Wining and Dining

Written by Bunga

food and wine festival 056
food and wine
Image by brittreints

This article explains some basic information about wine as it relates to food and cooking. I cannot think of a better marriage in the culinary sphere than that of food and wine. What we choose to drink with our food can completely alter the entire dining experience; whether it is in a 5-star restaurant eating duck confit or sitting in your own backyard with the grill fired up, wine will always bring a new level to your food experience. This article will cover how to read wine labels, order wine in a restaurant, pair wine with food, and avoid the ever-so-dreaded corked wine. Once one has a basic grasp on these core principles they will feel more comfortable mingling food and wine in their next dining experience.

Wine labels do contain a ton of information and reading them can prove to be a daunting task. One way of elevating this concern is to realize that the information is being provided to assist you in making an informed, accurate wine selection. Use the information to your advantage and you will begin to reap the benefits quickly. The largest print of the front of the wine bottle is the name of the winery from which the wine came. To some this means nothing, to others this is a deal breaker. The smaller text under the name is referred to as the “appellation” or simply put ‘the country or region where the grapes were grown’. This can be extremely broad, like earth, or very specific, like Joe’s Winery, row 2 section 4. Take this information with a grain of salt. It can shed some light as to the wine’s contents, but should not be a deciding factor when making your selection. The date on the bottle correlates to the wine’s vintage- the year in which the grapes were harvested. A lot of people are incorrect in thinking this is the date in which the wine was bottled, but that is not necessarily the case. Wines can be bottled years after the grapes are picked. Varietal refers to the specific kind of grapes from which the wine was made. Not all wines list a varietal as they may not be required to do so by law, or the wine contains levels of numerous varietals. A few other “uncommon” items you may see listed on a label are ripeness, estate bottling, and other required information by law.

Ordering wine with food can be very difficult as restaurants usually present you with a bible listing of available wines. The most important things you need to consider are what you are looking for in a wine at that specific time. Go around the table and get a feel for what everyone is going to order, what their wine preferences are, are what kind of mood you are trying to set for the meal. Keep in mind the one bottle of wine usually serves about 3 people. If you have a group of 5 to 7, and some want red and others want white, then go ahead and order one of each. Once you have a feel for what you are looking for, then delve into the wine list. Most good wine lists will contain the wine’s producer, country of origin, vintage, specific varietal notes, and offer suggestions for ideal food pairings. If this information is limited, feel free to quiz your server a bit about what they suggest, which wine has been most popular, or what the chef may recommend. This is a great chance for you to learn and for them to show off all of the wonderful memorization. Once selected, make sure you verify your wine selection when it is brought to the table. This is usually a great chance for the server to add $ 50 onto the bill. Take a taste, confirm, and enjoy your evening.

Pairing wine with food is probably the most personal aspect of discovering the world of wine. What tastes good to you outweighs all other predefined principles on how food and wine interact. I generally get the fullest essence of a wine by using both smell and taste. The nose can pickup smaller notes that your mouth is just not equipped for. Use the two senses in conjunction with one another to gain the most insight. A general rule is to pair delicate wines (white) with light food, and full wines (reds) with heartier food.

I tried to avoid this topic, but if I’m going to talk about food and wine as it relates to the culinary world, then I must share a little knowledge with you about corked wine. Corked wine arises when the actual cork (yes, the cork, not the wine) has been contaminated with TCA. Depending on the amount of TCA, the affects will range from the wine smelling like nothing at all to smelling like an old, damp attic. TCA can almost always be identified in the ordering stage listed above, when the server brings the bottle to your table and you take your initial whiff. Now, corked wine wouldn’t be worth mentioning, except I recently came across an article which shows that nearly 5% of wine bottles are affected by TCA contamination in at least some part. This was a staggering statistic to me, and after watching how many bottles get popped at a restaurant in any given night, I thought it was something to start paying attention to. If you cannot detect after your initial whiff and first taste, then it will most likely not affect your dining experience. Only in strong cases would one need to send a bottle back due to the amount of TCA present. This is not something to look for in every bottle, and I am not trying to make the general public skeptical about every bottle of wine, but it is something to tuck back in the wine sector of your brain. I hope this article presented you with some useful information on how food and wine interact with one-another. I can’t stress how intermingled the two are in the culinary world, and if one wants to become a success in the kitchen then they must have at least a basic understanding of this relationship. Now that you have a basic grasp on how to read wine labels, how to order wine in a restaurant, how to pair wine with food, and how to avoid the ever-so-dreaded corked wine, you can feel that much more comfortable in your next dining experience. If anyone has had some successful (or not so successful) wine experiences while dining out, I ask that you share them in your comments here. Real-world scenarios are what help everyone else learn about the superb relationship between food and wine.

Joe Artrip (Chef Joe) is the founder/owner of Let’s Talk (; an expansive online culinary network where cooks come to shop, learn, and share. Joe has spent most of his life in the culinary arts, and strives to bring that accumulated knowledge to the masses. He utilizes his insight when picking products for his site, writing recipes, participating in the discussion forum, and giving one-on-one support to his site’s visitors. Come visit to read more about Chef Joe and see all the best cooking products and recipes available online today.

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