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Posted by Robert Whitley on October 19, 2016 at 11:02 AM

Wine Pairing A Two-Way Street

 If you have even a passing interest in wine, you've no doubt heard that wine enhances the dining experience. Entire books are dedicated to explaining which wines go best with what foods. For the most part, wine-pairing advice is well-thought out, and it will no doubt impress family and friends when you follow the suggestions.

But there is another part of the equation that isn't talked about often, and that is the sometimes-tremendous difference in your perception of a wine once you've enjoyed it with food.

Don't believe it? Take this simple test. Next time you visit your favorite wine shop, pick up a bottle of Chianti. Take it home, and pour a glass. If you don't wrinkle your nose at the first few sips, you are the exception.

Chianti is a red wine from Tuscany that is typically high in acidity. While the acidity may soften over time, most consumers don't lay down their Chianti to age until that perfect moment will arrive. Many red wines, particularly Old World reds, also seem imbalanced between fruit and acidity. They taste tart when young and generally aren't embraced as casual sipping wines.

Now, pour another glass of Chianti, and chomp on a few olives. Maybe throw a few bites of cheese into the mix, or a slice or two of prosciutto or salami. Something miraculous will happen: The tart, acidic characteristic that made you wrinkle your nose will disappear, and the purity of the black cherry and red-fruit flavors in the wine will blossom.

The wine that seemed awkward, disjointed and maybe even downright unpleasant will take on another personality — reflecting smoothness and roundness, and notes of flowers and spice that you hadn't even noticed the first time around. Try it with a roasted chicken or pizza, too.

Pairing food and wine isn't always about finding the right wine for a specific dish. Sometimes, it's about finding the right foods for the wines you want to drink.

Freemark Abbey, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($70)
This winery has been a class act over the past three decades, led the entire time by Ted Edwards, perhaps the most underrated winemaker in the Napa Valley. Edwards has always crafted his cabernet for the long haul and this muscular effort from the excellent 2013 vintage has all the power, layered depth and rich fruit aroma anyone could want. That said, it is well balanced, shows inviting notes of wood spice, and it wouldn't disappoint if you pulled the cork tonight. But don't do that. This beauty needs another five years minimum to approach its peak.
95 Robert Whitley

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Lighten Up: Appreciating Loire Valley Reds
Michael Franz

The Loire Valley is one of the world's greatest--but most under-appreciated--sources for fresh, versatile, unfussy wines. There's actually good news in this, since the gap between the renown of Loire wines and their true quality allows savvy wine lovers to snap up excellent wines that are priced well below their actual value. This is true for Loire whites and sparklers, but the discrepancy between performance and price is probably widest for the region's delicious reds, which feature a light, soft profile that makes them perfect for many foods that would be overwhelmed by the big, brawny reds that are so popular these days.
Champagne's Club Trésors
Jim Clarke

On the north side of Reims' city center you'll find a surprisingly modern wine bar, a sleek and minimal space set at the edge of the city's more staid, stereotypically French pedestrian zone. Inside, a map of Champagne covers the floor; bottles hang on cables from the ceiling. Enter and pull on one of the bottles down to eye-level and you'll get a description of a Champagne producer, conveniently suspended over the region where they're located on the map. Even more conveniently, their Champagne is on the shelves on the wall nearby. Grab a bottle, or a glass…and now you're in the Club.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Mushrooms Stuffed with Lamb and Rice

It must be the fall season--cooler weather, falling leaves, shorter days--that is making us crave comfort foods. Lately we've been dining on spaghetti Bolognese, shrimp and grits, chili and such. Comfort food, like a comfort animal, is said to increase positive feelings and help provide a sense of emotional, as well as physical wellbeing. Each country has its own notions of comfort food, but here in the United States we turn to simple, somewhat retro dishes that are often anchored by rice, potatoes, pasta, beans or cornmeal. Adding further comfort, and certainly pleasure to these meals, is the fact that this kind of fare is especially good with wine.
On My Table
White Burgundy Value
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

It's a perennial topic in wine writing: Finding good-value wines from France's lauded Burgundy region. Contrary to many expectations, the region that produces some of the world's most treasured wines -- the region that made Chardonnay and Pinot Noir famous -- also makes wines that are everyday-affordable. What's more, as prices of Burgundy's elite wines climb sky high, prices of the region's least expensive wines seem to remain quite steady. Part of the secret in finding affordable white Burgundies is to look in the geographic extremities of the region, north of the Côte d'Or heartland to the Chablis district, and especially south to the Mâconnais district.