Archive for the ‘Wine Pairings’ Category

Time for Thanksgiving Wines

November 17th, 2011 No comments
A Wild Turkey

“Wild Turkey” photographed by MONGO

If you’re planning to host a fancy Thanksgiving, why not pull all the stops?  Instead of serving one wine with the meal, liven things up by serving several in graded succession.  For example, start with an apéritif either on its own, or with some light appetizers.  Muscat is an excellent choice, and helps prepare the palate for courses yet to come.  If your main course consists of turkey, consider serving a light white to accompany the subtle flavors of this bird.  Dry whites are especially nice, but for guests with sweeter tastes consider pairing the bird with a sweet Riesling.  To keep family and friends happy, offer them these wine options, or (better yet) let them sample each.  As a third choice, a nice bottle of Pinot Noir will always be a winner.  For dessert, pair your pie with a tasty glass of port.  For pies on the more tart side, consider a tawny port.  For sweeter pies, ruby port is a nice match.  This Thanksgiving, serving a variety of wines throughout your meal will help to make your Thanksgiving feast a classy wine adventure to remember!  In fact, this holiday may even be the perfect occasion to use your new Riedel Riesling Grand Cru wine glasses, or to pass around a set of lovely Vintage Port glasses… Just food for thought!  Happy Thanksgiving!

WineToMatch: an App for Android and iPhone

October 25th, 2011 No comments

WineToMatch App IconWineToMatch, an app available for both Android and iPhone, features a streamlined process that allows you to select your meal’s main ingredient, type of cuisine, additional traits, and other flavors.  From there, WineToMatch offers recommendations of wines that will best accompany your meal.  And for lovers of sweets, WineToMatch even suggests pairings for dessert items, too!  Overseen by Master Sommelier Jesse Becker, the app’s patent pending engine determines how agreeable portions of your meal are with the wines in WineToMatch’s database.  The information you provide about your meal is weighted, and composite scores are generated for each wine.  Wines that pair the best with your meal are displayed in large letters.  Wines that make the cut, but that have smaller letters, also pair well, but perhaps not as “ideally” as those with larger letters.  (This is similar to a web page’s “cloud” feature, and quickly conveys which wines are a better fit, relative to others, for your food.)

The app’s creators believe that the algorithms used to generate recommendations are “the most sophisticated ever designed for pairing wine with food.”  Originally programmed to produce more than 75 billion unique pairings, WineToMatch continually adds wines to its database, making this number even larger!  Give this easy-to-use, helpful app a try, and see if you agree with its designers’ claims.  The current Apple version, 1.1.2, is available for $2.99. It is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch (2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation), and iPad.  It requires iOS 2.2.1 or later.  The cost is the same ($2.99) for the Android version, 1.0.WineToMatch iPhone Screenshots

WineStein Pro: a Wine-Pairing App

October 6th, 2011 No comments
icon for winestein pro app

WineStein Pro Icon

Ever have questions when pairing food and wine?  With WineStein Pro, a “genius” application for your iPhone, you can select the perfect wine for every meal.  It’s like having a sommelier in your pocket, on call to offer advice.

Simply enter your meal’s main ingredients, sauces and sides, and WineStein is ready to help!  Using cutting-edge artificial intelligence, the app creates a “meal DNA” used to determine the best wine pairings.  A scored list of wines, each with a full description, is produced for every dish you enter, and you can refine the results by choosing appropriate filters that range from color to price.

The WineStein database currently contains over 2,000 ingredients, dozens of sauces, and over 600 wine types for use when scoring.  With this information being constantly added to, the app can suggest a suitable wine for just about any meal.  (Try something really unusual; you’ll be surprised!)

WineStein Pro is available for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.  It requires an internet connection, and an iOS of 4.2 or later.  And did we mention that the app is currently free?

image from winestein pro appimage from winestein pro app

Oysters and Chablis

August 8th, 2011 No comments

Oysters have, since ancient times, been regarded as potent aphrodisiacs.  While this belief may be partially attributed to myth and sympathetic magic, a group of Italian and American researchers found that oysters, along with certain other shellfish, are “rich in rare amino acids that trigger increased levels of [arousing] hormones.”  History’s most famous lover, Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798), were he alive today, would probably cheer at this finding; Casanova championed the idea that sharing succulent oysters was the best way to lead to an evening of sensuous delight.  But oysters don’t do it for all couples.  Some people love them, some don’t, and still others are allergic to shellfish.  But even if your companion can’t (or won’t) slurp down the smooth, slippery, succulent little sea critters, he or she can certainly share a good bottle of white wine with you while you enjoy them!
Because there are many kinds of oysters, you will find that certain whites pair better with different varieties.  However, there is one wine that goes with them all, swimmingly: Chablis.  Because its grapes are grown in France’s Burgundy region where the soil is rich with fossilized oyster shells, the aroma of Chablis contains limestone, peach, and (you guessed it) oyster shells!  Its flavor, too, often contains traces of sea salt.  If your lover is into literature, perhaps a passage from Hemmingway’s A Moveable Feast may help encourage him or her to partake with you: “As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”  The next time you order oysters, consider asking for a bottle of Chablis, too.  Enjoy!

