results.
     
    LILA WINES: QUALITY IN CANS

    We haven’t had much success with canned wines. They’re too sugary-sweet, more like soft drinks.

    But Latitude Beverage Company has introduced what they say is the first-ever premium wine collection in pull-top cans (top photo). Selecting good wines from wine regions that are well-known for the varietals, we can finally respond, “Bring on the cans!”

    The three varietals are just right for lighter summer fare: with a sandwich, some cheese, a pasta salad. Lila suggests these pairings:

  • Pinot Grigio, made with grapes from Delle Venezie IGT—the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northwest Italy. Enjoy it with corn on the cob, crab cakes with lemon aïoli, olives and other “cocktail nibbles.”
  • Rosé, made with grapes from Provence, in the south of France. Pair it with shellfish, sandwiches with summer tomatoes, Caprese salad, pasta salad.
  • Sauvignon Blanc made with grapes from Marlborough, New Zealand. Pair it with oysters, avocado salad, grilled chicken, grilled fish with cilantro and lime, grilled vegetables, seafood salad sandwiches or turkey.
  •  
    So grab a can and head for the backyard, pool or the great outdoors. Attractively “dressed” in colorful graphics, these wines are ready to join the party.

    The 8.4-ounce cans come in four-packs with an MSRP of $12.99 (more at e-tailers). The four cans combined contain 33% more wine than the standard 750ml wine bottle.

    We stuck them in the freezer to partially freeze. They kept cold for quite a while outside in the heat; and since each can holds two servings, when it was time for the second, the wine was nicely chilled.
     
    ZERO WATER: HOME & PORTABLE WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM

    Zero Water* turns your tap water into purified water—more pure, the company says, than the leading brand (Brita).

    Even if your municipality could clean your tap water to remove almost all the total dissolved solids (TDS), the water can pick up chemicals on its way from the treatment plant to your faucet.

    Zero Water’s unique filter removes 99.63% of all TDS. The filtered water tastes crisp and refreshing. Pitchers are available in 6, 8, 10 and 12 cup sizes; in a 23-cup countertop model; and in a 26-ounce travel tumblers. The 10-cup model shown in the photo is $32.99.

    You can see the entire line at ZeroWater.com.

       

    Lila Wine Cans

    ZeroWater Pitcher

    Zero Water

    [1] Lila premium wines in 8.4-ounce cans (photo courtesy Latitude Beverage Company). [2] [3] Zero Water, with a patented filter that removes virtually all dissolved solids from your tap water, is available in home units and portable tumblers (photos courtesy Zero Water).

     
    Bonus: You can use Zero Water in your iron and other devices instead of purchasing bulky gallons of distilled water. The only difference between distilled and purified water is the process: distillation versus other purification processes such as reverse osmosis, ion exchange and Ozonation, among others.
     
    __________________
    *We used a Zero Water system we received from the manufacturer, and did not test it against other systems. There are numerous online articles that compare the major brands.

     

    Define Fruit Infusing Water Bottle

    This model of Define water bottles is ideal for infusing fresh fruit (photo courtesy Define Bottle).

     

    DEFINE WATER BOTTLE: BEST FOR FRUIT INFUSION

    We love “spa water”: plain water infused with fresh fruit. We’ve tried half a dozen water bottles with fruit-infusing options, and the Define Bottle Sport Flip Top is our favorite.

    The superior freezing mechanism, the detachable lower canister, gives you options:

  • Basic: add fruit to the bottom cylinder and add cold water to the entire unit.
  • Colder: Freeze the fruit, then add to the unit with cold water. As the fruit defrosts, it will keep the water colder.
  • Coldest: Freeze the fruit and water in the base cylinder.
  • Fruit-Free: Don’t feel like fruit? Use both cylinders for water. Even better, you can freeze water in the bottom cylinder and enjoy ice-cold water for 4-6 hours.
  •  
    Remember that water expands when frozen, so leave a half inch of space at the top.

     
    We drink the water quickly, but if you freeze the bottom part, you can keep adding new water and it will chill down.

    The bottle is made from Tritan, the standard in quality plastic food and beverage containers. The total capacity is 16 ounces. The bottle disassembles for easy† cleaning and the cylinders are dishwasher safe.

    There are other bottle designs and colors. See them all at DefineBottle.com. You can purchase this bottle on Amazon.
     
    __________________
    †We noted some complaints online about the difficulty of cleaning the strainer and gaskets. We keep a toothbrush with a rubber tip along with the scrub brushes at our kitchen sink. It, along with our faucet sprayer, did the trick.

      

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