Jay Buchsbaum, a wine educator from Royal Wine Corporation
has been giving us the lowdown on how to pair wine with food. Now that we know the basic principles, I say we’re ready to party!
Q: Jay, I know you’re in favor of serving wine at a dinner party, and there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s a nice thing to do. But how important is it? People are always planning their menus but not their wine list?
A: Here’s a statistic that may surprise you. Seagram’s did a survey of people coming out of restaurants in groups of four. In each case, they had the same table, same waiter, and the same meal. They divided the responses into two categories: those who had wine with dinner, and those who didn’t. Those who had wine rated the meal 20% higher! They even rated the service better when they had wine with the meal.
Q: So your message is, relax people with a glass of wine and they will experience the food as tasting better!
A: Part of it is that the right wine really does bring out the flavor of your cuisine. But you should think of it this way too: When you plan a fancy dinner party, do you think “Well, as long as the food is great, I can serve it on cheap paper plates”? Of course not. You’ll serve your guests on the best dishes you‘ve got. Why? Because the ambiance is different. The food seems better when it’s presented well. Wine sets a tone that enhances the entire experience.
Q: Fine, now my company is coming, I’ve chosen the right wine to serve with my menu --what about the glasses? There are so many kinds of wine glasses, for red, for white, for bubbly…
A: Chill out, you’ll get the glasses you need eventually. You should probably start by buying the right glass for the kind of wine you savor most.
Q: Does the shape of the glass really make a difference in how you experience a particular wine?
A: Actually, yes. You and your guests will enjoy the wine more if you drink it from the right glass.
Q: So how do we determine the “right” glass? Red wines glasses, white wine glasses, Champagne glasses come in all shapes and sizes. Can you give us a crash course in wine glasses?
A: Sure. First of all, you have to know the terminology. From the bottom up, a glass has a base, a stem and a bowl. The size and shape of each of these influences how you will experience the wine in them.
Let’s start with a Champagne flute. It’s tall and thin so it can focus the aromatics better than a wide open glass. The design also helps it retain the Champagne’s sparkle longer.
A white wine glass has a slightly tapered rim, which focuses the aromatics lifting off the surface of the wine. Remember that white wine often has wonderful fruity or floral aromas, which of course enhance its taste.
A red wine glass is wider at the bottom of the bowl. It allows more surface of the wine to be exposed to air as you pour it in the glass. This heightens the wine’s taste.
A dessert wine glass is smaller, because the wine higher in alcohol and sugar. Just as a sweet dessert is usually smaller than your main dish serving, the amount of dessert wine you serve (called “the pour”) is less.
Q: Why do they have a stem?
A: When we talk about wine-tasting, you’ll learn that most wines are better if you swirl them a little in your glass before drinking. The stem simply makes this motion easier. A dessert wine glass has a small stem because it doesn’t require swirling.
Q: What do you think of no-stem glasses?
A: I don’t like those. People like them because they look more casual than a formal, stemmed wine glass. But it’s so much easier to swirl wine when there’s a stem that I predict the trend will be short-lived.
Q: Jay, that’s an awful lot of glasses. What if I can’t buy the whole shebang?
A: If you’re on a budget, the all-purpose wine glass is wonderful. It’s a cross between a white wine glass and a red wine glass in shape.
Q: Does it matter if the glass is thick or thin?
A: Technically, no. But thinner is classier.
Q: What brand is your favorite?
A: Reidel is a good brand. Their Vinum collection was the first machine-made glasses (in 1986) to be based exclusively on the characteristics of specific wines; the idea that “the content commands the shape” was paramount in their design. Others are Speigalau and Schott. If you want to celebrate something special or someone wants to give you a nice gift, go for the Waterford wine glass collection, such as their Marquis series (not just the crystal wine glasses). As a general rule, I don’t like crystal cuts and colors.
Q: That’s interesting. As a bride, I registered for colorful crystal, and Hubby said, “That’s jewelry, not a wine glass.” We changed our pick.
A: I was getting worried there for a minute Jamie. But in a clear glass, you can see the wine better and you want the whole experience. The taste will be the same, but you can see the wine better.
Q: What about decanters, Jay? Is the lead in a crystal decanter dangerous?
A: Nobody puts lead in crystal anymore. Those old lead crystal decanters in your breakfront – your heirlooms -- may have it. Don’t leave your wine it. Over time, the lead could leech into the wine. So you can pour out of it – but don’t leave it there. The same is true of silver Kiddush cups: they also have lead elements. Certainly the older ones do. The Romans and Greeks lost their minds because they used to drink out of lead-laden silver goblets.
Q: Is it my imagination that when the wine is poured directly from the bottle, not from the silver kos, it tastes different?
A: There are elements in the metal that can affect the taste. I’m sure you’ve noticed that water out of a canteen tastes different than water from a glass. Any liquid will taste different if it’s been in a metal container.
Q: Jay, now that we know how to pair wine with food, and we even know which glasses to use, can you teach us how to appreciate fine wine at a higher level? If I’m serving wine, I want to really enjoy it.
A: Certainly. That would be a lesson in wine-tasting, what we call the “5 S’s.” I can teach you how to get the maximum experience of your wine in no time!
Stay tuned, folks…
Do you have any Kosher Wine questions for Jay, our wine expert? He would love to answer them. Please leave your questions and comments in the comment section below. L'Chaim!