Oysters paired with wine

Image courtesy of

Natalie MacLean Wine Picks & Pairings: Recently Improved!

August 5th, 2011 2 comments

Natalie MacLean holding a glass of wineAlthough we’ve already given this app our stamp of approval back in May, its continued popularity and recent improvements have made it emerge as one of the most practical wine and food apps ever.  Renamed from Nat Decants to Natalie MacLean Wine Picks & Pairings, and updated to version 2.2 on July 19th, the app’s already convenient barcode scanning logic was vastly improved.  This means it’s even easier to use your smartphone to scan a picture of a bottle’s barcode.  You’ll then get instant tasting notes, wine scores, recipes and pairing recommendations.  What is more, you can also see how many bottles of the wine in question are available at nearby stores, better helping you decide whether to buy a bottle now, or later!

Natalie comically describes how her app can assist during a common wine-buying situation: “You’re in the liquor store wondering if you should buy the bottle with the castle on its label or the one with the fluffy squirrel.  Now you just point and click to find out if that shiraz actually is a good wine to go with your pepper steak, or if the sauvignon blanc would work with your grilled veggies. No more guesswork based on castles and critters.”

In terms of publicity, Natalie compares having an app featured on Apple’s App Store Homepage “almost as good as being interviewed by Oprah for your book.”  If this is truly the case for app developers, Natalie certainly made quite the splash; Nat Decants is also the only wine app to make appearances in both Apple’s top 10 “Food & Wine” apps and “Date Night” categories.

In summary, Natalie MacLean Wine Picks & Pairings is a free app that provides thousands of wine reviews, wine articles, and winery listings.  It also possesses the miraculous ability to recommend some of the most perfect wine and food pairings this blogger has ever tried.  In addition, all of Natalie’s pairings were personally tested.  No automated, computer-driven approximations or “tricks!”  For more food for thought, the app contains thousands of original recipes with matching wine recommendations, and you can easily keep track of your own wine cellar inventory with a simple-to-use, intuitive interface that has even won over wine lovers who sometimes feel “technologically-challenged.” (And may I mention, again, that this app is absolutely free?)

Natalie MacLean Wine Picks & Pairings is available for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad devices with iOS 4.0 or later.  It is also available for Android, and BlackBerry devices with an OS of 4.3.0 or later.

App shot from Natalie MacLean's wine app

Wine and Food: What Not To Mix

Wine and Food Pairing pic courtesy of

We’re often told what wines go well with certain food items, but we rarely discuss which wines and foods don’t mix well.  Here’s a few “don’ts”

  • Though a Chardonnay pairs well with chicken, salmon, and creamy sauces, it fails to delight when sipped with hot, spicy foods!

  • Even a good bottle of Pinot Noir can become offensive when served with hot and spicy foods, and vice versa.

  • If you’re having a semi-spicy dish filled with tomatoes, it’s best to avoid serving Pinot Grigio–the wine often mistakenly believed to “go with everything”.

  • Dry Rieslings do not mix well with sweet foods and sugary dessert items.

  • Neither will Sancerre or a Merlot (though many people often try the latter and are surprised by the unpleasant result!)

  • When serving fish dishes, avoid serving a Shiraz.  And even a decent Cabernet may be too much for select fish dishes–it depends on the fish, and your taste!

  Remember: it’s all about balance.  You don’t want a strong wine to overpower a light food item, or a hearty dish to overpower a lighter wine.  Have fun with your wine pairing adventures, and refer to the advice above to avoid any (unpleasant) surprises!

A Wine App Welcome in Your Kitchen

May 6th, 2011 1 comment
Nat Decants app

Nat Decants App Icon, courtesy of Itunes

Nat Decants, an iPhone app, is designed to make your mouth water!  This free app–yes, I do mean free–is a conglomeration of ten wine programs interfaced into one easy-to-use application.  Therefore, it is extremely convenient, not to mention affordable!

Not only does Nat Decants provide thousands of wine reviews, articles, and winery listings, its really tantalizing features are its ability to suggest splendid wine and food pairings (a current count of 380,000 that were actually tested!) as well as recipes.  There are literally thousands of scrumptious dishes to peruse to accompany any wine you select.  There’s no reason to not have “the perfect meal” with any wine of your choosing!

