As the holiday season is nearly upon us, two posts caught my eye last week that give really good advice about appreciating wine. At Vinepair, Jameson Fink wonders whether pairing a well-aged wine with food is the best idea for appreciating the wine.
Can food overpower, or even eclipse the pleasures of a well-aged bottle of wine? Pairings are such an enormous part of the lore and baggage of wine that, on its face, this seems a heretical question.
And yet, from Burgundy and Bordeaux to Chablis and Champagne, the greatest aged wines are complex and contemplative. Perhaps it’s better to appreciate their subtleties without disparate, competing flavors spilling across your table.
I agree with this 100%. An appropriately aged wine will give layers of sensations some quite ephemeral that will be overwhelmed and masked by today’s cuisine which often involves bold and contrasting flavors. At the most a bit of aged cheese might bring out some earthy flavors but complex dishes are likely to be a distraction.
And then the Wine Curmudgeon weighs in on when it’s worth it to buy an expensive wine—on a special occasion, when the wine is credibly recommended, and when you have the time and company to appreciate it. This last point is crucial. It’s pointless to buy an expensive wine if you will be distracted while drinking it or if the portions will be too small to gain a full appreciation of the wine. Wines with finesse don’t mix well with holiday parties. Don’t waste your money.
I do agree that fine wine can be overwhelmed by any number of competing flavours, and that the wrong occasion and company can sadly mask a wine’s worth. I would just add that since alcohol is absorbed in the small bowel just beyond the stomach, food slows absorption. Thus well-being from a slower and more measured absorption of alcohol is improved if the wine is drunk after food, if not with something neutral or carefully matched with the wine.