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Wine & Food

When starting out to drink wines, you will soon discover that there is a great difference of opinion amongst wine drinkers in what each has a preference for. Do not be intimidated if you are a newcomer because there are no set rules dictating popularity. Many people start out drinking sweeter styles of wine before graduating to the dryer types, and true wine lovers understand this. They will generally encourage new wine drinkers to simply experience the pleasure of tasting wines whatever their personal likes and dislikes are. Therefore, one should never feel embarrassed at not "knowing" how to drink wine, which is an all too commonly heard statement here in Hong Kong. The most important thing to realize here is that if you like a wine, then you should drink and enjoy it, without being concerned in the least about others opinions. With the passage of time and further wine tasting, most people will experience a change of preferences as their palate matures and adapts to different styles, as wine drinking is very much a fun journey of experimentation with different wines, from different regions and different countries from all over the world. This is the great attraction in wine drinking.

There are many very general rules of thumb to go by when starting out with wine drinking, which while not in any way necessary, do give you a good head start.

1. Light wines before fuller styles. This can quite often mean, whites before reds. Because white wines can be more delicate than red wines, this allows your palate to appreciate the white wine before it is overwhelmed by the “bigger” red flavours
2. Young wines before older ones.
3. Dry wines before sweet.

People get too worried by trying to match wines with food, and, in general, you can enjoy any wine with almost any food. Here are some hard to dispute generalizations about the subject.

White wines are suited to salads, fish and poultry. In other words, white fleshed foods.
Red wines are a good accompaniment to vegetables and red meats.
Delicate, lighter wines with simple unspiced foods, which allows the light food flavours to express themselves. Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Reisling, Pinot Noir, Grenache and Burgundy styles.
Robust, weightier wines with heavier, more highly spiced dishes which won’t overpower the food flavours but seek to compliment them. Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Chardonnay and Semillon.

Here are some specific examples.

Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Reisling, Pinot Noir. Generally lighter styles of wines.
Pasta and Pizza
Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chianti, Shiraz, Merlot. Depending on the style of dish it is possible to match any wine with these dishes.
Red Meats
Oaked Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz.
Fish and Chicken
Unwooded Chardonnay, Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Merlot. Smoked foods require powerful wines.
Pate and Cheeses
Foie Gras and Reisling go well together, as do Blue Cheese and Sauterne. Good farmhouse cheddar is suited to all wines. Stilton and Roquefort are difficult , because they are so powerful and salty, so Port is suitable because it is very sweet and strong.
Sweeter style wines are suited to desserts which are generally sweet dishes themselves. People would be familiar with “Icewines” and sweet “sticky whites”, of which “botrytis affected” Reislings are the best example, have come right back into popularity recently. The balance between “acid and sweet” is very suited to dessert. Chocolate based desserts are suited to Port.

If you find yourself in the situation of having to order wines at a classy restaurant, the first thing not to do is stress. Be up front if you want and admit you are not an expert. Ask your guests/friends what their preferences in wine are i.e. red or white, preferred region/country and start from there. Choose a grape variety suited to the dish and you don’t have to go to the most expensive to necessarily find the best. Expect the wine waiter to ask you to sample a small glass of your selection to approve the wine (the test is to ensure the wine is not “corked” or “off”, which will result in a peculiar smell and taste emanating from the wine. Don’t worry too much about this because the chances of this being the case are extremely small, as most outlets would have previously identified these wines. A bigger risk is a wine that is “over the hill” or past its best. Again, a reputable outlet will not have such a wine on it’s list). From there on in, simply relax and enjoy the wine and food, the company of your friends and one of the best pastimes in the world.


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