It is an unfortunate fact that many Americans become overly anxious when it comes to choosing a wine. On the whole we see wine as a “special” drink, only to be enjoyed on important occasions. In Europe and elsewhere in the world, wine is a daily drink, and thus the aura of “mystery” is simply not present. Well, I’m here to help change all of that.
Let’s take a look at the most basic of distinctions between wines. I am talking about color. There’s essentially white wine, red wine, and rose or blush. The distinction between the colors may or may not have anything to do with the actual color of the grapes. This part might need a little explaining.
It is a surprise to many people that white wine is actually oftentimes made with the juice from red or black grapes. The juice of all grapes regardless of color is essentially clear or off-white. It is only the skins of the grapes that has color. So how then does one make red wine? Vintners use a process called maceration to create characteristically ruby or Burgundy colored wines.
Maceration is essentially a process in wine making that allows the juice of the pressed grapes to mingle with the skins of the grape. This process is responsible for all red wine, and if done correctly, it can help produce a properly tannic wine that has a beautiful color and well-rounded taste.
Perhaps intuitively, it is an abbreviated maceration period that is responsible for creating rose or blush wine. The juice is allowed to mingle with the skins for a short time, during which it picks up a little color, and thus we end up with the trademark pinkish hue of the rose.
So which wine is best? That is essentially an unanswerable question. There are excellent white, red, and rose wines, and oftentimes people who enjoy wine will appreciate all three types for different reasons and with different cuisines. This is where wine and food pairing comes in. Most people know the dogmatic maxim that red goes with meat and white wines go with fish or chicken. This is a good enough starting point, but you should really know the basis of this generalization.
White wines tend to be younger, simpler, and have more citrus or acidic overtones than their red counterparts. This makes them perfect foils for milder foods such as fish and chicken. As a rule you want your wine to complement your food, not to overpower it or get lost in the mix. Red wines on the other hand are oftentimes powerful and can stand up to more complex and forward-flavored food.
Of course, these are just generalizations. There are plenty of “powerful” and complex whites out there than can handle spicy, intense food-GewÃ?Â¼rztraminer comes immediately to mind. Conversely, there are plenty of light reds-some Valpolicellas for example. The rule is of course to drink what’s in your budget and what tastes best to you. Wine shouldn’t be stressful. It should be a fun way to explore the world without ever leaving your glass.