When it comes to understanding wines, Chrissie Bettencourt, Tourism Director for Hacienda del Plata, in Mendoza, Argentina knows all there is to know. Originally from Kingston Ottawa area, Chrissie now lives in Argentina and has become an expert in wines as well as chocolates.
Continue reading to find out how Chrissie believes we should approach selecting wine that will compliment your dishes, not overtake them or get lost in the meal.
During all of the hustle and bustle of wedding coordination, one of the most forgotten items on the list is the wine. Who cares which wine we serve, as long as it tastes okay, right? Although it may not be an important detail to many people, it can actually make a very big difference between a ho-hum dinner experience or an absolutely fantastic sensory food experience for your guests. Why? Because the wine can actually change the flavor of the food and vice versa. That fabulous Italian Chianti that you love so much can fall completely flat and paild in the arms of flavourful steak. Or those heavenly oyster canapés that you ate umpteen of at Aunt Lois’s tea party last month will taste like you just ate spoonful of mud of the banks of the Ottawa River once you take a sip of that white Gewurztraminer that you got such a great deal on.
For this reason, picking the right wine can make or break someone’s dining experience. Wine selection is always going to depend on the food you are serving. Generally each plate that is placed in front of your guests should make a good pairing with the wine that is being served. How many wines you decide to provide to your guests is your choice, the important thing is that it pairs well with the food.
So you ask, how does one exactly go about choosing a wine that will make your guests gush for the next 5 years about the fantastic lobster paté they had that day and haven’t had since? Here are some basic on how to pick a good wine as well as make some memorable experiences for you to remember years later:
Step 1: Consult a professional
Visit your local wine merchant or sommelier, menu in hand, and ask them what they would recommend to serve with the dishes that you have chosen. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you want, as they are also there to help you learn about both food and wine.
Step 2: Internet Research
Research on the internet what wines would pair well with your selected dishes. There are many great websites out there that provide you with fantastic information as well as detailed pairings. Some of my personal favourites are:
Now you have your list of selections. What happens next? You may have noticed that so far there has been no wine tasting in any of these steps. Which is why now the fun begins!
Step 3: Conduct a wine tasting afternoon or evening
In my experience the best way to really determine a good pairing is to just sit down and taste, taste, taste. Plain and simple. Therefore I highly recommend getting a group together and trying out your wine selections together with the food you will be serving. Learn for yourself what flavour combinations match well and that you enjoy. Guidelines are always there just for that, to guide. But the memorable and sensory experience will always come through tasting.
Select a group of people that you feel will be able to provide you with good feedback, and even invite one of the wine professionals you sought out in the beginning to join. They can be very helpful in both providing good feedback and helping you coordinate the tasting itself. Ensure that each person has one glass per wine that you have selected in front of them along with a pen and paper to take notes. Then you just start tasting. Here are some tips to help you with your tasting:
• Smell and taste the wine first by itself. Do you like the aromas? What happens in your mouth? Is it bitter? Acidic? Dry? Smooth? Heavy or light? Intense or light in flavour?
• Taste the food by itself. What flavours are prominent in the dish?
• Now take a bite of the food and a sip of the wine together in our mouth. What happens? How does the wine change the flavour of the food? And how does the food change the flavour of the wine?
• Take notes on what combinations you like the most and that bring out the best in both the food and the wine.
You don’t have to be a professional to be able to taste. The bottom line is that you find a combination that you really like and have some fun! You will be fascinated at what you can learn about your own taste preferences as well as about food and wine. Look at each wine just like you would a person, you are learning about its distinct personality and how it “acts” around the food it is being paired with.
Your wedding day is a very exciting time and one of the most memorable days of your life. However the planning process should also be memorable. We often put ourselves through so much stress trying to ensure everything is perfect that we forget to have some fun. Sitting down and doing a wine tasting as part of your planning not only will allow you to provide an unforgettable meal for your guests, but even more importantly create some special and lasting memories for yourself and those closest to you. So crack open those bottles and start tasting!
Posted in Ottawa Gatineau Wedding Events, Ottawa Wedding Reception, Ottawa Wedding Wine, Wedding Planning
Tags: Argentina, Chrissie Bettencourt, food and wine pairing, Hacienda del Plata, Italian Chianti, Kingston Ottawa, local wine merchant, Mendoza, Ottawa Gatineau Wedding Planner, Ottawa Wedding Wine, sommelier, table wines, white Gewurtraminer, wine food matcher, wine selection