Developed over an eight-year period of time by professional sommelier Natalie MacLean, who has won awards such as “World’s Best Wine Writer” at the World Food Media Awards, Nat Decants showcases Natalie’s personal wine and food pairings, reviews and additional information, instead of falling back on computer-selected data and multi-user database material like some other wine applications.

Nat Decants App Screenshot

Nat Decants Screenshot courtesy of Itunes

Though the app is free, it is certainly not one to sneeze at; Nat Decants made the “top five” list of food and wine apps in Computerworld Magazine, Globe and Mail, and even the New York Times!  It is also the only wine app chosen by Apple for App Store Essentials in both “Food & Wine” and “Date Night” categories.

Nat Decants version 1.3.1. is available for iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Droid, Nexus, Palm Pre, and some additional smartphones.  It requires iOS 3.1.3 or later.

Nat Decants Screenshot courtesy of Itunes

Wine and Cheese, Please!

April 27th, 2011 No comments

Wine and cheese image courtesy of

Wine and cheese platters are customarily a part of many people’s celebrations. But choosing the right cheese to accompany your wine of choice, or vice versa, is not always easy. And just as serving wine at an improper temperature can bring out its worst, serving a badly-paired cheese will also impair the taste of a wine. That said, here are a few general tips when pairing wines with cheeses.

White wines are best served with soft cheeses (including spreadable ones) and stronger-flavored cheeses. Chardonnay pairs well with Cheddar and Provolone, Gewurtztraminer is nice with Swiss cheese, Rieslings are great with Gouda and smoked Gouda, and Sauvignon Blancs pair nicely with goat cheese. Rich, stimulating cheeses are best paired with sweet wines, the sweetness being matched by the “bite” of the cheese. For example, Stilton and Roquefort cheeses go well with Sauternes. Hard and mildly-flavored cheeses pair well with most red wines. Sharp Cheddars pair well with Cabs, Asagio, Parmesan, and Gorgonzola are nice with Amarone. As a final observation, exceptionally sweet and fruity white wines (mostly dessert wines) pair well with almost any cheese. This is because they overtake the fat found in cheese and thus allow you to still easily taste the wine.

Whenever a celebration calls for wine and cheese, use these suggestions to help you bring together two that are complementary. (A personal favorite of mine is Shiraz with Extra Sharp Cheddar.) So go ahead! Pour some wine, slice some cheese, and enjoy!

Looking for the Perfect Christmastime Wine?

December 18th, 2010 No comments

The famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.Christmas dinners are all over the map.  Some families celebrate with ham, some with prime rib.  Some have a round two of Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey and stuffing.  If you’re Italian, you might enjoy a traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes.  If you’re German, you might have a roast goose.  The point is, it’s nearly impossible to recommend the perfect Christmas dinner wine, because no two families will sit down to the same meal.  So here’s what to do:

Read our Guide to Food and Wine Pairing, and check out the many wonderful wines we’ve reviewed.  Whether you’re eating fish, beef, or Tofurkey this year, you’re sure to find something that matches perfectly.  And if in doubt, remember, Champagne goes with everything!

Course-by-Course Thanksgiving Wine Guide

November 15th, 2010 No comments

This Thanksgiving turkey might be too pretty to eat!

There’s nothing wrong with picking a wine or two that will please all your guests and complement your full buffet of Thanksgiving dishes.  In fact, if that’s your style, we have two posts for you: one on great Thanksgiving wines, and one on Beaujolais Nouveau.

But if you’re more of the adventurous type when it comes to wine, you might think about another great technique: pairing a wine with each course.  This can be a great way to facilitate spirited dinner table conversation (something you might be looking for if you have guests you don’t know that well), or keep the table talk away from that family-dinner mood-killers: politics.  If you find your interest piqued, take a “pique” at our handy Thankgiving pairing guide:

Appetizers (think olives, pate, cheese and crackers, and the like): Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, and sparkling white wine.

Creamy soup (like a first course of roasted butternut squash soup, my family favorite): Full-bodied whites such as Chardonnay.

Green salad with vinaigrette (one with orange slices, bleu cheese and toasted walnuts makes a festive fall first course): High-acid wines like Sauvignon Blanc or Zinfandel.

Turkey and sides (of course): Think smooth.  Crisp and medium-bodied are words you should look for.  Try Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Sauvignon Blanc, or Pinot Grigio.

Desserts: If you can handle a dessert wine after all that food, go for Sauternes or Vin Santo.  If the mere thought makes your sweatpants feel tight, go for more Champagne, or (yes, we said it) coffee.